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BADDD: Painism or Pain and ablism

This post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2007.
Check out the masterlist of posts here

One of the things that I started to pay more attention to after I wrote about the intersection of pain in blindness (reference at end of this entry), was the ways in which pain and ablism intersect. I termed it “pianism” more because I figured it’d make people go “what?” than because I wanted to create a new term. However, if someone wants to pay me to use it, I’d never turn that down (just kidding, though I am a broke college student). I found three main ways that these topics intersect: ablism directed at people with pain, ablism coming from people with pain and the ablism that gets directed at people with addiction.

I mention addiction for a few reasons. One is that I feel addiction is also a chronic illness that is perceived as a disability a lot. Try getting a job if you’re in recovery. Try getting funding for college if you’ve had a run-in with the law but are now in recovery. If you’re honest, these things are hard to do. And that, my friends is a form of ablism. Its discrimination based on the basis of ability. Even some expressions express ablism. I’ve heard the expression “he can’t hold his liquor” used to describe someone who is an alcoholic. Instead of being affirming that a person chose not to drink, many view it as an inability.

Next, let’s address the issue of ablism directed at people with pain. First, there are physical barriers. These barriers are problematic for people who are traditionally viewed as having a disability too. A car in the accessible parking spot in front of the pharmacy. A building that only has stairs at the entrance (not to point fingers at some buildings on campus or anything). A bathroom that is not wheelchair accessible. A door that can’t be opened if you don’t have good use of your hands. Any of these physical barriers can be problems for people with pain, and I’m sure you can think of a few in the comments if you like.

Then, there are the societal barriers that we face. People have a lot of assumptions about pain. They assume that all pain is either bad or good. There probably are people who want to never feel pain. There are good reasons to feel pain, though. Feeling the pain of the bruised leg permitted me to reflexively back out of the way of the car (too late to not get hit, but fast enough to not get flattened). A scalded finger tells you not to touch that pot of coffee the way you just did. Those are important messages. But I think a lot of people mistake my desire and that of other people with RSD/CRPS to simply manage our pain and get it to a handleable level as one to feel no pain. Yeah, given the choice, I’d prefer my leg pain and foot pain to go to 0, but I’d settle for a four or five at the moment. People then view my needing medical help as an inability, and it can get downright discriminatory.

Here are a few examples. Getting medical care could be difficult, since RSD might be viewed as a pre-existing condition. The way in which our work day is constructed may make it hard to work if you have pain. Accommodations are definitely necessary for me to succeed at college. I need to be able to drink something to deal with dry-mouth or take as—needed meds, for example. These accommodations haven’t been too hard to get at this particular school, but I’ve still dealt with some really negative comments before (see previous entries).

The last issue is the ablism I’ve seen in the RSD/CRPS stuff I’ve read. I don’t want this to be the blame game, which is why I’m specifically not citing the source. But I saw a comparison of the way RSD was diagnosed twenty years ago to that poem about the blind man and the elephant. It was a well-intentioned comparison. I know that the author didn’t intend to say that blind people are “stupid”, but I do get tired of seeing that reference and implication of blindness as stupidity.

It also saddens me to see that so many people have to struggle with loss of physical ability. Even though I know people with physical disabilities, and am blind, I even found the transition to using a support cane to be sad and challenging. I now accept it as a different way to move, but if I struggled, others definitely do to. And that can be traced back to society’s view of ability as only a continuum, not more of a circle where someone using a wheelchair has ability, but uses it differently.

I hope that soon, Blogging against Disablism Day won’t be needed. I would love to see the day when we can say that ability is no longer a means for discrimination, or discrimination really never happens. I want pain to not be a means for discrimination. It’s enough to deal with the pain, not to mention the societal implications.

Blogging Against Disablism Day Masterlist:


Intersection of Pain and Blindness



( 5 shots of espresso — Add a shot of espresso )
May. 3rd, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
Diabalism or is it...
I know that when we are ill that we focus alot on what we can or cannot do. In the begining I focused on what I could not do with my RSD and it mentally started a disablism there. Now I changed my thoughts on this a little. When I am having a bad pain day I try to focus on something other than the pain and encourage myself mentally and verbally to what I can do that day. For me it is both my arms. Writing, moving and processing things for myself can be quite difficult.

There are hygene issues and of course feeding issues. If today I took a shower\bath I focus on the fact that I managed that and if later, I cannot feed myself, I move on. Oh well, I took a Shower\bath today YEA Self. Instead of the focus on not feeding myself and dragging myself mentally downward.

Hope this makes sense and I hope that this gives some thoughts...

Nicki, Hugs to you and your readers!

May. 3rd, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Diabalism or is it...
It sounds like you've adjusted to the things you deal with with your RSD. Your attitude is wonderful! What I've seen, though, is that a lot of society bases self-esteem on how much it's perceived that a person can do. And I think it's automatically assumed that all disability makes one unable to do things.

I just wonder how much better it could be for us if the physical body wasn't as much of society's focus. Thank you for commenting, and I hope this explains some of what I'm thinking...
May. 4th, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Diabalism or is it...
Hi Nicki!

I am a bit older than you I think so maybe this explains my reaction to Societies view...

Who cares!

If they look at you funny or say something stupid remind yourself that they are people that do not matter. Even if you want them to matter, and I know that sometimes this is hard.

Do not listen to them because at the end of the day it is you that has to live with you!

How do our animals view us. I assume that you are very close with your dog (from what I have read). Why wouldn’t you be… He is your partner, your friend, and your eyes. Does he judge you? Does he let you cry with him on a bad day? Does he sense what you feel without you even telling him? Does he protect you? I know that my cats make me feel not so alone (although I wish we could talk to each other easier 

They way he reacts to you and your feelings is what you need in family and friends. Right? The ones that do not treat you as Disabled. Why care about them then?

You are not alone. Although society views all of us that are disabled like we have the plague, that is unimportant. We need close friends that truly care and that do not kick us when we are down. There are few as I have found in my years, but they are out there. It is a matter of finding them… I hope that we can become friends, and support one another!

I hope that this makes sense, as I am getting really tired and need to rest (as usual) LOL

Gentle Hugs,

Rain :)
May. 4th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
Disablism or is it...
As much as we shouldn't care what other people think, it does affect us in terms of getting jobs and in networking which is one major factor in job-hunting. If someone judges you as unable to do something just because you're using a cane or choosing not to drink or are tired that day due to excessive pain, that can affect whether they might recommend you for a job with someone they know. How do you ignore that? I think that is what Nickie is saying; people need to judge others on all their abilities, not just on choices dictated by the physical body that doesn't always cooperate in this world. It does affect your life, even if you're very confident and have a marvelous support system which helps incredibly in dealing with everything.
May. 5th, 2007 03:36 am (UTC)
Thanks Caroly! You are correct. The link at the begining of nicki's post was missed for my first post and today it launched the expresso. I guess I missed some of the point here.

Sorry, I was messed up, and thanks for clarifying

( 5 shots of espresso — Add a shot of espresso )


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