[Trigger warnings: all sorts of things, but mostly suicidal ideation]
I came to a realisation in the last couple of days — I’m disabled.
I don’t mean that I just realised that the label “disabled” fit me — I’ve been using it about myself for a couple of years — but that it actually describes me. I’ve felt for a while like I was in the category “disabled” for various reasons, but that I’m not *actually* disabled, not properly disabled like some of my friends.
But then in the last few days I’ve been thinking about how some of the normal knocks of a freelancer’s life affect me disproportionately, so much so that after a couple of rejections I’ve spent most of the week contemplating suicide (not going to act on it because I don’t want to upset my wife or parents, don’t worry), and I realised for the first time, in my gut, that things just *actually are* harder for me because of my disabilities and chronic conditions. Most of them on their own don’t seem like they’re much, but put together, they really do cause a lot of problems.
I’m autistic, which I’ve mentioned before. I also have psoriasis, which means my skin is often uncomfortable. I *also* have psoriatic arthritis, which as well as meaning I’m often in pain and can rarely stand unaided for even a couple of minutes also means I’m pretty much permanently fatigued and brain-fogged. And I’m dyspraxic. I have depression and anxiety, and hypertension (the latter mostly controlled by medicine, except when I’m stressed, which I always am). I almost certainly have delayed sleep-phase syndrome (a condition which is untreatable so for which I’ve never secured diagnosis, but which makes fitting into normal diurnal cycles near-impossible), and I *do* have sleep apnoea (which is controlled by my CPAP machine, but not completely). I have asthma (mostly under control) and insulin resistance. I have weird immune-system stuff which means I have to avoid all sorts of foods and also get all sorts of diseases.
And that’s not even counting all the weird stuff which is just stuff-my-body-does, like the way my feet are both permanently numb but *also* excruciatingly sensitive to the slightest touch (no, I don’t know how that can be the case either. It seems like something that should be logically impossible. Nevertheless).
I’m basically broken, both physically and mentally, and have been since at least 2011 or so — that was the point where the constant pressure to try to cope despite the stuff I had then (like autism and delayed sleep phase syndrome) triggered a whole bunch of the other stuff (like the hypertension and the arthritis) which has since never gone away.
But I still think of myself as basically baseline-normal. I just tend to assume that *everyone* is so completely unsuited to primate pack hierarchies that just talking to an authority figure makes their blood pressure get into imminent-stroke range, and that everyone in a day job is staggering in to work after two hours’ sleep because they couldn’t get to sleep til 6AM the night before, and that when they’re typing their hands are in agony, and…
And it’s only really this week that I’ve grokked, properly, that this is not the case. Like, I’ve known it intellectually, but I’m still used to instinctually assuming that things are about as difficult for everyone else as they are for me (or even assuming that when it comes to most things, they’re easier for me — before the arthritis I was a very, *very* fast thinker, and I’m also an allocishet white man, so in that way at least I always had a tremendous advantage over other people when it comes to things like getting jobs). And it’s only now I’m really realising that just because there’s not a single obvious thing I can point to like being in a wheelchair or having no sight, it doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling more than most people.
But… in a major way, whether I’m disabled or not *doesn’t matter*. Because I still have to do all the things that everyone else has to do. I still have to earn a living, pay a mortgage, walk the dog, and it doesn’t really matter that sometimes — a lot of the time — those things are so difficult for me that death honestly seems like an infinitely preferable option. And I still have to do all the things that I feel obliged to do — the political activism and so on.
But what that’s meant is that for the last seven years, my horizons have been getting narrower and narrower, and that’s been showing in this blog. I’ve been less able to focus, I’ve been less able to seek out new things, I’ve not socialised *at all*. I basically don’t leave the house. I go to a games night at some friends’ house one night a month, except it’s really only about one night in every three months, and other than that I just don’t see people. In the last month, the *only* in-person interactions I’ve had with anyone have been at the shop when buying food, games night (which I did attend this month), lending some musical instruments to a friend, and two trips to the comic shop. That’s a total of maybe five or six hours in a month spent with another human who isn’t my wife. And this has been a busier-than-normal month for me, a tiring, hectic, merry-go-round of a social whirl.
Yet I’ve still refused to see myself as “really” disabled, still had the disability equivalent of impostor syndrome, still convinced I’m faking it as I lie on the couch crying because I can never, no matter how I push myself, never do enough work to make myself and my wife financially secure for anything more than a month or so in advance, never have the social skills to do the self-publicist thing you need to do to have any kind of freelance career, but even more than that I can never do the stuff that’s needed for a day job (had I not switched to freelancing two years ago, I would be dead now without a hint of exaggeration).
I don’t know what to do with this revelation. There’s not even much I *can* do with it. It’s not like I can *stop* working and money will magically appear because I’m disabled, it’s not like I’ll suddenly be able to walk twenty miles at a session again like I could when I was in my early thirties before the arthritis hit. It’s not like anything at all has changed in any way.
But I thought it probably worth mentioning here. It might help explain why there have been fewer of the extended flights of imagination here in recent years (though I’m still going to post many more Good Posts, for example — there’s another six thousand words of them sat in a directory waiting to be uploaded here), but mostly, I think it just worth saying these things.
So anyway, that’s it, I’m disabled. I realise that now.
This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?