Awesome Humans 01 Apr
Accepting My Disability
By Hannah Diviney
I am a writer and disability advocate. More often than not, those things intersect, and I end up writing a lot about my disability. Telling the story of my dramatic entry into the world three months before my due date, as a red-faced and squirmy screaming slip of a thing. The details are rendered so sharply in my mind that it’s as if I was there, observing the whole thing. I’ve also written a lot about the terrifying moment I became aware of living with Cerebral Palsy when I was three years old and finishing lunch on an otherwise ordinary day. The moment it hit me like a tonne of bricks as I watched my best friend run off to play and couldn’t follow her, that the world would be forever split into things I can do and things I can’t.
It was a faultline bubbling with anger, hurt and confusion. I hadn’t asked to be different; I sure as hell didn’t want to be different, so why did I have to be? Didn’t I get a say in my own life? For a long time (I’m talking literally years), I fought hard against being disabled. I ran from it in every sense possible except literally, of course. I punished my body and ignored what it needed, pushing myself to be exactly like my sisters and all the other kids in any way I could. I berated my brain and burned all my energy, hating myself and my life. I internalised the message that society wants us to be small, smiling and silent. It got worse when I was a teenager, with the constant moving of the goalposts for what we were all supposed to be doing with these, the so called best years of our lives.
I can’t tell you the exact moment that the anger burned out, that I decided I was tired of using all of my energy hating something that would forever be a part of me. Honestly, I think it was more exhaustion than an epiphany. But it wasn’t long after that, that I realised the literal privilege of being able to speak, be articulate and understood is one I needed to use to make the world better. So I have been for the last year or so. And the strangest thing has happened. I’ve started feeling heard, seen and like I deserve to take up space. It’s gotten easier to accept my disability and find the joy in it instead of the anger and sadness. It doesn’t mean everything will be smooth sailing from here on out or that I’m completely where I want to be. But I’m getting there. And for the first time, that’s enough.
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