My Disability Is Dynamic
Maybe the media has led you to believe that all disabilities are visible and static. Disabilities caused by chronic illness can be anything but.
The relationship between chronic illness and disability can be a complicated one. Not everyone who is disabled is chronically ill, and vice versa.
And when I talk to people with chronic illness, lots and lots of people tell me that they aren’t sure if they’re allowed to call themselves disabled. I’ve interviewed more than 60 people about their experiences with chronic illness and I hear different versions of this same idea over and over again: “I’m not sure if I’m disabled enough. Some days I can exercise and go to work and have a drink with friends without a problem, and some days I physically cannot drag my body out of bed.”
Two years ago, I was completely disabled by unknown toxic mold in my house. I could barely walk to the bathroom, let alone walk to the corner store. When I needed to travel, I had no qualms about asking for accommodations and booking an airport wheelchair in advance. Two years ago, I would have said that I had an invisible disability. And a lot of people are doing a lot of great work to raise awareness about invisible disabilities and the prevalence of ambulatory wheelchair users, for example. But at the time I didn’t recognize that I also had a static disability: my needs and abilities didn’t really change much from day to day.
But now? It’s a whole other story. Now that I’ve recovered from the toxic mold exposure, my life has gone back to something like what I consider normal. Some days I still need help walking to the bathroom, but if I pay very close attention to my early crash symptoms and give my body a lot of rest, then I can participate in the world around me. I can walk downtown for a coffee or to buy groceries and I can dance at my friends’ weddings. But when people see me doing these things, they usually don’t recognize all of the attention and rest that have allowed me to enjoy those moments. And in those moments, I genuinely don’t need accommodations. My disability is no longer static, it’s dynamic. My needs and abilities are different from day to day.