As it’s Blog Against Disablism Day, I’m going to repost some comments that I originally posted on Twitter under the #heardwhilstdisabled tag. These are all things that have been said to me as a result of my having ME.
“You’re too young to be so tired” – said by countless people. Yes, I know it’s bizarre for someone in her late twenties to be tired all the time, but it does happen. There are people younger than me whose ME is so bad they can’t even feed themselves. There are people who’ve died from ME, for fuck’s sake, some of whom are around my age. It also makes me feel awkward when I see older people than me who can still make it to synagogue while I’m at home resting. It makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough.
“I have to do all this work because you’re ill” – or words to that effect, said by one of my colleagues. So they can’t use me as cheap cover because I only work part-time? That’s not my fault. Would they rather I just worked myself into the ground and ended up having to leave? I’m not even supposed to be doing work for the Manchester office anyway. I’m not employed by them.
“I wish I could go home early like you” – said to me by the same colleague. You know what I do when I leave work? I go home – sometimes after stopping off at Sainsbury’s or my local greengrocer to buy food – have lunch, maybe go online for a bit, and then sleep for a few hours. If you want to go home early, you can take my reduced wages and my disability while you’re at it. Have fun!
“You’re having a relapse? Well, UN-relapse then” – said to me by a woman at synagogue when I explained that I didn’t know if I was going to be available that weekend because I was having a bad week healthwise. If only it were that simple. This is one of the reasons why I’m very seriously considering quitting the synagogue choir – I hate not being able to give a straight answer as to whether I’ll be able to come on Saturdays. How will I know?
“Stop yawning, it’s fucking annoying. Do some work if you’re so bored” – said to me by a colleague. I must point out that I was actually typing an attendance note at the time. I had also not had much sleep. Yawning is an involuntary thing for me, and it is not a sign of boredom, and no, you are not being funny when you ask me if you’re keeping me awake.
“You should do (insert exercise here), it’ll make you feel better / you’ll be fitter if you do more exercise” – said to me by various people. No, I do not want to go jogging / horse riding / Zumba dancing with you. I have to be careful how much exercise I do. I did pole dancing classes for a bit, but the last time I went, I had to sit down because I felt so dizzy and sick, not to mention the strain it puts on my body. I do exercise – I go to the gym, I swim sometimes – but if I do too much, it can set me back. When I went to Berlin last year, the amount of walking I did set me back for a good few days afterwards. Only I can know what’s right for my body.
These are all things that have been said to me as a result of my having Asperger’s Syndrome.
“Screaming kids make you go into sensory overload? Stop making it about you” – on a feminist blog entry about letting children into adult spaces, where some disabled people said in the comments that they couldn’t handle screaming children because it made them physically sick, something that happens to me (not to mention that screaming is a kind of trigger). Because only children have special needs, it’s not like adults have them or anything. When a kid screams its head off, it might be autistic and we shouldn’t judge, but autistic adults? Fuck off. What’s particularly irony is that these people claim to be anti-ablism. So, erm, why are you having a go at disabled people then? We exist too.
“You can’t have Asperger’s, you’re doing a languages degree” – said to me by a doctor when I was a student. Because people with Asperger’s only do maths or science, it’s not like creative or humanities types with Asperger’s exist (Gary Numan, Paddy Considine and Ladyhawke would like a word). This is one reason why I am not a fan of Rain Man, because people think we all act like that. Yes, a lot of Asperger’s types are good at maths and science, but it doesn’t mean we all are, plus I come from a family full of people who are good at history, languages and English.
“It may feel like a bereavement” – said to my mum when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s for the first time, aged ten. She did not take this comment very well.
And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not visibly disabled; I don’t have a cane, a dog, a wheelchair, a hearing aid or missing limbs. I’m not claiming benefits and being called a scrounger by local idiots who assume I must be on the take. I’ve never, kina hora, been beaten up for being disabled (I’ve been called names on the internet, but this is the internet we’re talking here). Other people, however, have, and the constant stigmatisation of the disabled in this country by our government and our gutter press just contributes to hate crimes against us. After all, we’re just faking it (especially if we have an invisible illness), we’re making it up for attention (especially if we have Asperger’s, BPD, bipolar disorder or any other illness du jour that naive self-diagnosing teens on the internet who’ve done a personality test think they have), we’re scroungers and I know someone who had a disability and still managed to go to work / work full-time / climb Everest / whatever. The fact that George Osborne parked his car in a disabled space sums up just what he and his government think of us, and it is not pleasant.