Disability as Spiritual Blessing
*DiversiTree does not edit the words of this Author in an effort to preserve the authenticity of the Autistic Author*
As my partner recovers from pneumonia, I am grateful that she is recovering. We have had to cancel plans a couple times, because she is still not all the way over her illness. I felt guilty for even making those plans, since she nearly died from pneumonia and I am very lucky to still have her in my life. I feel like I should not have any expectations to keep any plans, since that would be getting in God’s way and being too independent. After all, the disabled and ill are more dependent on God, so we are more blessed by the opportunity for greater spirituality. If we are underprivileged or have reduced quality of life due to our conditions, that does not matter. We are disabled, after all, and should not expect that which normal people take for granted as a right. We are compensated by our closeness to God, so we need less of material things. All we need is faith and optimism and God.
Luckily, my partner did not need an airsick bag when I burbled the above sentences. Instead, she was patient with me and explained that in her view, the Divine is like a computer. If we ask for more than one thing at a time, the Divine cannot compute everything correctly and may make mistakes. The Divine does not have an opinion about people’s choices, nor does It issue commands. In short, her views are close to Deism (Divinity created the world and then walked away) than to the heavily fundamentalist Christianity I grew up with.
As a young Christian girl of six, I somehow got autism mixed up with original sin. I thought I had a double portion of original sin because I was autistic. Of course, that was not correct on any level. As a teenager, I read tons of inspirational stories written by people who acquired physical disabilities or chronic illnesses and had become closer to God as a result. I could not relate to any of these narratives, since I have always been extremely healthy and do not suffer any physical disabilities. I was left baffled and depressed by the minute descriptions of suffering. The only thing I took away was the idea that the disabled (particularly women) are supposed to be humble, thankful, cheerful, and possessed of a simple, childlike, unquestioning faith and optimism while being happy in their affliction.
Last year, I learned that I, too, was disabled. I saw on a form at work that autism was covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I was stunned. I always knew I had autism, but I saw it as a sin or character flaw. It meant I had to always be sweet and never angry and never, ever, ever break a rule or step out of line of the group. If I did that at all times, I would be allowed to exist. I could not expect anything more, because the world did not owe me anything. Instead, I owed everyone my undying gratitude for tolerating me. I never thought that my autism was a disability.
I now view autism as neither a spiritual blessing nor a sin. It does make me more inclined to be dependent on others, since I can never be sure that what I say or do is appropriate. However, that would be less of an issue if I stopped giving a darn about what others thought. I am a free adult. I am not incarcerated or institutionalized. I do not need others’ approval to exist.