So many people have told me that I inspire them.
They tell me that the way I keep going in the face of chronic pain and illness is inspirational. They tell me that watching what I accomplish while struggling to walk, type and stay upright makes them realize how easy their lives are and how much they admire me for never giving up despite how many obstacles I deal with.
But they never ask how they can reduce the impact of those obstacles on my life or offer to help until they see me physically fall over or vomiting from pain. Sometimes even then, there’s only awkward silence until they find a way to turn the conversation back to how my disability positively impacts them.
They never ask if I ever wanted to be someone’s inspiration or recognize the way that being reduced to the role of an inspirational cripple dehumanizes me. They never seem to remember that what I’ve managed to do is more than they’ve done in their able-bodied lives, not because I’m a disabled inspiration, but because I am a hardworking, smart woman. Obviously, I was born into a position of privilege that let me go to school and have the opportunities I’ve taken advantage of to get where I am, but the people saying this crap to me are usually from an even more privledged position than I’m in. Sometimes I feel like the only way I’ll ever escape from the position of serving as departmental disability porn is to stop trying to act like it doesn’t effect me beyond the Mondays I take off for doctors’ appointments and some speech to text software that lets me keep writing even when my joints are too swollen to press the keys. I wonder how inspirational I’d be if they saw the hour I spend gagging and dry heaving every morning before I can start getting ready for work. I wonder how inspirational I’d be if they saw the hot water bottles and heating pads I strategically lay over my hands and knees while waiting for my medication to kick in. I wonder how inspirational I’d be if they saw me begging my husband to button my pants and tie my shoes because on cold winter mornings, there’s no way for my swollen fingers to manage such fine movements.
I wonder how inspirational I’d be if they saw me whining about how belittled and dehumanized their “compliments” have made me feel.