It’s strange to step into the world of disability as an adult. As a late-identified autistic person, I now understand that I have a disability.
I hadn’t thought much about the word. I didn’t really need to use it much. I simply dove into the world of neurodivergence and embraced being autistic. All of my writing has focused on that.
One of my autism articles was recently referenced in an author’s article listing their favorite Medium articles. They broke their favorites into different categories. I scrolled through the categories, wondering where I would show up.
And there I was, under “Disability.”
It didn’t feel good. How could my amazing article about autism be reduced to “disability?”
And there it was, clear evidence that I have not come to terms with the word “disability.”
Normally I like to share essays where I’ve learned, grown, and understood something.
This essay is different. I still am uncomfortable with the word disability. I am also uncomfortable that I don’t like the word. I feel like I should. I feel it means I’m ableist and that there are things I need to confront.
I’m pretty adept at judging my emotions. At judging myself for not feeling or thinking how I “should.”
Instead, I’m going to take a different approach with “disability.” I’m going to acknowledge the discomfort and even accept it as normal. Given I didn’t know I had a disability for the majority of my life, I think it’s ok that I’m grappling with the term still.
I think it’s also natural that I don’t fully understand it. There are so many things to know in this world and we cannot possibly know all of them. So it’s natural that our lived experiences force us to encounter subjects we don’t know as much about.
That is where I am. I will educate myself. I will explore. I will figure it out. But that will take time. And I’m going to let myself not be the perfect model of self-acceptance and social justice and all things right and good. These are normally the kinds of things we keep tucked away in the dark until we have them all figured out.
But here’s the thing, that makes others feel like people either get it or they don’t. We don’t get pictures of people in the middle and muddling through. So it makes everyone trying to muddle through feel shameful.
I’m done with that. So I’m here to say I’m muddling, and you can muddle along with me.
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