"Is this stuff for you?"
"Yes, it's for me."
"But there's nothing wrong with you. You look fine."
"That's why it's called invisible illness. I feel ill every day, I can't leave the house much, I'm weak, I struggle to walk..."
"You look perfect."
"Thank you, but I'm very ill."
A delivery man for a disability equipment company came round to deliver and fit a kitchen chair and a bath board. I don't feel offended, but I feel disappointed that I had to explain what invisible illness was to someone that works with disability services, and I don't think I got through.
I'm not sure if it's a real compliment to be called 'perfect' in this case because it implies that having a disability makes you inherently imperfect. So if it's invisible, it's like saying I'm inherently imperfect, but at the same time it's denying the possibility that I actually live with disability. As if I'm lying.
I don't think disabilities are 'perfect'. But I think calling someone perfect BECAUSE they don't seem to have a disability implies that anyone with a disability is imperfect, and anyone without one is perfect. To me this is kind of disability discrimination, even though I think this guy was trying to be nice.
I think he was trying to tell me I'm attractive... which is another kind of inappropriate, since I was alone in the house with a stranger, while I was in a dressing gown and pyjamas, especially since I probably fall under the 'vulnerable' bracket with my physical limitations. Simultaneously I recognise that he was trying to compliment me. Unfortunately, in his world it's a compliment to not look disabled.
I'm still working out my thoughts on this. The world is ableist. Calling someone words to do with disability is an insult - 'retard', 'crazy', 'mad', 'lame', etc. Disabled = bad in the majority of people's worlds.
It is difficult to live with disability - it makes my life worse. But it does not make ME a worse person. Those labels are applied to people, not to situations.
Every time I'm told I don't look ill or disabled, as if it's a compliment, it's affirming the idea that being disabled would make me inherently bad, and implies:
1. I can't possibly be disabled - a refusal from the compliment giver to believe how ill I am - putting me in a position where I sometimes feel I have to explain myself
2. Since I am in fact living with disability, this makes me inherently bad.
If I say 'thank you', does that imply that I agree that being disabled is inherently bad, and it's a compliment to tell me I'm hiding it well? When I said 'thank you', I was thinking of this man's positive intentions rather than his world view. But I don't want to encourage his ideas. In this case, I think the 'thank you' helped close down the conversation, which I didn't have the energy for. Next time, I don't think I will say 'thank you' unless I need to shut the conversation down.
I would appreciate any thoughts about this - I'm still sorting through the ableist ideas I've grown up with.
Disability equipment delivery man is casually ableist
Blog entry posted by lior, Dec 10, 2018.