Sick? Ill? Disabled? How do you identify? Why does it matter?

Back when I worked professionally with people with developmental disabilities, we learned to say “people with… disability”, versus the unfortunately more common label of someone as “disabled”.

This distinction helped me discover that the idea of “disability” was a continuum, and that in some ways, the primary difference between me and “them” was that their disabilities were obvious. I could hide my “disabilities”. And even with my current conditions, most of the time I still can. Lucky me, right?

compromised vision is a disability we don't even think of as a disability anymore...
compromised vision is a disability we don’t even think of as a disability anymore…

Sometimes…

But this begs the question around self-identification. We (with “invisible disabilities”) have the “luxury” of NOT thinking of ourselves as part of that group of people known as “disabled”. And I bet most of us choose that. Understandable choice, but there are costs!

One cost of choosing not to identify as part of the group of “disabled people” is to perpetuate the stigma society has towards those with obvious disabilities – the stigma that they are somehow “less than”. That’s bad enough. Perhaps a more malignant cost is that if we’re not “disabled”, then we must be “normal”. The cost of that belief is to continuously set ourselves up to try but fail to meet all those internal and external expectations about “normal”. Ouch…

So forget normal… Why not think of yourself simply as a person with a disability or disabilities – certain things you’re can’t do like you once could. Accepting that (with regular practice) sets the stage for adapting, and learning new ways to live and experience those things that matter the most (versus living a life of regret and bitterness).

Which reminds me of a quote…

I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” Lily Tomlin

You may be the only somebody to do something…   ~Z