Disability often requires some of our independence to be given up. Personally, my independence has waxed and waned over the years continuously. While it’s nice to have periods of time where I’m capable of being very independent, it can be incredibly hard to have to relinquish some of that independence when my condition worsens. I was watching Jessica Kellgren-Fozard’s video about her personal relationship with independence and being chronically ill, and it made me think about my relationship with independence. I highly suggest watching the video, and subscribing to her. She is a disabled lesbian, from England where she resides with her wife and adorable dog.
At times, independence for me can mean being able to do my laundry or cook a meal. It may sound so simple, but these are the things so many people take for granted. Currently, independence for me means driving myself to school, and going to my classes. I still live with my parents, so some of my independence is relinquished to them; They cook most of the time, and they pay the bills (thank god). There’s meaningful independence is everyday activities, like doing the dishes or folding the laundry, that many able-bodied people fail to recognize.
My independence can fluctuate day to day, and even hour to hour. One day I can drive myself everywhere I need to go, and the next day I can barely take out the trash. This concept of ability changing on an hourly basis is something able-bodied people tend to struggle with. In their world, you’re either completely incapacitated or completely fine. I live the vast majority of my life in the in-between stages, which can make things complicated. It can also be difficult for my parents. They believe they know how I’m feeling by looking at me, but they’re often wrong. I get a certain look in my face when I feel like I’m going to pass out or vomit, but I can feel awful without the specific look. Sometimes I’ll say I’m feeling terrible, but because I “look fine” they ask me to do something immediately like feed the dogs or unload the dishwasher. It becomes frustrating when you want to help, but also just explicitly stated you aren’t doing well in the moment. Being the obedient child I am, I force myself to do what is asked of me even when it makes me feel worse.
I want to be able to help my parents whenever they ask, but it just isn’t a realistic “want” sometimes. Learning to relinquish some of your independence to other people can be difficult. I’m someone who likes to be in control, and likes to be as independent as possible. Being chronically ill has taught me, that there’s strength in vulnerability. Knowing when to ask for assistance is a necessary part of being disabled, but it can feel demoralizing. It is however, a choice to relinquish that independence, which makes asking for help less patronizing to me. There’s so much strength in admitting you need assistance.
We live in a society that worships independence to an unhealthy level. No person, disabled or not, can do everything by themselves 100% of the time. You’re life’s worth shouldn’t rely on whether or not you can drive a car, or wash your own hair. All levels of independence are beautiful and should be celebrated. Relinquishing some of your independence does not make you weak, but instead shows an incredible strength.