Disability Gratitude

TW: This blog briefly discusses s*icidal thoughts.

I probably shouldn’t be at peace right now. It’s going to rain all exam season so I’ll be writing through (b)rain fog, there’s an excessive amount of recycling that needs to be taken out, I haven’t received a call from my new dermatologist yet, I’m worried I invested in this website for nothing, the list goes on. 

Despite everything going on, despite losing my remission, despite uncertainties in how I’ll handle work and school as everything progresses – I’m happy. I’m at peace. I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for a lot of things. And I’m feeling this gratitude and peace despite the hypervigilancy, the anxiety, and the brain fog. There is something about disability gratitude that encompasses our disabilities to make it feel so much more powerful. 

Because we are told by society that we should not be happy by any means. We look wrong, we speak wrong, we exist wrong. 

Because we are told by doctors that we are crazy. Or attention seeking. Or have low pain tolerances. 

Because we are told by policymakers that we don’t matter. We can’t vote. We can’t run for office. We can’t have political power.

Because we are told by our communities that we will never belong. Not at home, not at school, not at work, not at all.

So how can I feel gratitude? Why do I somehow have that will to keep going every day? To shift narratives, to challenge stigma, to just exist as I am? The non-disableds are going to have a field day with this (and I will go after anyone using me as inspiration porn) but I’m feeling gratitude because I am disabled. Because I am me, disabled. 

My disability gratitude didn’t come with the disability – it came after I hit my lowest point. I remember being stuck in bed at 17, sobbing and begging to die. I’m not a religious person, but I prayed for god to kill me. Not because I hated being disabled, but because I could not imagine living any longer than I had – it felt impossible, and overwhelming, and just cruel to imagine a future only to have it ripped away from me. 

Spoiler alert: I didn’t die. And as I kept not dying, I realized I had to start living. And to live knowing I could die at any time created this vulnerability and empathy I never had before. To start living, I had to acknowledge all the things I was so afraid of losing in death – the things that made my life worth living. As I realized I had so many things worth living for, I developed the will to fight for these things and the will to stay alive – to take the chemo and the steroids, to keep going to school and work, to keep living the life I love. When you understand what you have to lose, you realize what you have to do to keep those things – even when it feels impossible. 

For me, staying alive was an accomplishment and an act of defiance. To live when I was not supposed to, to feel accomplishment where I should have felt defeat, to feel gratitude where I should have felt nothing. Existing as a disabled person is, in and of itself, an act of defiance. And to exist as a disabled person, feeling gratitude and vulnerability and fear and joy? It makes me just as human as everyone else. 

I love being disabled, or at least, I love who I am because I’m disabled. I don’t bother asking myself what life would have been like without my disabilities, but I know I wouldn’t be the same person in the slightest. Becoming disabled forced me to see the world in new ways, to find joy in new things, to understand that there is always some reason to keep going – even when it doesn’t feel that way. 

As for right now? I’m grateful for the disability community. I’m grateful for all the support for this blog. I’m grateful for the opportunities to share my experiences and make life feel a little less lonely for those going through the same things. I’m grateful for my job. I’m grateful for my vulnerability. I’m grateful for my family and friends. I’m grateful for my partner. I’m grateful for my life. And I’m grateful that at 17 I found the will to keep fighting when it felt impossible. Because I love my life, and I love being disabled.