Unlearning Internalized Ableism

Rainbow painting with broad strokes. Title: Unlearning Internalized Ableism. spoonielifestyle.com

While writing my book, Wedding Planning for Spoonies, I realized how ableist I was despite having a disability. Even the subtitle of the OG cover shows that.

I have had a debilitating mental health disorder for 17 years, and chronic pain for 1 followed by extreme GI issues for 4. Each night I would vomit. But the doctors all said that nothing was wrong.

Because I had experienced discrimination throughout my life, I assumed I wasn’t ableist. But I slowly recognized, especially in the past few months, how I had internalized that prejudice and let it define myself and others.

For example, the word “crazy.” I had always adopted this moniker to try to mask my severe mental health problems instead of addressing them. I very badly wanted to be a “normal” person. Later I realized that disabled people, mentally ill included, are normal. We are our own normal. Disabled people are human beings like everyone else.

Maybe I never stopped to question what a human being was. It isn’t someone who drives a car or has a career. I was so focused on achieving that I never stopped to think that all people get sad and angry sometimes. We all get hurt. Maybe we don’t all have identical experiences, but we all feel the same feelings. There isn’t a person on this planet who never felt anger or grief.

In this regard, perhaps I was lucky to end up disabled. I had to slow down and reevaluate myself and work hard on myself to change bad thought patterns that blinded me to fundamental truths. I’m not saying I don’t want things to change – I would love to be healthy again – but this season of growth was spurred by losing total control of my life.

Perhaps when we are forced to “let go and let God,” we find ourselves and others in the eye of the storm.

I Got Cinderella’d and It’s Not All Great

My husband and I come from two different worlds. He comes from a different stratosphere than I do. I don’t get along with his family, even before I ran away twice. They mistreated me while we were just dating, and I never really understood why until I looked at class differences and ableism.

I can understand not liking me after what happened in January, but the hate I received before my wedding day didn’t make much sense to me. I was threatened with a letter from a church to stay away from my husband because I was “depressed.” Not to mention all the snide remarks about me being a bed warmer and my husband needing a vasectomy.

Unfortunately most of this was communicated to me through my husband, so it was all secondhand information. But it took me to the point where they have to ask permission to come into my house (which I usually do allow because I was raised to be a hospitable southerner) and I will never, ever voluntarily go into their homes.

In rich families, children are investments. Not in a way that children are investments for the future, but in that they can make money for the family. Who they choose to marry has a direct impact on how much cash the child makes for the family and how much of a financial burden they will be.

I was developing fibromyalgia and lupus symptoms while dating my husband. Most likely I was seen as a money pit. My husband told me his family was afraid I would drag him down.

Let me stop right here with this gosh darn ableism. An able bodied person can drag any slooshin person down. Anybody can drag anybody down. I have some friends I cut out of my life who were nightmares. And dragging someone down is cyclical. I most likely will reintroduce those negative friends again once I feel I can. We’ll start out positive and go back down the negative gravy train eventually, then it’ll get too much. But a marriage is commitment. Part of commitment is saying, “I will love you even when I think you suck.”

People fall down and then they come back up again like a dolphin out of water, complete with sex for pleasure and all.

Rich people tend to hide these basic life lessons from their kids by controlling them with gifts that come with invisible strings only made visible when the kid steps out of line. Basically, rich people scare me.

Taking Care of Yourself With Chronic Illness

Every once in a while, a well-intentioned family member, a friend, or a medical professional will tell me I’m not fighting hard enough, that I’m not taking care of myself, et cetera.
The opposite used to be true – I would receive compliments from my doctors for the presentations I would make each time I came in. One nurse said she could tell I was not succumbing, and complimented me for my strength, saying this was why she wanted to help me.

There’s a few things I want to say here. First, all people with chronic illnesses deserve help and respect, whether you perceive them to be weak or strong. Secondly, when it comes to battles, you win some and you lose some. Wars fluctuate, and health is a journey – it isn’t linear. When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was exercising at least an hour a day, every day, sometimes two hours, and had a strict vegan diet. Then winter came with worse symptoms and I was planning a wedding with in-laws I had issues with. My mental health was in the toilet, and as Bruce Lee wisely said, “The body follows the mind.”

My mind worsened as my PTSD triggered and my marriage fell apart before it really even began. Again, the body follows the mind, and I got knocked off of my pursuit of physical health horse in pursuit of improving my mental health and my marriage. Once again reiterating, the body follows the mind.

This is not to give a laundry list of excuses. I merely want to extrapolate a bit that the body and mind are connected, and if the mind suffers, the body usually does too. I’m in more stress than I ever have in my life. My fibromyalgia is kicking it in to high gear.

So yes, I may not be taking as good care of my self physically right now, but I am trying to invest in my mind to get to that point. The only way out of hell is through. A marriage being under the gun takes precedence over buying organic food, especially if you can’t afford it and the two of you are $3k over in medical bills. Could the organic food prevent the medical bills? Possibly. Could a gym membership? Possibly.

This is the crux of it: health being accessible and affordable. Many low income Americans suffer the most from health maladies because they can’t afford preventative care and the care they need from not being able to take care of themselves.

My husband and I aren’t low income, but the two of us on one salary with all of my exorbitant medical bills puts us in a bind.

And I am fighting in other ways – I still stay organized with my symptoms, I’m still productive, and I annoy my doctors if I think something is wrong. I read literature on health subjects. I hope to have a book review or two coming out soon.

Please remember that when people say these things to you, they’re probably trying to be helpful. No one can truly understand anyone else. Take heart.