To the disabled, self-care means

surviving…

surviving poverty,

surviving ignorance,

surviving segregation,

surviving

the invisibility forced upon our lives.

 

To the disabled, self-care means making sure

we don’t die

of hunger,

we don’t die of sadness

we don’t die alone, abandoned, and forgotten

in some shit-hole nursing home

that paints a peaceful transition to heaven,

but is a living hell behind closed doors.

 

Self-care means we force open the doors

that were made to imprison us.

It means breaking the oppressing chains

that hold disabled people down

and acknowledging that none of us can move up

when others are still down.

We must keep each other alive while the nondisabled world

wants us to die, disappear, become extinct,

a thing of the past, at last, eliminating

the infirm, the broken,

the undesirable.

 

Self-care means unlearning the bull-shit we’ve been told

about our disabled bodies, the lies we’ve been forced to wear

in nondisabled costume,

forcing us to try to fake

able-bodiedness we do not have,

find humor in our struggles

while feeling ashamed of our differences.

 

Self-care means we learn to love our differences,

and recognize

that we have our personal greatness as a gift.

It means we know how others lift

our bodies like a heavy cross they must bear

while we endure the pain of their ableist fears.

 

For the disabled, self-care means we undress our own fears

knowing that doing so will hurt.

It means letting others know the hurt

caused by their actions,

caused by ableist words casually thrown

to describe our bodies.

 

Self-care means we forgive our bodies

for not walking, not talking, not seeing,

not hearing, not thinking, not acting,

not feeling, not being

like the boring normals who consider themselves to be better.

 

Self-care means a better

understanding

of our right to exist,

our right to resist, our right

to love ourselves without guilt.

Self-care means

we forgive those who trespass

against our rights,

but do so by making sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Self-care means knowing

it will happen again, and again

and again,

and knowing we will again,

and again go back

to the battlefield

to slay the dragons of ableist crap

that trap

disabled people

into believing that the normies know,

more than we do

about our bodies and our needs.

 

Self-care means we get to explain our needs

to the doctors, to the attendants,

to the social workers, to the concerned relatives,

to the “professionals” who think they’re experts at living our lives.

 

Self-care means remembering all that

when the only thing we can remember

is the past due bill on the table,

and the fear of not being able to make ends meet

this month, or the next, or the next.

Self-care means telling ourselves that next time

will be different,

although we’re not sure how.

 

Self-care means we know how

to survive because it’s something

we’ve simply learned to do.

Self-care means asking for help knowing it’s ok to ask.

It means asking for help,

and asking exactly for what we need

and without feeling guilty for it.

 

Self-care means remembering

that we don’t have to apologize for our needs.

Self-care, to us, means allowing our wounds

to heal out in the open.

It means knowing we don’t have to cover up our pain,

but nor do we have to disclose it

in order to validate our truths.

 

Self-care means our relationship with pain,

like our relationship with God, is personal.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means,

learning to self-regulate positivity because

the non-disabled world only sees negativity and pity,

instead of strength and love.

 

Self-care means we are aware of our personal strengths

but also know we don’t’ always have to be strong.

Self-care means letting the tears flow in order to heal the soul.

Self-care means we know it is the soul

through which we exist in our bodies.

It means we love our bodies

but are fully aware of how fragile they can be.

 

Anybody can become disabled.

Everybody will become disabled.

Those are truths nobody wants to hear.

Self-care means, that when we do hear those truths,

we already know that life goes on,

and that being disabled is not the end of the world,

but it is a world constantly under attack

by ableist oppression.

 

Self-care means we don’t forget

that ableist oppression is real

although it might not always affect

all disabled people the same,

the same way racism doesn’t affect

all people of color the same.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means

addressing the crime of neglect and abuse

and the use of ableist practices

as society practices

divisiveness and oppression in the name of what’s good for us.

 

Self-care means we know that we are the only ones

who can truly know

what’s good for us.  It means

we own our bodies even

when the Medical Model broken definition of who we are

may say otherwise, because when we’re disabled,

owning our bodies is the most radical form of self-care and self-love

we will ever practice and exercise,

and it will be the most criticized and

revolutionary action of our lives, and the non-disabled

will continue to fight for the right to live for us

while we exist in our non-normative bodies,

and our non-conforming minds.

Society whines at the outcry of our rebellious advocacy,

but rebellious advocacy is

how we practice self-care.

 

We practice self-care

by constantly performing CPR on our broken dreams,

by remembering that others will forget us

because they always forget about us

although they pretended to remember us

during the evacuation drill

where fake disabled people played our part,

and real disabled people were left behind because…well….

we must never forget

that others will not remember,

but they will always remember to tell us what to do

and how to live.

 

When we’re disabled,

self-care also involves telling non-disabled people to back off

and fuck off, if we must go to that extreme.

Self-care, when we’re disabled, sometimes requires extreme

measures

like acknowledging the pleasures often denied to us

in the name of normality.

