Am I Really Disabled?
I am in my early twenties and people are often skeptical when I tell them that I am disabled. In their eyes, I am a young person and therefore deemed virtually indestructible. What they don't know is that the severity of my disability varies from day to day. Understanding this can be confounding, especially for those who don't believe I am disabled in the first place. Facing this disbelief every day eats away at a person and plants seeds of doubt.
When my symptoms are minimal, I question myself
When my symptoms are more manageable and I am able to do more, I feel like perhaps all those people are right. I question myself. I ask myself whether I am really disabled if I am able to do things by myself? Or my pain is better some days? Or I don't need to use my mobility aids?
Experiencing imposter syndrome when I am feeling better is very frustrating. I feel guilty or feel like I am lying. Through exploring disabled communities online, I have learned that this is a common feeling. Many people doubt their disability when their symptoms are better. While I wish so many didn't have to experience such pervasive doubt, it is comforting because I know I am not alone in my invisible illness experience.
Disability is different for every person
Sometimes, it is hard to remember that disability looks and feels different from person to person. It's also hard to remember that it doesn't matter how others see my disability because I live with AS every day and I know how it affects my life. While it would be nice to not have to fight to make my disability seen, it does not change the fact that I am disabled regardless. I am simply a disabled person trying to navigate my life.
Unfortunately, society is not designed to include disabled people. It does not recognize the complexities and varieties of disabilities that exist. People don't realize that there is no one way to be disabled. Every disability is valid, including mine. When I doubt whether I am truly disabled, I have to remind myself that this is just my internalized ableism talking, and I do not have to give in to it.
I have a disability and that is ok
When I talk about my disability, whether it be in person or online, I am not lying or doing it for attention. Nor am I faking being disabled for any perks or benefits. I have a disability and that is okay. Sometimes I feel better and sometimes I feel worse and this does not alter my being disabled. So, to answer the question posed earlier, yes, I really am disabled.
Can you tell when a flare is coming?