BBC BLOGS - The Ouch! Blog It's a disability thing
« Previous | Main | Next »

What Disables Me

Post categories:

Dave Hingsburger | 10:37 UK time, Saturday, 7 July 2007

When I saw the title for Zephyr's post What Makes One Disabled I was immediately intrigued by the question. Being a blogger means automatically that I am a bit egocentric and this was proved here. Before even reading the post or seeing who it was by, my mind was flying. How would I answer that question.

Stop now if you hate confessional writing.

I am disabled, in many ways, I realized to myself. But none of those ways has much to do with my wheelchair. I am disabled in the ways that humans are often disabled. I've become hobbled by life, taken down by circumstance and felled by fear. As an abused child I learned early the need to close off sections of my heart. I learned to keep parts of me safe from others who had power over me. I learned to lock away the softest and tenderest part of my soul. I spent much of my time safeguarding my sense of self and my capacity to feel.

Trouble is, somewhere in my teen years I lost the key. I've banged on the door, trying to wedge it open but it stays resolutely shut. I have lost the capacity to be fully open to others, to fully trust anyone, to give completely of myself to another. Even now, in a relationship that approaches 40 years, we've both made peace with the fact that most of me will have to compensate for all of me.

But there's more.

Really, if you hate this kind of storytelling, it's ok to click away, you won't hurt my feelings - only because I'll never know.

Somewhere, there, in the murky past. I came in contact with fear, bone deep fear. Like depression, fear is also a disabling condition. It prevents me from trying much, gets in the way of the taste of food, hides like a guilty thought behind most dreams I have for myself. Many are surprised to find out that I'm shy, that I fear the spotlight, that I don't much like being looked at. I put myself forward, I lecture to thousands of people a year. But each accomplishment comes after i've wrestled anxiety to the ground and gone on. The victory to me is sweeter if others have no idea of the cost.

So there you have it. I am crippled by a heart that works at less than full capacity. I am weakened by my battles, daily, with fear.

What on earth do wheelchairs have to do with disability?

What on earth does sight and sound and sensation have to do with disability?

I'm sure I don't know.

• Visit Chewing The Fat


Just because you've got emotional disabilities doesn't mean you can't also get physical ones.

Charles-A Rovira:

I think you've missed Dave's point. He's not dismissing physical disabilities--his or anyone else's. What he's saying is that the long-term psychological rupercussions of his childhood traumas have held him back in ways that are far more significant to him than the comparatively milder limitations that his physical disabilities have imposed.

(As I believe he mentions in this post -- and has referred to in many others both here and at his own blog -- he uses a wheelchair most of the time. So for him, he is in a position to directly compare the two experiences and their personal meaning to him and his own life).

  • 3.
  • At 06:19 AM on 08 Jul 2007, Audrey wrote:

Exactly, Dave.
That's my take on it as well, Andrea.
I think I've caused bladder leakage in random nondisabled or possibly other disabled folks a few times, by instilling in them the notion from first hand knowledge and experience, that there are, indeed, far worse things, than half a lifetime of chemotherapy, going blind, renal failure, et al, etc, etc.

Dave, I'm with you. Fear, deep-rooted entrenched fear that takes hold sometimes very early in life and imprisons you, can hold you back hugely even as you try to move forward later on. It's had a grip on me far longer than my more recent disability.
And I won't end with anything glib, just recognition of what you are saying.

Hey, thanks for your responses, I re-read what I wrote and can see how you got what you did out of it Charles. In fact my intention was as Andrea, Audrey and Seahorse read it. But I am reminded, as a writer, to be clear in my intent.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.