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Woefully Afflicted?

In the Victorian era, society assumed that people with disabilities were "woefully afflicted" in that they had a horrible lot in life and were woeful and sad about it all the time. They used disability in novels as a way to escape from reality. Disability was supposed to be such an emotional thing. It was supposed to make you feel like whatever struggles you faced in the new Industrial Age were not that bad. Hence Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. We don't know why he limped, how it happened, or how he felt about it. All we know is how it impacted Scrooge. When Helen Keller was little, someone wrote that she didn't exhibit the characteristics of other people with disabilities because she didn't seem sad at all. When these people didn't conform to the "woefully afflicted" image, society thought there was something even more wrong with them.

Fortunately, although at times unfortunately, I was raised in a family and a community that had absolutely no interraction with PWD. I was never treated like I was afflicted, except in church I think. Teachers and family never let me feel afflicted, even though I rarely wanted to. When I did want to, though, they refused to let me which was not good. I mean, everyone has those "pity party" moments where they just want to feel sorry for themselves and have someone else support them. I never got that. My family, especially my mother, is completely devoid of the idea of how hard it sometimes can be. They just think I'm whining on the rare occassion that I do get a little down in the dumps. So in a way, my life has been the exact opposite of the "woefully afflicted" stereotype.

Do you guys ever feel like people expect you to be afflicted and sad about your life? Or do people act the exact opposite way? Or something in between? 



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 9th, 2008 12:42 am (UTC)
I think my mom tried to make me into a poster child, actually. My father was just in denial and had serious issues accepting my limitations (he used to make me stand in the corner as punishment, just like my sister, even though standing for 15 minutes was excrutiatingly painful for me and not for her).

People do often tell me how "strong" I am. Strong for what? For not killing myself? Yeah, my life's had some difficulties that a lot of people don't have... but I've been lucky in other ways, too. Ask me if I think I have it tougher than someone in, say, Haiti. Hell no. I had a good family, got a great education, and was always told how smart I was.
Sep. 9th, 2008 02:09 am (UTC)
I totally forgot about the "strong" thing. I get that ALL the time. I never think of myself as strong. I just think of myself as dealing with my life and choosing to instead of killing myself or drowning in self pity like some people who don't have disabilities. It's just a matter of dealing I guess. At least it is for me.

That's sad about your father. My grandparents are overprotective or something opposite of what you dealt with. I tried to play mini golf one time and I beat the person I was playing with and everyone thought it was the most amazing thing since Jesus walking on water or something.
Sep. 9th, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
My father got better, but only within the last few years. It was just very hard for him to come to terms with. Doesn't excuse some of the things he does, but I'm not mad at him anymore because I understand why.

The "strong" thing really annoys me. What choice do I, really? I'm not going to kill myself, so I'm "strong" for wanting to stay alive?

It is kind of a catch-22 about accomplishments, though: on the one hand, I don't want people going ga-ga over things that other people have no trouble with, on the other hand, comparing me physically to normal people isn't fair. (For example, I belly dance. I've been belly dancing for a year and a half now. Am I anywhere near where most people would be after a year and a half? No. Will I ever be as good as someone with full range of motion could be? No. But I *have* made progress, and I'm proud of it.) I think it's important to have our struggles acknowledged, but only when they're struggles. Me waking up every morning and not jumping off a bridge is not a struggle (well, not most days ;p).
Sep. 9th, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
Thankfully my family, for all of its insanity, took this to neither extreme. Except, that my cancer was supposed to return and I was expected to die long before I grew up.
In public, I, like most of us, get high doses of both extremes. It causes a lot of confusion since I will take on neither set of projections. People often get angry when I will not be who they need me to be to live out their helping fantasies.
Sep. 9th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
I had a friend in college who would get sooooo angry when I wouldn't need her constant help. She didn't understand that sometimes I needed it and sometimes I didn't and that I'd let her know. My grandparents are kind of like that too. They get snippy if I don't want their help all the time.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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