Once the relief wears off

In Frozen, the main character accidentally injures her sister with her magic ice powers as a young child. In reaction, her parents teach her that she has to suppress and hide her powers at all costs in order to protect others. In a dramatic moment, she accidentally releases her powers in front of everyone. She gives up on concealing her powers, and makes dramatic and demonstrative use of of them. And, since it is a Disney movie, there is a song.

There’s a particular part of the song that I think is an important description of what it’s like to come to terms with difference:

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.
Up here in the cold thin air I finally can breathe.
I know I left a life behind but I’m too relieved to grieve. (quote ends here)

When you first start coming to terms with a stigmatized difference and talking about it in public and accepting yourself, as first it’s mostly a relief.

At first, you’re too relieved to grieve or to notice the price you’re paying for living in the world as an openly disabled (or whatever else) person. The price for trying to be normal was so, so high, and when you give up on that, the relief of not paying that price anymore is huge. 

But the relief wears off. Gradually, you start to notice the price you pay for standing your ground. You’ve realize that you’ve left a life behind in order to stand your ground and be who you are unapologetically. And that some aspects of that life were good, and that you can’t get them back.

You’ve lost a lot, and that can be hard to take once it sets in and the relief wears off. Some of the losses are direct, concrete things, like people who won’t trust you around children, hire you, or talk to you anymore. Others are more ephemeral – like, giving up the hope that you’d ever have the kind of respect that those who live without stigma enjoy. There are a lot of things, and what they are exactly differs for everyone. But there are a lot of them, and coming to terms with that kind of loss hurts.

It is ok to grieve the things you left behind in order to accept yourself, hold ground, and be who you are openly. Grieving over this loss doesn’t mean that you’re backsliding in self acceptance. It just the price you pay for holding your ground often sucks, and sometimes that can loom very large. This is not your fault. 

Honor your grief. You shouldn’t have had to lose the things you’ve lost. It should have been yours by right. You should have been able to be who you are openly without losing all of that. It’s horrible that you have to make this choice. You don’t have to have a sunny attitude all the time; you can have grief and regret and sadness and still be ok and on the right path.

The price is high, and you never really stop paying it, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it. We’re worth it. We can stand together and hold ground and support one another. Know that others have been through the stage where the relief wears off and the grief sets in, and found that the pain is bearable and that we can support one another through it.

Laura Hershey’s book of ADAPT poetry “In The Way” helps.

When it takes a long time for someone’s ableism to become apparent

I’m physically disabled, and it seems like it usually takes abled people i become friends with a LONG time to “show their true colors” about it. I’ve seen it take 2 years from the first time they knew i was disabled and I openly spoke about it around them. Is this common? Why the heck so long?? Are they actively trying to hide it….or am i just missing a lot of subtle red flags? (Hard to imagine since @ this point I actively watch for them, but anything’s possible!)
realsocialskills said:
I’ve been wondering about this recently, too. I mostly encounter it in professional contexts (and I’m not sure whether to describe my disabilities as physical or not since autism affects my movement in disabling ways but I’m not mobility-impaired), but I think it’s a similar dynamic.
I think that it’s that abled people really, really don’t know very much about disability. They don’t know about the sheer logistical challenges we face, and they *really* don’t know about the stigma.
They think, on some level, that disability is an overwhelming tragedy, and that if we do things other than be overwhelmed by tragedy, then disability can’t really matter much. And they are really, really not emotionally prepared to deal with the fact that disability matters all the time, and they’re not at all prepared to deal with it in a matter-of-fact way. And meanwhile, for us, it’s just *life*.
We learn early that it’s our job to protect abled people from ever having to notice either the logistical problems or the hate we face. And especially, we learn not to show that it hurts us. And double especially, we learn that we are not allowed to tell friends or caregivers or ~nice ladies~ or others that they are hurting us. And triple especially, we learn that we are not allowed to be angry because that’s ~just the way it is~ and ~people don’t understand~.
I think that protecting abled people from having to notice disability and ways we are harmed as disabled people goes so deep we do it automatically and without noticing most of the time. And abled people *really* don’t notice, because they think it’s normal and natural and have not had any need to challenge it. They feel completely entitled not to have to deal with disability, and the entitlement feels so natural that they don’t even *notice*. And we don’t notice how much we protect them, either.
Some of the people we protect have been exposed to a lot of disability awareness and sensitivity training. And who can recite a lot of information about various conditions, know not to pet service dogs, and would never touch someone’s mobility equipment, and who tell others off for using the r-word. And maybe they know what the ADA is and know a few horror stories about institutions in the 60s. And, they think that means they know how it is – they have no idea how sanitized all of that is.
Sensitivity training teaches them that we are just like them. It does not teach them to cope with all the ways in which we are very different.
I don’t have a good answer to this. The only that I’ve found is that it helps to be more open with my friends about what I am experiencing, what my limitations are, and how I feel about what is going on. There’s a price I pay for that, though. The other thing that helps is having more disabled friends, or friends who understand being marginalized in a way that your family is not (eg: I’ve found that some nondisabled LGBTQ people have been able to relate to a lot of this.)