Two nights ago, my flat mate made winter vegetable soup. She offered me a bowl and I had to check with her that there were no aubergines in the soup since I am allergic to them. There wasn’t, and I ate my food fairly happily. Several months ago, my mother suggested that I apply this kind of paradigm to my disability, giving me a new way to communicate about it. She said that nobody faults me for having food allergies and that nobody would coddle me, pity me, excuse me, or think me incapable if, instead of telling people that I couldn’t use escalators or wear high heels because of my disability, I told them I were allergic to high heels and escalators. This mindset, I have realized, would also make these challenges ‘part of who I am’ rather than ‘all of who I am.’ A disability is an all-encompassing label, but an allergy is not quite so defining.
If I apply this thinking to every challenge my disability still presents, then I am allergic to escalators, high heels, driving, carrying cumbersome objects, several bikram yoga poses, sitting on chairs or stools that are very high, different winter sports, and have a slight sensitivity to the possibility of pregnancy. This trivializes my challenges and puts them into perspective. If this list is comprised of my greatest concerns, then I am doing a lot better than I give myself credit for. In my mission to completely overcome my impairment, I often lose sight of the progress I have made because I am ‘still not completely better yet.’ In doing this, I don’t stop to consider that I have come a very long way in the last five and a half (nearly six) years.
I don’t think I will tell people I have allergies rather than an impairment – because it will take too long to explain why I chose to use that rhetoric instead – but it feels better to think of it as allergy rather than incapability, disability, or weakness.