Disability Stigma

I recently ran across a post by a young woman who was told to “just apply for disability,” in response to her discussion on chronic illness and her financial well-being. She advocated for herself extremely well, but it still surprises me that those of us living with chronic illnesses are still plagued with this stigma.

Here are a few issues I have with this statement:

Disability benefits are not easy to get

Disability isn’t easy to get approved for. There is no “just apply.” I have many friends who have been (and continue to be) denied disability benefits. Disability isn’t an answer, it’s a supplement.

I have quite a few friends and family members who have received disability benefits some time in their life (after continuously applying). But it wasn’t much. It’s not a solution to every problem and honestly, with payments often being so low, sometimes it’s only enough to cover a drug copay or two.

The stigma around disability

It’s simply insensitive. Even if this person is currently on disability, you don’t know their financial standing or responsibilities. And to assume all of this would be taken care of by one monthly payment is presumptuous to say the very least.

Disability is not and (as far as I can see) will never be a solution for all chronic illness issues. Or even most of them for that matter. In an ableist society, it really just cosigns this idea that disabled people simply “live off of the government,” when in reality, government benefits are barely (using that word generously) enough to survive.

On top of this “government benefit” idea/stigma. Of the friends and family members I have living with some kind of illness, a great majority of them have (and/or) continue/d to work.

I work harder because of my condition

The idea that a person with a disability is immediately given or entitled to payments or benefits without contributing any work or effort at all is pretty far-fetched.

People living through illness are more than liabilities or leaches. I hate that we’re painted in this light when, for me and so many others, it’s actually the polar opposite. I work harder because of my condition.

I always feel as though I have something to prove. I want my employer to understand that I am an asset to their team. There are times when I need time, just as anyone else would. “Healthy people” are not excluded from sickness.

This is why I hate chronic illness stigma

Just because a colleague doesn’t have a chronic illness, doesn’t mean they won’t require time off or insurance, just as my illness does not mean I will always be unable to perform job duties.

I hate chronic illness stigmas because I feel like other communities are not as stigmatized for using the same benefits or requiring the same time or care. Yes, I have an illness, but I am still human.

I expect the same respect, the same opportunities, and the same acceptance as anyone else. Illness should not be as isolating as it has become. You would think there would be more understanding for human suffering at no fault of their own. Not less.

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