I began writing this post about a month into the healing process from a fractured femur; now my leg is nearly healed. This healing process has been a really interesting journey, largely because it is the first time I have done so while in a relationship. Being with my love during this injury has provoked a flood of intense emotions and thoughts about the meaning and value of my body. Many of these have thus far been unexplored, or at least not owned up to, despite this being a relatively decent fracture out of the 60 or so I have had thus far (stemming from my disability, osteogenesis imperfecta, otherwise known as brittle bones).
Though I have worked for nearly a decade on forging a radical disability identity through engaging with disability activism, culture and studies, I continue to grapple emotionally and psychologically with the disconnect between disability positive tenets and my view of my body. This disconnect has become all the more apparent during this injury.
Injuries take away much of my independence and render many tasks the responsibility of those around me. During this injury, my love has taken on nearly all of the cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. This should be a welcomed break from the drudgery of domestic life but it is not. I hate it. It makes me question how valuable I am as a person because I cannot give to her the way I feel I should. I know to critique this idea of “should” – but even with the social criticism of the implicit value of this statement, I still feel frustrated and saddened by my inability to perform even the most menial tasks.
Even though it goes against crip political values to admit this, I sometimes struggle to maintain a disability positive attitude. In an injured state I feel I appear vulnerable or unable and I hate this. I hate showing this side of me, even to the one who I want to share all of myself with, regardless of how real it is or how much disability is a part of me. It is at these moments that I internalize a lot of disdain and sadness; reminiscent of my adolescence.
I find myself frustrated when it takes me longer to put my pants on. I burst into tears when I spill things and cannot pick them up. I hate not being able to clean the house the way I want to be done. I hate not feeling sexual and sexy. I hate struggling to get undressed and by the time I do, I feel so unattractive and unworthy that I cry instead of feel hungry for sex – something, of course I pride myself on. I hate it all. It makes me think I hate my body. It makes me wonder how the hell she continues to love me through all of this. My love told me during the harder part of this injury process that I rolled my eyes at her more than I usually do when she tells me that I’m beautiful and that she loves me. It is awful but at those moments I just do not believe her. How can she possibly think I am beautiful when I feel so pathetic?
All of these negative thoughts create significant cognitive dissonance in me, as I fancy myself to be an uppity crip. I believe I am beyond the negative understandings of disability and I thought I believed what I espouse, particularly in viewing disability as a beautiful and natural. Yet when it comes down to me dealing with a more disabled body than I am used to, all of my crip body politics fly out of the window. This realization exacerbates the negative feelings I experience concerning my body, as I feel guilty that I am not a good disability scholar-activist because I am allowing myself to concede to dominant narratives of disability.
A sage in my life reminded me that everything happens for a reason and that this may be a healthy catalyst for me to deal with the demons in my disabled closet. She told me love forces us all to open up the internal closet where we hide away things we do not want to deal with. The sage believes that in this way love is transformative because if we open ourselves up enough to allow our partner to see the good along with the bad, that some of these issues can be absolved through the healing properties of love. During this process, I finally articulated my struggle with feeling good enough for love as my leg heals and my partner held me and repeated to me how much she loved and how worthy I am of her love. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I took deep breaths trying to breathe her words into me. I tried to engage in that hug as though it were a meditation and allow myself to take the words and run them through my body.
I want to release myself of the social baggage of disability. I want to look at the mirror and always see the beauty that is me. I want to do this all with her by my side. For now, I am just trying to be more patient with myself and to take her words as her truth.
Thinking about this experience has made me really conscious of dynamics of interable love – love between a crip and a nondisabled person. It has made me realize I want to research this topic because it is ripe for scholastic masturbation. I have started to analyze and reconceptualize my understanding of care and explore ways that even during periods of physical incapacitation I can and do give. I want to explore why it has taken experiencing an injury with a partner to make myself own up to these internal truths and why somehow listening to her say I am worthy of love makes me think I should believe her. I want to hear the thoughts of people who have experienced interable love – and how this has impacted their self-concepts.
Please share your thoughts on this.