No More Denial: Disability And Me
Most of you may know by now. I have Attention Deficit Disorder. Technically Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Inattentive Type, as the new DSM edits have revealed. I was diagnosed a while back, even medicated. I’m not currently as the stimulants trigger my IBS and I need a new diagnosis to get back on any med, even a non stimulant due to complications from being trans (the doctor who has the records doesn’t know and I risk myself by revealing to him.) Oh yeah, I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome too.
I’ve been dealing with this for most of my life, maybe all of it. School was rough, basic tasks were rough, hell life was rough because of it. Still is. Focusing on basic things, on everyday life things like chores, eating and maintaining stuff like even this blog is a constant battle. I fight a fog in my head, a thick, unyielding obscurement constantly, the defocusing which makes it all but impossible to hold myself to a single task for any period of time without bouncing to something else all while not even realizing what just happened. And then there’s the entrapping web of hyperfocusing. One single thing pulls my attention so hard, as the light switch of my focus is flipped to all the way on, and I lose everything else around me: Pain, verbal communication, other tasks, people, etc. Everything disappears as I zero in.
ADD is when the dimmer switch of attention, one’s ability to defocus or focus harder, modulating what one works on, multitasking, focusing deeply or just kinda scattering oneself when there’s nothing important to do doesn’t work so hotly. Sometimes doesn’t work at all. I don’t have the most severe of ADD I’ve seen but I also have it pretty damn bad.
The IBS on the other hand is a stress and food trigger based spasming of the intestines. It can cause intense, mind breaking pain, sudden and violent bouts of sickness (the unpleasant kind where you do an evil kind of number 2 that burns like napalm) and sometimes follows no rhyme or reason in terms of food triggers because of the stress component. There’s no treatment that I know of. It constantly drags me down, affecting my diet, my eating habits and how I function with the pain. Having a reaction (what I call my IBS attacks) shuts me down. The pain is often severe enough that I start to become incoherent at times, it certainly fogs my thoughts when in a reaction.
Fun of intersections comes up especially with the IBS because when it hits I generally have to find a bathroom quickly to stop the pain. You all remember that I’m a trans woman right? Bathrooms are a deadly game of Russian Roulette for me and for that reason they terrify me. IBS gives me no choice though, no matter what the risk. I either get to a bathroom or the pain puts me out of commission completely.
I’ve faced a lot of static because of these things. People give me problems about what I can eat and my diet restrictions due to the IBS, as though it’s their job to advise me on how to deal with that. People love to tell me how similar their inability to focus on work sometimes is exactly like my ADD. People really seem to enjoy telling me that I’m just “lazy”, “ditzy”, “unmotivated”, or that I’m not thinking positive enough or have the will to focus on things or break out of the hyperfocusing. People really seem to like to say, “hey I get sick from food sometimes too” or “sometimes stress makes me feel ill too”.
My dad, whom you’re all already aware is a giant transphobic douchebag, was the worst with the ADD. He’s fine about IBS (he actually has it himself), although for some godawful reason he thinks my IBS made me trans through the pain. >.< Goddamn wire chewer. But the ADD he’s the worst about. I got the most accusations of laziness and unmotivated from him. I got the sarcasm when I finished things when I pulled off focusing. He probably didn’t believe that it was even real until the change caused by the medication. And then when I got off it he constantly pushed it on me. He also did this to my mom, who has the same disorder. Because, you see, to so many the way my mind works is “broken”, “disordered”, “wrong” and needs to be “solved” and “cured”. To so many I’m broken and incapable of living life. To so many I’m a tragic figure and not even because I’m trans but because I live in pain a lot of the time and have to put a whole lot more effort into the basics for focusing and disengaging. These attitudes are part of a world of bigotry that is largely invisible and largely accepted among society even in progressive spaces like feminism, much like transphobia is. This might all sound familiar.
This is ableism.
And it’s about time that I admit that I have disabilities. That I’m PWD (a person with disabilities). And let me tell you, writing this post is abjectly terrifying. I’ve been in this sort of state of nail biting fear pretty much ever since this site came into being and made me think about some really scary questions about myself and the things I live with. I thought to myself, disability isn’t what I have, I don’t have it nearly as bad as Person A, B, C, D or E with Aspect G, H, I or J. I told myself, “I’m just being whiny, I’m searching for attention.”
I made up excuses, “the ADD isn’t disabling enough to really adopt that title”, “I’ve never heard of anyone referring to IBS as a disability, so it’s probably not, right?”, “I’m taking away time and attention and resources from people who need it far more than me”.
Finally I cut through the bullcrap and got to the reality of why I didn’t want this title. I was scared. Terrified. Shaking. Intersections are scary because their effects are exponential. Are you a woman? You face a given set of awful shit by simple virtue of being a woman. Are you a trans person? You face a given set of awful shit by simple virtue of being trans. Are you both? You face far more than just the summation of those things. The transphobia and misogyny (combined we call it transmisogyny) swirl together and create a breeding ground for a hatred so vile and vitriolic that even fully avowed feminists of the highest caliber will start to spout truly sexist and vile misogynistic shit at you as though they were a Tucker Max mind clone. Mix race in there? Super fucked. Mix poverty in? Holy fuck you’re done. Being queer? Even worse. Intersections of kyriarchy do not have mercy on anyone and admitting that I’m not only a lower class queer trans woman facing the things white poor and gay trans women face but a all that with disabilities? Truly frightening.
A friend of mine summarized the attitude I had best: “Maybe if I ignore it, it’ll go away and I’ll be safe?”
But that’s wrong. It was the wrong attitude in relation to me being trans and a woman. It was the wrong attitude about my lack of financial solvency and my lack of money. It was the wrong attitude about being queer. Ignoring it didn’t make me safe. I was exploited during my denial/exploration phase. I was raped and abused by a exploiter of trans folk when I continued to deny that being trans and a woman put me at risk. I still was close to eviction and not being able to eat despite denying that I was poor.
Well, my disabilities and the horrid ableism of the people around me still affects me, even when in denial. I’m not safe. I never was. And it won’t go away. My ADD is a part of me. My IBS is a part of me. My pain and difficulties are a part of this beautiful woman just as much as my womanhood, fought so hard for, my transsexuality and my sexuality are all a part of me. And ableism’s harm done to me won’t just disappear because I put my fingers in my ears and go “LA LA LA I’M NOT PWD.”
But what I was denying myself through my own denial was a community. A group of people, with resources, support, similar experiences. All who get it, at least to some degree. People I can go to. People I can have solidarity with. The same thing I got when I finally admitted, “yeah, I guess I am trans and a woman…”. The same thing I got when I finally admitted, “Yeah, I guess I am queer.” My friends in the PWD community waited patiently, knowing how hard it is to get past that fear. Having all gone through it themselves, they didn’t push. Just waited. The PWD community is waiting. It’s about time I got up, dusted myself off, raised the flags.
I’m not just trans, a woman, lower class or queer. I’m all of those things and a person with disabilities. And I’m ready to accept that now. I’m PWD and no one, especially not myself, will silence me on that again.
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Tags: ableism, disability, expectations, identity, medical, PWD