I really hate the word “disabled.” It sounds like there’s something wrong with me. I’ve been working on my story for the past couple of hours, and many of my characters have some kind of “disability.” Kithryd is paralyzed, and Iris has intense anxiety. Kithryd has telekinesis, and Iris has pyrokinesis. Before you have to ask, yes, this is totally wish fulfillment.
A couple of days ago I found myself griping about how I’m not physically capable of doing a lot of things. Because my body isn’t “normal” I will have to live at home indefinitely unless I want to go through the giant hassle of, first of all, finding a place to live, and beyond that, figuring out how to get help with things. I need help with really basic stuff. I need help bathing and getting from my wheelchair to the shower or my bed or what have you. A lot of things that most people would consider very simple are rather complicated when you’re me.
Most of the time this stuff doesn’t bother me, but the other night I was griping. The thing is, I’m capable of a lot. I’m creative. I’m intelligent (yes I’m bragging). I love like a crazy person. I can write. I’m unreasonably optimistic. I try to be humble and spiritual. I asked God the other night why he would give me a mind that can understand the world, and a heart that loves it and wants it to be good… and a body that’s so broken. I actually used that word. Broken. There’s something really screwed up about that.
When I was born I was diagnosed with a kind of Muscular Dystrophy that was supposed to kill me by the age of three. I believe I’m alive today because my mom prayed, and God spared my life. If I wasn’t supposed to be alive I wouldn’t be here. For the record, I am still undiagnosed. The doctors can’t figure me out, and you have no idea how hilarious that is to me. I revel in it.
I am not broken, and my characters are not broken. This stuff is on my mind now because I was working on the political and social atmosphere of my story. A lot of my story is meant to be about what’s going on politically, as well as the actual actions my characters take. After World War III, which took place around fifty or so years before my present story, the world’s population was almost wiped out, and many of the following generation (about 30%) were born with some kind of “disability,” however, they also tended to have various psychic powers. The corrupt government in my story started using propaganda to get the public to believe that these people were somehow “less,” and that many of them were even criminals because of their abilities. This is not necessarily the focus of my story, but it is going to be a prevalent part of the atmosphere.
The point is that when I was writing out my plans, the word “disabled” kept popping up, and this started to get under my skin. This word is so ingrained in our culture, that even I couldn’t think of a word to replace it. I am not disabled because God made me who I am. I’m not perfect, either, but I’m certainly not broken. The word “disabled” implies that there is something wrong with me. When talking about these things people focus on the things that people like me can’t do. People have to be unusually nice to people like me because our lives are so difficult. Our lives must be awful.
There is nothing wrong with me. I use wheels instead of feet to get around. I learned how to adapt so I could play guitar upside down. I intend to learn how to play violin. I can write ludicrously complicated stories. I was the first of my friends to graduate college. I have dreams. I want to change the world. How is that the mark of someone who is broken? How is that the mark of someone who is “disabled?” I’ll admit that I need help with basic stuff. This annoys me sometimes, but it is how it is and it’s not going to change, and it doesn’t mean anything. It especially doesn’t mean that I should be pitied. That is probably the worst thing you can do. Do not pity me. Do not pity us.
You know what? There is no “you and me.” There is no “us and them.” We’re all just different. I might not be able to get a job at Starbucks to make a little extra money (which believe me, I want to do), but I can teach middle school kids who Jesus is. I can love-spam the internet. I can express my ideas, and the ideas of others concisely and coherently. I can dream. I can trust that, despite the complications, I, and the rest of the world, are part of something excellent. I can stubbornly believe that everything will be better than okay. I can hold on to the fact that I, with all my weird quirks, am made in the image of God, and I am not broken.
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!