Stop Putting Me on a Pedestal
The following is a response from a DiversityInc reader on our “7 Things NEVER to Say to People With Disabilities” article.
Hi, my name is Kevin, I’m a twenty four year old male with cerebral palsy. Over the many years, I’ve always tried to surpass my disability, because I was told all too often; to be an inspiration, that I’m tough for living with my condition; that eventually I’ll get better. I don’t think anyone really understood what they were saying to me, now I’m old enough to know better. I know I can’t outrun CP, I can barely walk up stairs, for the longest time I thought I was supposed to be something great; this inhuman individual capable of anything regardless of what they were going through.
The reality of this hurt my spirit, but thinking back, I realized that no one really understood my disability. I got tired of the “You can be fixed” or “You can do anything” and “You’re just being lazy”, this isn’t something that you can pray away, or some mind over matter junk; and when my family says stuff like that — best of intentions I’m sure — I don’t feel like they really know what’s going on with me. I’m not tough for living as best I can with the disability I have; I’m actually a wreck struggling with both depression and CP.
People often seem to think that because I’m smart, and I look normal, my disabilities doesn’t exist; and that only makes it harder to tell people what’s going on with me and have them understand it. There’s a lot that I can’t do physically that I try to do, and when I can’t, I get called lazy. I would love for people to realize that there are days when I feel terrible and can’t get out of bed. I’m smart, but my disability isn’t going anywhere, and as I realized that I tried to get my family and friends to understand that; but I don’t know what to say.
I guess I want people to stop putting me on a pedestal for living, I’m not brave, I’m not a hero; I haven’t done anything worth being a inspiration. I’m a college drop out still trying to figure everything out, and while I’m far from a failure; my disability doesn’t make me great. When people say it like that, I feel like they’re saying my life must be terrible, like I’m broken or something lesser; it feels condescending. I’m human, don’t give me a medal for living life with what I’m given like I just cured cancer. Thank you for the article and thank you for reading.