 

Self-care involves the beautiful abnormality

of crip-sexy,

and they way we define sexy,

and claim the power of our bodies

as the wholeness that makes us complete.

 

Self-care means

we don’t have to compete to be less disabled

in order to prove our worth.

Self-care means we know we are worth the chance…

the chance to love,

the chance to share,

the chance to be part of the world that fears us.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, involves all that

while still managing to squeeze time to imagine

a relaxing bubble bath and a glass of wine,

happy sex with somebody we love, or some of the other

luxurious rewards of the non-disabled world.

When we’re disabled, self-care means adding those thoughts to a crip  list that reads:

a)    Find accessible bathroom with big luxurious bath-tub

b)   Budget wine into next shopping trip

c)    Have happy sex…(although not sure what that is, but thinking about it makes us happy, and self-care also involves happy thoughts.)

And happy thoughts are often at the core

of disabled self-care because

we have to believe others do care,

although deep down we know nobody gives a shit,

and if they do, it is with an ableist clause

of having to accept something in return,

maybe some unexpected prayer,

or unsolicited advice,

or maybe forced help that denies

our humanity, and disrespects our independence.

 

Self-care means having to remind ourselves

that disability never equals

the devaluing of our lives and our right to exist,

and the right to make community

within a community of our choice.

 

Self-care means we know we have a choice,

and a right to choose

and nobody has the right to use

our differences as an excuse for the denial

of our human rights.

 

When we’re disabled, self-care means

constantly educating others

about our basic rights,

always repeating ourselves

and our realities out of mere necessity

because if we don’t ,

the non-disabled world will pretend we don’t exist.

Self-care means we resist.

We say yes.

We say no.

We own every aspect of our lives, even

when every aspect of our lives may depend

on non-disabled assistance.

It means we project our power from within

letting the normies know

they don’t have the right to decide for us

unless we give them permission to do so.

 

Self-care means borrowing able-bodiedness

without losing touch with the fact

that we are still in charge.

Self-care means we identify ableism

and treat it as such.

 

It means we say “enough” when it’s been too much,

and we do it without hesitation

because we know we have the right to say: Enough!

Enough ableist lies.

Enough ignorant remarks.

Enough pity loaded Amens.

Enough expectations of inspiration.

We do not owe you space

in our personal space

simply because we may not fit

your boring definition of normalcy.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means

having to flourish in arid terrain,

in constant drought and constant doubt.

It means recognizing that our thorns

are part of who we are,

and while others expect us to die,

we become cactus, and the prickly pear

is the forbidden fruit we bear.

Paradise

in the desert of your fears.

 

Self-care means we sustain and support one another.

We lift each other up

knowing

that unless we do,

we WILL be forgotten.

We repeat this in our heads

over and over because otherwise, we, too, can forget.

Ableism is always lurking,

looking for a way in,

knocking on the door of our own identities,

trying to make us forget

that we have the right to be ourselves

in our personal liberation, in our definition of self

and whatever liberation means to us

as disabled people

with our own extensions

of, often, half-narrated sections

of truths we are still learning about ourselves

because being disabled is just one aspect of who we are.

 

This is true for everyone,

but when we’re disabled,

every other aspect of ourselves goes out the window

because, society’s tunnel vision of our disabled lives

only sees brokenness in the narrative of our stories.

 

Self-care means we re-tell our stories

until they get it right,

until our voices are heard,

and until the various parts of who we are

become evident to ourselves

and to those we negate our positive crip identity

and our capacity to love.

 

Self-care means being proud of our differences,

embracing our uniqueness,

celebrating our power,

knowing that while some are fighting

for the right to bear arms,

disabled people are still fighting

for the right to bear life,

for the right to exist, and the right to see ourselves

in future generations.

 

Self-care, when we’re disabled, means

fighting for the right to reproduce, the right to be a parent

without it being so apparent

how others hate the thought of that.

Self-care means ignoring the ableist lies

that tell us we can’t do it, ableist lies that attach shame

to the word disability taking away our ability

to nourish our self-esteem.

 

Self-care means

trying to find the time to rest

while the world thinks that

being disabled means that rest

is all we get all the time because we are broken,

and can’t work

or contribute, or find success as is it measured

by capitalism.

 

Self-care means learning to survive capitalism

through solidarity, and the sustainability of hope,

because it is only when we are there for one another

that somebody will be there for us

when the time comes for us to survive.

 

Those of us who have been there already know that.

We stand by the entrance of the temple

calling others to the table,

teaching the new ones

that they’re able to move on, to reach out,

to realize that the light is not out

although darkness is real.

 

Self-care is about survival.

When we’re disabled,

self-care is, always, about survival.

It’s about economic justice,

food justice,

sex justice,

social justice,

and making sure the movement

and the march doesn’t move on without us

because unless we are there to remind them, they will

move on

without us.

 

Self- care, when we’re disabled

is a nonstop advocacy ride,

and until we are no longer oppressed by ableism,

self-care will continue to be

just another definition

of privilege.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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