Hate, life, suicide, and the terrifying “kindness” of the non-disabled

May 19, 2013 at 12:18 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

This post, and the article I link to, carry a heavy trigger warning for disablist hatred, for sexual abuse, and for suicide.

I’ve been deeply touched by this excellent post, on feminist blog The F Word, about disablist hatred, and in particular the horrible myth that disabled lives are not worth living; that we would be “better off dead” (and might even have a duty to be so).

The article speaks for itself, and I agree with it strongly. I do in fact strongly support the right of anyone who wants to die, to do so. But the ease with which as a society we accept (especially physically) disabled people being suicidal, compared to any other demographic, terrifies me. People should be allowed to die – but they should be given every possible opportunity to live, and live well, so that it is a true choice. What leads, I believe, to a lot of people becoming suicidal after becoming disabled, is not the impairment itself – it is living in a disablist society, it is suddenly losing abled privilege, it is the lack of financial, emotional, social and other support for disabled people. It is having grown up in a culture in which, “I’d rather be dead than unable to do [X]” is considered a totally reasonable and rational opinion to have. For someone to rationally choose to die is one thing. For someone to see no other way out because society encourages them to believe they are better off dead is not merely a tragedy; it is an atrocity.

I have been told, by someone who was supposed to be my best friend at the time, that unless my ME could be cured in short order, I would be better off dead. This happened well over a decade ago. It still hurts. It still makes me angry. And every time someone in the media reels out the “better off dead” line, every time someone talks about “mercy killing” in a sympathetic tone, with no respect for the sovereignty of the people murdered, I get furious, not to mention very, very scared indeed.

To belong to a demographic that means someone would like to kill me is bad enough. As a queer person, as someone on the trans* spectrum. Hell, just as someone who isn’t a het, cis man – I know this applies to me.

To belong to not one, but two demographics that mean that some people would not only like to kill me, but would regard doing so as an act of kindness… that fills me with a horror and distress and panic that I cannot fully articulate. All I can say is: not having experienced that visceral terror, not ever having had that hateful pity directed at you or others like you, is a fairly major part of abled privilege.

I say two demographics: along with disabled people of all ages and elderly people with dementia, the other group of people I have heard the “better off dead” line used against is survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

It’s generally directed more at those who suffered rape and other serious physical sexual abuse as a child, rather than the comparatively minor (though still traumatising) psychological ickyness that I experienced. Another reason why I do count myself as exceedingly lucky.

But it still hurts. We still live in a society in which the concept of someone being “damaged goods” is a real thing in some people’s heads, especially when the “goods” are children. And it’s really, really hard not to internalise at times.

When I have suicidal thoughts, they mostly start with a combination of that, and my disabilities.

The line goes: between my childhood, my marriage and my disabilities, I am utterly and irretrievably broken, and can never live a real, worthwhile or happy life. I would be doing myself and others an immense favour if I ceased to exist.

So far, every time those thoughts have arisen, I have overcome them.

And after I scared myself rather a lot two days ago, I made a promise to both the Magician and the Ranger: to keep being here, to keep living. To not take my own life. To always get help whenever I feel like this, from them, or others.

I tend to avoid making promises these days. For any number of reasons, not least the fact that I’m a Quaker! But this promise seemed an important – and helpful – one to make, and I don’t for an instance regret making it.

And tonight, I feel bullish and angry. I’m angry at anyone who’s ever expressed the “better off dead” opinion. I’m angry that someone like Colin Brewer could be elected to a political position in my country. I’m angry that disabled lives are considered lesser than abled lives, that paid work is considered the only measure of contribution to society, that benefits are considered “wasted”. That propaganda used in some sections of the media today is horrifyingly close to some of that used to justify Action T4.

That abled people underestimate themselves so much that they really believe that even with the right support they would not be able to lead a full or happy or beautiful life if they were disabled.

There is no respect in which I would be better off dead than in my life as it is. I am disabled, and I am currently unable to work, and I am a survivor of rape, child abuse and relationship abuse. I have agoraphobia and monophobia and ME and possible Fibromyalgia, and I have anxiety and depression, and I have Ulcerative Colitis and a deformed neck, and, it now turns out, allergic asthma. I get flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, and I tend to disassociate when receiving cunnilingus.

And my continued existence is fucking glorious, a shout of victory that laughs in the face of all defeats, a prayer offered up in breath and sweat and dirt and blood to the Gods. The trees dance when I walk past them, the sea sings to me, and the mountains know my name.

And here and now I resolve that never again is anyone going to get to tell me different.

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