Do my disabilities define me?

Define: State or describe exactly the nature, scope or meaning of.

Some people say ‘Autism doesn’t define you’ or ‘don’t let you disabilities define you’ or ‘don’t let your past define who you are today’ etc.

Other people say ‘how can my past not define who I am when it’s impacted upon my personality and character?’ or ‘my Autism is a part of me so it does define who I am’ or ‘Autism is as much a part of me as my hair colour or loyalty’.

If our disabilities incorporate a large part of our lives, so much so that they impact on the way we learn, how our personality develops, the way we form relationships with others, the way we view the world, our limitations, how people perceive and respond to us etc, then it stands to reason that our disabilities have/are defining us.

I have ASD/PDA amongst other disabilities (or differences) such as OCD/OCPD, emotional lability, ADD, SPD, auditory processing disorder. These things affect the way my brain works, how it takes in sensory information, how I process and make sense of the world and information, how I form opinions and rationalise ideas, how I communicate and form relationships etc. The definition of define states that it describes the nature, scope or meaning of the thing it is defining. If I were to define myself I would say things like: I’m loyal, interested in acquiring knowledge,  trustworthy, quiet, boyish, bad at maths, fidgety, etc. I’m not sure how others would describe me but in the past I’ve been described as quiet, soft and weird. All these things are a part of who I am. Many of them are traits that have been affected by one disability or another. It’s difficult to unpick what parts of me are affected by my disabilities as opposed to what isn’t, I’ve never not had these things.

Some people say they don’t ‘have’ Autism, they are Autistic. Their Autism is such a part of that they don’t feel it’s right to say it’s something they have as opposed to what they are. Well, we don’t say we have loyalty as much as we are loyal. It’s a part of what makes us who we are. It’s what defines us.

Many disabilities are seen as negative. Some think disabilities make a person less than what they were before they became disabled or less than what they could be without them. The same for a bad past. They say things like ‘you’d be a much better person if X hadn’t happened to you’ or ‘You’d be able to function better now if you hadn’t had a bad past’. Not only is this like saying the person they are now isn’t worth much because of something they have/are or have had happen to them, it also presumes the person would be better off without disabilities/a bad past. This is rather presumptive. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t particularly nice and yet have no disabilities or negative influences on their lives. Similarly, I know many people who have gone through difficult times and/or have disabilities/differences and those people are some of the nicest, kindest most helpful people you’d ever meet.

Our disabilities/differences do define who we are. They play a part in our personalities, the way we behave, the way we view life and the world and how we form relationships. To say they don’t is rude at best. Without my disabilities I’d be a completely different person. Who knows whether than person would be good /bad /kind /interesting /loyal /girly /mischievous /mean /honest /a liar /etc etc. I can’t see into parallel worlds :p

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