I find myself often banging the drum of the Social Model of Disability, but this covers for the true war that rages and ravishes, with bloody slaughter, the psychological daily battles within oneself, centred on your own self with a disability. These frequent heavy bombardments of emotional shells exploding in my mind, and constant volleys of piercing looks of sympathy, or disgust, even annoyance of my disability shatter deep to my core, and no Kevlar vest can ever prevent or protect me against. The looks of sympathy first at me and then at whoever is with me, as if stabbing me with a knife, you can see on their faces the unspoken words of “I do feel sorry for you having to care for him” or “Your life must be so terrible with this disability”. These visual words cause for more casualties, injuries and collateral damage to the people that are with me that even get looks of pity.
But this is not a quick war, this is not a skirmish and then an UN Peace-Keeper Force steps in, this is at root an internal civic war, with a long drawn out seize with one’s walls of dignity and esteem pounded day and night. After years of this constant assault one wishes it was a blitzkrieg as at least this would be over, but no, this is from the moments you open your eyes until the moment you close them to sleep.
But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security or peace, sleep is not a safe zone by any means, there are no guards protecting you in the resting mind, you can’t hide from the impact crater scared sub conscious that makes you relive the conflicts over and over again in vivid, emotion filled dramatic scenes that would inspire Stephen King to pen another novel.
Yes the inner conflict that rages is the worst aspect in my own opinion of having a disability, as it erodes confidence, esteem, and so many other aspects of what makes you, well, you. It even changes your personality if you let it, as you become a different person, over analysing, looking intently for signs of a negative reaction from people to you, even when they are not there you can find them if you want to, and this is when you know the war is not going too well in your favour, that the war is causing more damage as each day goes by. It’s not quite paranoia but you start to misinterpret people’s attitudes towards you, their responses to you, even the words they use you can easily twist in a dysfunctional mind that is becoming you.
Once you become self-aware enough that you are changing, and even self-awareness becomes minimised as one becomes more and more introverted and inward looking, then one has a fighting chance to regain land lost through the savagery that took it from you. We all need walls to protect us at times but realising you have become surrounded by hurt, some of which is real and some of which is your interpretation, leaving you a hostage within an ever closing bunker, insight does give you a ‘Shawshank Redemption’ chance of escaping. As with the film it takes time and deliberate effort, but it is possible, little bit at a time, making one small step (forgive the irony) at a time, but it is possible.
The end result is a strange balance, it’s not a victory but it is a cessation of hostility in your consciousness, even if the odd fire-fight does erupt from time to time, one can control it much better and return to an uneasy peace. There are scars that won’t heal and one feels the associated emotions well up at times, and one certainly, in my case, will not and does not want to learn to live with my disability, or accept it in any way, but one can learn to ignore ignorant people, their near xenophobic looks, and the plain good old fashioned people that are too stupid to even be ignorant.
I could waffle on about this for page after page but I think I have got the message across, it isn’t always society that has to change to become more inclusive and respectful of people that have to learn to live and cope with a disability; sometimes you have to meet society half way and do a little changing of yourself, one has to learn to adapt to one’s ability, if not it becomes like quicksand, and you slowly sink and eventually drown in your own misery and thoughts of ‘poor me’. Occasionally and of course accidently running over people’s toes that are annoying the hell out of you helps too from time to time.