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How Disability Theology Is Helping Me Heal from Societal and Internalized Ableism

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We’ve all heard the familiar condescension. “I know you think you’re a smart girl, but I’m the doctor.” “It can’t be that bad – stop being a martyr.” “You look healthy.” “You’re too young to be in that much pain.” “You’re too complicated – there is nothing else I can do to help you.” “Just wait until you’re older and doctors do things to your body you don’t want them to.” “Aren’t you better yet?” …as if we’ve forgotten the definition of chronic.

Living with five chronic illnesses – four physical, three congenital, none my “fault” – I am forced to battle societal and ingrained ableism every day.

Sometimes the remarks are subtle, and even I don’t see the ableist undertones right away. More often, I continue to be harmed by well-meaning people who insist if I “had more faith” or “prayed more” I would “get better.” Not only does this cause harm by blaming me for my chronic illnesses, it is also terrible theology, cherry-picking verses from holy text out of context to justify the ableist bias that my divergence from the “normal” able-bodied person is “wrong.” I continue to be harmed by well-intentioned people who think they are helping or giving me a compliment when they say I “look healthy” or I’m “too young to be sick.” I am beginning the third term of my first year of Theological School.

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