Last post I was talking about my concerns and experiences as a child who did not really recognize that I was different, or rather hated to admit it. Today I can say that I’ve moved on to accept who I am as a person and recognize my difference as a valid part of who I am. In spite of this, however, it sometimes happens that you are faced with a past image of yourself and wonder what that younger you was trying to say. And from my writing, when I was about 15 demonstrates that I sought to be like the rest of my friends – like any other kid I guess. Hidden within me, however, where doubts about whether my future would be like theirs since I knew that ‘other people’ regarded me rather differently than those close to me.
This hidden enemy, I believe, is the one I fought in my childhood and will continue to battle until the end. For the pain of being told off or ignored or avoided is somewhat greater than any physical pain I have ever endured. For the worst kind of thing that can ever happen to anyone is to be described as if he or she were some statistic or abstract character – as if this life was not real and as if we should not dream of the same things as others.
I have faced these inner demons since I discovered the way people referred to me. In the way I am sometimes made to realize that I was not welcome. Or that my behavior was not what was generally expected of disabled people. These demons every person who is somewhat different from the mainstream of society must face, thoughts that cast doubt on your humanity, your validity and on your personhood.
There were times when I came to believe I was a problem, that I was a burden. That I need fixing. Unfortunately, these were not simply caused by figments of my imagination. They were things I heard in hospital wards, in public places, and even in places where everyone should be welcome. They were uttered in looks, in gestures, behind my back, or in my face. Willingly or not, some of these interpretations of who ‘I’’ was became part of me, and part of my past.
I may have chosen to avoid dealing with these subtle destructive agents. But I knew that I had to face them. Not because I was brave or resilient but because it was the only way to survive from social death. And it’s still a lifelong promise. To one day overcome the enemy within. For in truth, the seeds of these demons, or internalized oppression, may be defeated within but they will never truly die. As long as there is someone out there who still judges me, or others for that matter, by the way we might appear. By our impairments. By our differences.