Reconciling ability and disability

It took me a long time to see my stammer, depression and Parkinson’s as part of my thrownness (the way I exist) and the person I am; I always tried to push these things away and live my life as if they weren’t there. I grew and nurtured expectations of what my life could be based on the absence of my disabilities. As a result I never really adapted myself to my thrownness or knew how to react in a helpful way, especially to my stammer and depression. The emergence of my Parkinson’s has finally made me confront my status as being disabled. How much of my non-disabled expectations are curtailed by the reality of my thrownness? Is the conflagration of my stammer, depression and Parkinson’s the perfect storm generating my isolation (being communication, emotional and physical disabilities)?

It is difficult to reconcile the lack of ability inherent in the meaning of stammering, depression and Parkinson’s when I have the ability to achieve a DPhil at Oxford. My disabilities set the default in me of facing the world with an introverted, closed stance. Completing my DPhil required a closed obsession and determination that I learnt from dealing with my disabilities so achieving that was compatible with adopting a closed stance. On the other hand, breaking through isolation requires an open, mutual obsession that is the antithesis of my default position.

I can ultimately see both my ability and disability as me because they are separate configurations of my thrownness. The term “disability” has a leaky meaning and tends to spread and obscure the abilities that a disabled person also has.

A particular configuration of your thrownness is influential in your life because it sets up an automatic, default position for you to inhabit. Despite this, you have the chance to mobilise other parts of your thrownness to react to and resist your default; this is made possible by recognising your default as only one part of you and not, as I did, try to disown and ignore that part.

dr jonny