I made a video last month that discussed my experience with an acute injury, that has turned into a chronic injury and led to me becoming disabled. Despite this accident happening ten years ago, it has taken me some time to use the word “disabled”. In the last ten years, I have also had several other health issues occur (some related to the original injury, some just my delightful luck) that led to me being chronically ill and disabled.
For those who didn’t watch the video, here is a brief history. In 2011, I was watching a band play at a pub. I was extremely drunk (thankfully) and I bent over to do up my shoe lace. A large man jumped off the stage and landed on the back of my neck. This resulted in me breaking four vertebrae in my spine/neck, a gnarly concussion and some broken ribs. Luckily, I was extremely drunk (or so the neurosurgeon told me). I wasn’t injured worse because, like drunk drivers who survive heinous car crashes, the alcohol in your body stops you from tensing up and actually protects you during these acute injuries.
The first couple of years after my accident I did a lot of rehab. I was 23 at the time of the injury and relatively fit so my recovery wasn’t too bad. I was very diligent with my rehabilitation and attended all of my appointments. By the time I was 27, I was still having pain but it wasn’t too bad. Then I got pregnant and as I am sure many people who have had a child understand, pregnancy kind of ruins everything. My body got absolutely thrashed and led to me having a c-section ten days early.
My daughter ended up having all sorts of complications and I ended up with some serious mental health issues to add to my already existing generalised anxiety disorder. After pregnancy my body has never recovered. Despite having my daughter in 2014, my body is probably worse off than ever and that has come from many other things that have happened over the last few years.
I will list a bit of my medical resume without boring you with the details but I have developed a chronic pain condition, which led to a chronic migraine condition, pre menstrual depression, worsened by the fact that I can’t take oral contraceptives anymore because I get migraines. I have a tick borne illness from a tick bite that occurred on the day of my daughters 4th birthday party, which has created a bunch of very strange allergies (red meat, some soy products, most dairy), I have also been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome relating to the tick illness, however, that has comes in ebbs and can sometimes not affect me too badly. The medication I take for my migraines has meant I have gained weight which is almost impossible to get rid of and has led to being diagnosed with sleep apnoea and I now have a very sexy CPAP machine I get to sleep with every night! I have PTSD from a DV relationship around the same time as my initial injury, anxiety, depression and ADHD (which I have lived with my whole life).
That about sums it up – and even with all of these issues, my GP suggesting I get NDIS funding and could potentially stop working and apply for a disability pension if I’d like to, I have still found it extremely difficult to use the word disabled and why is that?
I think it comes from the extremely ableist society that we live in. Knowing that if I disclose my health problems and my disabilities that I am more likely to not be hired for jobs. Employers don’t want to make accommodations for people. They want people who can work without fuss and that’s not us. That’s not disabled people. But what people deem as a “fuss” is actually accommodations that allow people with disabilities to work and live full lives. Are we not as deserving as the rest of the world? To make a living and provide for ourselves and our families?
There is this immense pressure to not inconvenience people. To not disclose that sometimes I sleep until 3pm because I don’t get to sleep until 6am because I’m busy thinking about every bad thing I’ve ever done in my life because my brain has a chemical imbalance that has come from ongoing trauma and difficulty throughout my life.
And that’s not to say that I don’t live without privilege. I know a lot of people who have it a lot worse than I do. I am grateful to live in Australia where we have Medicare and access to great healthcare providers, to be bulk billed for the majority of my visits, to have the PBS, to have the NDIS & Centrelink safety net if anything changes, to have a partner and a family around me that support me, to have stable accommodation, to have white privilege, to not be wanting for really anything other than good health and a happy brain. I am extremely blessed to still have this keyboard where I can use my voice to speak about issues like this and I am even more lucky to have been given this platform through Brave to speak about these difficult issues. I realise that I am in a better spot in life than a lot of others, however, it’s very hard for my brain and body to comprehend that when you are in a dark, deep, spiral of depression and the world is falling in around you.
So with July recognised as disability pride month, I am writing this to say that I am disabled, I am privileged, I do have it worse than others, I do have it a lot better than others. I have a voice and an opportunity to use that privilege and voice to raise those around me and demand better accessibility for people with a disability and better accommodations to be provided to allow disabled people to live their lives to their fullest.
I can’t change what has happened to me.
I can show that disability is not all that there is to me and I, just like every other disabled person, deserves the right to do anything I want to do and the world needs to make space for that to happen.
“Always was, Always will be”, Rory is honoured to create art on unceeded Gumbaynggirr country and pays respects to elders past, present and emerging.