THE BLOG

The Shattered Hearts After Ableism

06/04/2017 12:08

It was a boy, of course.

He had us all fooled. Deep down I think he had himself fooled too. The lies we tell ourselves can often hurt other people the most.

He was very successful. A dark prince. Despite her disability she was a source of light and strength in his life. Holidays with his family, promised trips to Paris, a suggestion that they might move in together were now constants. Every time her wheelchair got a flat tire, he was there.

We all knew what that meant.

One day he changed. He insisted that she got the wrong idea, that they were never more than 'just friends,' that she was too clingy and he had found another girlfriend. Besides, 'I want to go out with both of you, together,' he said.

She was smart. She left.

But that was not the worst of it.

Over a year later, we found out the cause for his sudden change.

"We don't want a woman with a disability to be the mother of our grandchildren," his parents had pleaded. "Keep her around as your mate, marry someone else," was the suggestion of his friends.

I was there when she pieced together what had happened. She fell onto her bed, the long hollow wail that she let out defied years of speech therapy. You would never have guessed she needed a respirator.

It was long, low, primal; as if the heart she was desperately trying to stitch up every day had finally split open.

It was a sound I hope to never hear again.

It is a sound I have heard come out my own mouth before.

The older I get, the more I have come across the situation. Someone expects you to 'understand' why they chose to have their birthday party at the top of a pub, or why they are putting on a show at an inaccessible theatre.

Or that you can be 'put on ice' as the 'smart best friend' while he brings someone else home to make the parents happy.

All of these are examples of ablism, and like racism it is nearly impossible to rebuild relationships in the wake of it. Our society has yet to recognise ablism as a problem. Too often, we put pressure on the victim to make things right and the perpetrator claims it was 'misunderstanding' or an 'overreaction.'

My friend tried confronting him serval times to but in the end he just threw it back in her face. There's only so many times you can try and change someone before you start to enable his behaviour.

"Can't you just be friends," people would ask. "Just let it be water under the bridge and love him anyway."

Would we ask that of a black woman who was thwarted by a racist family?

She still loves him. She will text me late at night wondering if he will change.

I hope so, but please don't base your life around it, I tell her.

She will not give up hope and neither can I, for we are both desperate to be seen and be loved as ourselves, to remain unbound by the prejudices and obstacles others may wish to shackle us with, and to see a change that is so needed.

We clean wounds caused by others, keeping them open to the air in the hope they will heal properly rather than close and fester. It is more painful, but it beats giving up on people.

Meantime, it is our right to get away from these unhealthy situations and seek shelter until the winds change.

In a world where it seems that personal rights are constantly attacked, taking steps towards self preservation is more valuable than ever.

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