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Disabled is not a Dirty Word

Updated on August 3, 2011

Disabilities are a fact

How easy it is to find the encouragement to be ashamed of youself! Yeah - do your double-take and read it yet thrice. When you "look normal" and when people "don't see any reason why you should get (breathe, Stan....) special treatment", it is perilously easy to find the black hole, the inertia, and the paralyzing doubt that sets you and your misery in stone.

And that is very often the case when a "smart" or "looks regular" person suffers from an "invisible disability" or, due to these maladies' very nature, sometimes - even likely - more than one. Yes - the organic (a bit of a misnomer, but common "shop-talk" and almost unavoidable within pscho/medical/neuro-ist's jargon), disability - that is, the "primary" more nature than nurture/genetic vs acquired condition or disability - no matter what it is, is worthy of and/or complicated enough to generate a separate article or hundred, especially if it generates, or at least contributes to, a "secondary", usually affective ailment.

I put secondary in quotes because it is very, very important to point out that ALL afffective disorders (your different types of depressions, anxieties, phobias, dissociative states, psychoses, neuroses, et cetera) are just as likely (or maybe more so, the research to check this which this author knows not how to do adequately at this moment) their very own "organic", primary conditions indeed with biological, neuro-chemical, and/or genetic etiology.

But for this piece, I am focusing on those that manifest, usually in the form and/or combination of depression and anxiety, at least in part from living with "invisible" and very often very late or not at all even diagnosed disabilities.

I wish to speak to the harm that can be done when a learning disability, emotional difficulties, cognitive and/or neurological deficiencies and/or challenges, and myriad other "invisible" disabilities go undetected or undiagnosed, for a variety of reasons, some sound, some absolutely unaccaptable. I will thus speak to these issues most directly, as the effects on learning and self-esteem can be profound, and are especially confounding when two or more present together, which is rather common in the disabled community.

Make no mistake about it, and I already know that I'm going to make more than one reader pause or bristle at my use of the term "disabled", but disabled IS the right word when disabled is what it IS. And make no mistake about THIS - great harm is done when, out of denial or political correctness or sheer incompetence - and most especially if out of a judgmental attitude that presents itself VERY falsely as "tough love" or acceptance.

It is not acceptance, and it most certainly is not love, to pretend that a disability does not exist. It is not love or acceptance or "tough love" to try to ignore a disability. And it is the cruelest of abuse, whether intended or not, to push a child - especially a child! - to face frustration after frustration and failure after failure which are NOT those of a normal childhood's slings and arrows, but are instead the result of a disability that the child has NO ability to "shut off", and obviously at this point, not the tools to deal effectively with the challenges it presents today, and those that it WILL SURELY present over the course of the rest of that person's life.

Listen - society has to let go of the quaint and Leave it to Beaver attitudes about life being beautiful and fair to everyone equally. It is a fact - disabilities exist, damn it. Thus, so too exist those who HAVE them. They - and WE - are indeed disabled. We are a minority, and thus suffer the consequences of the natural human tendency to speak to, legislate to, pay for, and relate to the top of the bell curve. The average Joe. The regular people.

We with invisible disabilities are not "regular" people. Nor, however, is "disabled" ALL of who we are. And it is not the beginning and end of our potential to make a lasting difference in this world. But the very first thing that MUST happen for that to happen is for the disability to be faced HEAD ON - every day, by he who is affected directly, and by those who play a role in that person's life.

If you wanna wag your finger, do us a favor and make sure it's in the morning in front of your own bathroom mirror, while you scrape off yesterday's stubble or pile on this blush or that lip gloss or polish those pearly whites, just stick said derogatory digit in your OWN reflection and do then so haughtily gulp down your own looming advice! Swallow it. Savor it. Those of us so blessed by the silence of the ignorant will enjoy it even more than you.

Yes, that is a very strident tone, and I use it partly to get your attention, and partly to claim a stake in improving the prognosis, as well as the daily lives of those who suffer from the non-physical disabilities especially. This is not at all to take away from the rightful serious comportment and regard for folks whose obstacles are more obvious, as the dignity of human life demands that we all embrace and uplift each other as best we can.

That is not some warm and fuzzy and trite sentiment, I mean this to say that we should all strive to have such a tangible and positive impact - and to accept those who may be hindered in one way or another from doing this alone. It is the highest compliment, friendship, and gesture of humanity to do what we can to help another person find the greatest gift this life has to offer - acceptance of self. This is not accomplished by denying a disability or sugar-coating it with a wishy-washy diagnosis or ill-conceived and inaptly named "political correctness".

It is achieved by seeing him and them and you and I and us as people first. You do that, and you don't have to shy away from what is sometimes a profound and even, yes, perhaps sometimes reaching tragic proportions that require almost a grieving process before moving on and moving up can happen.

Facing a disability is hard, no question. It is uncomfortable and frustrating and sometimes even sad. But it must be done honestly, and with whole-hearted commitment. That is how - THAT is how we respect the dignity and autonomy of evey one of our neighbors, and ourselves. It is how we transcend mere "disability", and celebrate the person, and the finite life we share.

Calling a disability a disability is not insulting. It is not belittling.

It's simply the truth.

Nor is it "enabling", cow-towing, spoiling or whatever other ignorant, judgmental or STUPID term you wish to use to describe the resentment of those who have the gall to resent how "lucky" we with disabilities are.

You can bet your last six pack, green back, ball sac and out-of-whack personal attack that we try every bit as hard as you do. And swallow this - we try harder. Everyday. All day.

If we can catch a break once in awhile, like, for instance, society treating "disabled" - the word AND the people - like a reality, and not as if it or we are some shameful thing to avoid - some faux pas or "mistake" that can be overcome with a little more "grit" or "elbow grease" or by "pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps" - we deserve it in spades.

Swallow THAT.


Submit a Comment

  • B. Panciera profile image

    B. Panciera 

    8 years ago from Earth...Too much of the time!

    **HUGS** I feel the pain and understand it all to well!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I love your ability, rather talent, to express on paper what's in your mind in the most creative way..You holding up OK? you can always email my profile page if you want to chat. nice job my friend xo


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