Monday, 13 October 2014

My thoughts on 'The only disability in life is a bad attitude'.

*This is a little disclaimer to say that this post is only my opinion, and I would welcome a debate about it*

If you're not familiar with it already, there's a meme that floats about on social networking sites that exclaims that 'The only attitude in life is a bad attitude', and I've seen it create an impassioned debate about what this means to disabled people and non disabled people alike. It certainly seems to divide opinion. I'm firmly on the 'I hate it' side, every time I see it, I flinch.

 It's quite difficult to express exactly why I hate it so much but I'll try and explain my feelings as best I can. I identify strongly as being a young disabled woman. My disability certainly does not define me, but it's an integral part of my identity. It's part of who I am. I can't help but feel that when this quote is used,  its tantamount to saying that the disabled part of my identity does not exist, that 'people do not see disability. I was born disabled, but have not always identified as a disabled person. For many years, I struggled to accept the fact I was disabled. When I was a teenager I'd feel disgusted if people dared label me a disabled person, I felt quite ashamed. However, when I was an adult, I did eventually accept the fact I was a disabled person, but it certainly wasn't an easy process. I'm now totally at peace with being a disabled person, and I worry that quotes such as this can be used to dismiss the fact a lot of people are happy and indeed proud to identify as a disabled person.

The second reason I really hate this quote is that I actually find it quite disabilist. First, a bad attitude is not a disability and secondly, it erases the fact that disability does exist. It is an undeniable fact that I am disabled. I cannot use my left hand, and require daily assistance to do tasks that a two handed person does without thinking. This is not a pity party, but the reality of my situation. This is a small part of what my experience of living with a disability is like. If you tell me that the only disability is a bad attitude, you are in effect telling me that this part of my life does not exist, and you're also undermining what living with a disability is like. 

Finally, I don't really like this quote because I worry that it may encourage the shutting down of discussion of disability. To me, I feel that this meme is a bigger problem in that people chuck about these patronising sayings, in the hope that they will make us feel better about being disabled. I've seen it posted on support groups to try and inspire us to feel better about being disabled. To me, it has the complete opposite effect. It makes me feel bad about speaking about aspects of my disability that stress me out. I'm a realist, I will wholeheartedly admit that sometimes I feel incredibly negative about my hemiplegia. It's not often I feel that way, but I have days where it feels shit and frustrating. If I'm confronted with this meme on a bad day, it can make me feel that I should be quiet about my struggles. That it isn't 'normal' to have bad days, and that maybe I just have a bad attitude, and that I have no right to feel bad about my disability, or indeed that I don't even have a disability. I just generally think its seen as a social taboo to be negative about disability. It's actually bloody exhausting to be damn positive all the time. I think its healthy to discuss how frustrating living with a disability is, and we should not be shamed into feeling that negative emotions are insignificant and not important. I think its healthy to have an honest discussion, and to be real about things.

Anyway, I think I've ranted enough. As I said before, this is just my opinion, so don't flame me down! If you find the meme helpful, that is great for you, but I just wanted to share my perspective.


1 comment:

  1. As a disabled person, I just have to comment on your sentence re disgust and shame at being disabled.... I know exactly where you're coming from - I felt the same until a few years ago. I was ashamed of being disabled and I hated seeing, or being near, other disabled people. It's only recently that I have accepted that I AM disabled and it's nothing to be ashamed of. And I'm in my 50s FFS!! I'm glad that you are at peace with your situation at a much younger age.

    Sorry that I've just focussed on that one small part of your post (I'm in a hurry!). Great blog post, thank you!