I’m never going to overcome my disability
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Facebook, then you’ve probably seen a viral article about someone who has ‘overcome’ their disability. A kid getting out of their wheelchair to walk at graduation or a child hearing their parents voice for the first time. They’re usually written more for abled readers as a way to inspire or motivate you by showing you how things could be so much worse. They’re always celebrating a disabled person becoming more normal.
I really hate those articles, and if there’s one thing I want you to remember from this post, it’s this:
I’m never going to overcome my disability.
I don’t want to and I don’t need to.
Those articles always leave a bad taste in my mouth because they always pitch the idea that you can never be happy until you make up for what you’ve lost. Erasing or remedying your disability is your only option, it’s the main goal. There’s always the hint of ‘we like this disabled person because we can almost pretend they’re abled like us’.
But I’m never going to be able to do that, and you’ve probably never read a story about the accomplishments of someone who looks like me.
I’ll never be able to walk, no matter how hard I fight. I’ll never be able to stand or reach above my head or get out of bed by myself. I’m okay with that because my options are to either be okay or spend every waking moment hating my own body.
The moment I decided that my disability wasn’t something to overcome, it turned into something to protect. It became something I needed to fight for, but also what gave me the strength I needed to fight with. Instead of needing to change it or overcome it, it became something to be proud of.
The things that I can’t do, I can’t do. That’s all there is to it. My body is wonky, weak, and wonderfully disabled. My body makes people cringe and tear up and think ‘oh God, what if that were me?’ But most importantly, my body makes me… me.
My body is why I’m sarcastic all the time because I needed a way to deal with how weird everyone acted around me. It’s why I’ve fallen in love with wearing dresses, because who wants to wear a tight waistband when they’re sitting all day? All of my interests and favorite activities were shaped around the fact that I have limited mobility and strength.
I could go on and on, but I genuinely believe that damn near every aspect of myself formed the way they did because I am disabled.
Knowing this, I believe it’s time that we change the way we tell disabled stories.
Rather than the story of the man who fought to overcome his disability so he could run again, write about how he wanted to show the world that sports should be accessible. Instead of only writing about the paralyzed dad who walked his daughter down the aisle, let’s hear about the woman who proudly rolled down the aisle in her wheelchair.
We need to stop framing stories as ‘person does an amazing thing, IN SPITE OF disability’ instead of the more accurate ‘person does an amazing thing BECAUSE of disability’. So many people have created incredible pieces of art, invented things, or made an impact on society because they had the experience of being disabled.
I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything amazing, but I do know that I’m happily Karly, not in spite of, but because I have Muscular Dystrophy. I know there’s a lot that I can’t do, but I also know that desperately trying to overcome my disability so the rest of the world sees my life as valid will only leave me at odds with myself trying to change an integral part of my identity.
If I’m going to be fighting anything, it’s going to be the barriers that society has put in my way. Things like inaccessibility, unaffordable health care or equipment, and ableism. Those are the things I’ll overcome.
And I’ll do it while reminding people how happy I am with my floppy legs that don’t work and my loud clunky wheelchair because neither will ever be an obstacle in my way.