As a gimp i’ve always strove for independence. i’ve needed to do that because i live in a society that says you’re worthy so long as you can “take care of yourself”. i’ve needed to do it because i grew up in a family that valued hard, often backbreaking work, over all else. Because that’s just what you do. It’s how you show your love, it’s how you eat. And it’s how you’re rewarded and acknowledged as a worthy person.
And i’ve judged myself pretty harshly because of how i couldn’t ever seem to really achieve “it”, this independence, once i became disabled as a kid. This need had me doing things i had no right doing, working jobs that were literally breaking my back all over again. It had me denying what was going on in my body (piled on top of all the other denials i had been perfecting from a very young age), until i could deny it no longer.
So much judgment, self flagellation and loathing had me wrapped so tightly i couldn’t breath. I had known it, for a very long time. Somewhere deep in my bones i knew it, but i wouldn’t speak it / acknowledge it, let alone change it; and i just continued my pattern of drinking till i passed out, raging and rambling, denying, skirting, covering up, cowering under. The same pattern i created when i came out as queer, as when i came out as trans. Over and over these patterns sewing themselves around me and those i loved, and me handing them the tools to do it.
Around 2002 i got sober and began to unravel this binding. And this is what i found:
A broken, aching, hurting, sweet, survivor, fucked up, loving, abusive, unaccountable and contradictory human. A person who said they loved yet, despite the desire to, did little to change. i had been stuck, mired in my own shit and vomit and hurt, and i was going to bring anyone i could into it with me. There was no shortage of broken queers to choose from, and we sometimes fed off of each others’ hurt like we’d not eaten in weeks. This was a terrible time. [And no, i will not ever believe in “no regrets” for myself. i regret so much of what i did and didn’t do during those times. i regret the hurt i caused to people i said i loved, including the things i did afterwards, and those regrets will never leave me. i hope they don’t.]
And then i began to get sober and unravel all of it. There it was, exposed to the elements. No cover, no “yeah but”‘s, and no numbing alcohol to make excuses for it or take it away. There were all kinds of things that contributed to me not taking care of my shit, and i certainly rolled around in all of them as much as i could so as not to face the truth of my choices.
One of the things i began to explore in this new sobriety were my issues around being disabled. In some ways i had to, because i could no longer bump up my pain meds with alcohol. There would be no numbing of the pain i was in, no tincture that made it possible for me to do things i otherwise couldn’t do. i couldn’t just pass out and not remember any of it. i could no longer continue on in the same denial i’d been in. i was hit right in the face with the long-existent reality of being a gimp in the middle of a major re-haul of my life, some serious self-loathing, and in the middle of understanding that i truly wanted and was prepared to do the work to change things.
And so i’ve been working on it, as they say. But wow there are so many things to look at, so many rocks to turn over, things to re-learn and remember. My life has been beautiful and incredibly challenging since beginning to uncover them. Good healthy loving relationships, sweet connections, honesty, vulnerability, change.
For the last many years i’ve been doing a lot of volunteering, including doing things like accessibility audits, workshops, writing, reading, that kind of thing, about ableism and accessibility. It’s hard work sometimes, but so important too, and sometimes it feels like and is the only time anything changes, anything moves, anything gets DONE around this stuff in this town, and in the relatively small communities i’m part of. It feels like a necessity, and it so often is, in no small part because so few non-disabled folks are willing to do the work.
But this funny thing happened in the process of going off and kind of doing my own thing: i have been, unawares, reinforcing the notion of this lone-wolf, which in turn reinforces the idea of the superiority of independence. And there’s the rub, yeah?
In my desire to escape some of the pain of not being independent as prescribed by this society and all my upbringing, i have bolstered the idea of independence, to my detriment. And woah, what a humbling and painful realization that is for me.
These days, very recently, while it’s still a struggle to say, i’m working on claiming this as mine: Interdependence is where its at. That’s where i’ll find freedom, autonomy, resilience, accountability, love, joy. It’s so hard. So hard to let go of my ideas about independence, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence that it is not serving me or anyone in my life. Denial, it’s fucking powerful.
i’m a work in progress, and the only way i can work or progress is with others trying to do the same. Every time i read something by someone who talks about interdependence, i am lifted. Every time i work collaboratively, i let go of one more piece of control and one more piece of denial and isolation.
i say it again and again, so i don’t forget:
Interdependence is where its at. That’s where i’ll find freedom, autonomy, resilience, accountability, love, joy.