Let's focus on what we can do!

By Disabled People for Disabled People

Saturday, 5 August, 2023

Disability Pride Month By Thom Jackson–Wood

Happy #DisabilityPrideMonth everyone!

This is what I wanted to say. But it’s not been easy for me to say that.

Here’s the bottom line – I’ve spent most of my life hating myself for being different. Like I was something broken – a blip in the algorithms of life. A circle that you can’t square.

Why? It’s difficult to accept yourself when so many people don’t. As a neurodivergent kid, I found it difficult to understand that other people struggled to understand me. They saw me and found me strange, if not scary.

So, I tried to fit in, I changed schools and surrounded myself with people who were a bit more accepting. But even from that age I struggled to accept myself. I just wanted to get my head down and pretend to be like everyone else – one of the main reasons why I got into acting so I could ‘act natural’ better.

But then I got sick with #ME on top of that. Which pretty much set me back to square one again – and then some. Especially because no-one could explain what was happening to me – which was very scary for me. Because when you’re neurodiverse, you crave certainty.

I’ve tried to not let my health issues prevent me from living my best life. All things considered, I’ve managed to achieve a lot. But it’s not been easy. And most of the time I’ve done this by wrestling against myself – often forcing myself beyond pain barriers, ignoring all warning signals. And a lot of the time I’ve blamed myself for my own problems. Not because I’m struggling to move around a world that’s not always accessible for me.

I thought I was broken. I thought I was a failure. I thought I would never achieve anything. And I still have moments when I still feel this, in spite of everything – on average once a week. So even when things are going well, I won’t often feel it. Simply because everything wears me out so much.

I’ve now lived with #neurodiversity all my life and #chronicpain for over half my life. And all I want is to be more understood. I don’t want people’s pity. I want recognition. Because it’s been hard – very hard, to manage two very different health conditions at the same time – neither of which no-one sees. And when I explain this, it can be a lot for people to take in.

But I’m now beginning to flip this narrative on its head. In order for people to accept me who I am, I have to accept myself for who I am. All of the #chronicpain, incontinence, #brainfog, #depression – it counts for something. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation. And when you combine this with what I’ve done so far, the number of things I can do outstrips the things I can’t do, or need help to do.

These illnesses are not my whole existence. I am more than the sum total of my weaknesses. But I recognise that they exist. And that recognition makes me a stronger person for it. And it allows me to love the whole of myself.

I was not made to fit in. I was made to stand out. So that’s what I’ll do.

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