The disability closet, that is. I saw a post on Reddit that prompted me to write this. How many of you have ‘come out’ to your friends and family about your disability? How did you do it, was it your choice?
My health has slowly degraded (although more rapidly than I’d like). Eight months ago I was working 13 days a fortnight, then I went to using a cane, to now needing a wheelchair for ‘longer’ trips like shopping (anything more than a few hundred meters). My family knows, my partner obviously knows, and about 5 of my friends know. I have about 200 friends on Facebook and yet I still can’t bear to do a post about anything to do with my wheelchair.
I won’t go into certain shops if I suspect someone I know is in there. And it’s not even shame so much as simply… Not wanting them to see me like this. Sure I am afraid of judgement, after all you can’t please everyone, and I am still an active horse rider (bless them for having stronger legs than I) which leads to a great deal of misunderstanding. But this whole process has been one of mourning my previous life, and moving onto a new life, with different challenges, and different ways of achieving things.
I’m so excited that in the last couple of days, I have taught myself how to do wheelies and go over small obstacles, but I feel I can’t share that as openly on Facebook as I can my horse-related achievements. There’s such a vast difference between the two- one may be looked upon with admiration, the other with pity. One with awe, the other with confusion. One with confidence, the other with so many questions. One with understanding, the other with judgement. It’s the difference between who I have always been, and who I am now, and it’s a bridge I am not sure how to cross- at least not publicly.
Of course, having chronic pain (or any other invisible illness) sure brings out the best and worst in people, and you truly learn who your real friends are. Part of me feels I should give them the benefit of the doubt, the other part feels fear of continued loss. So I want to know… How did you come out of the disability closet? How did your loved ones react, how did your acquaintances react? Did you lose friends, gain friends?
(I wanted to get a photo of myself, my wheelchair and my horse for this blog, but didn’t want to attract attention where I keep my horse either! Maybe one day soon?)