And who does or doesn’t count.
As someone suffering from a chronic illness, whether or not I ought to consider myself disabled is difficult question to navigate.
When I was first diagnosed, it felt like a land-mine of a question, with so many conflicting opinions surrounding me. I was at a loss.
For a long time I had no idea what was wrong with me, how long it would last or how to manage it, and that had to take precedent over personal identity questions.
But that didn’t stop it always buzzing around my brain.
I have days where I can’t get out of bed because I’m in so much pain but I also have days where I can go about day-to-day life with minimal impact. So without a diagnosis and having a condition that’s constantly fluctuating, I had no idea where I stood.
When I need a stick, I definitely felt disabled, but when I was wearing heels and dancing in a club then no, I didn’t.
However, I ultimately realised that didn’t matter, what mattered was that my chronic illness was limiting my life.
It was disabling me.
And I don’t say that as either a good or a bad thing, I say that just as a fact. I had to stop running, I need grocery deliveries, sometimes I can’t cook my own meals. None of things are bad, they are just my reality.
So, yes, my chronic illness does make me disabled.
This is the one I am still grappling with and truly do not have an answer for.
I know that a lot of autistic people consider themselves disabled, and I fully support that.
However, I am still very early on in identifying as autistic and figuring out what that means for me. It took me a long time to identify as disabled when I first became ill and so I am allowing myself the same time with autism.
There is no rush and no pressure to figure this out, and that’s something I have learned from experience.
Maybe in a year I will consider being autistic a disability, or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s fine, I’ll just wait and see how I feel as I figure out what it means to be autistic, for me.
So am I Disabled?
Yes. I am disabled.
I know this because my life is regularly altered by my health. I face various limitations as a result of chronic illness and wider society is not set up in a way that is always accessible to me.
But I also know this because it is how I feel comfortable identifying. For a long time I didn’t feel comfortable identifying as disabled, adn that was ok, I was still figuring my disability out.
Now I see labelling myself as disabled as useful and empowering. It allows me to tell others that I may have additional access needs and it lets me connect with other people that have similar experiences.
I am disabled. And that’s a good thing.