I’m Disabled Not Broken: Disability, Faith and the False Narrative That We Need Healing

Cardiff, you are stunning! All photo credits: Keshia Asare

Time to chat about an assumption that’s been bugging me for a while. This whole idea that disabled people are broken and somehow need to be healed or fixed. This usually comes from people giving out leaflets about healers (usually religious healers or trying to persuade me to join a church, if we’re being specific). It also usually comes with the question “Can I pray for you?”. I’ve discussed why this particular question, among other statements, irks me before. However, I felt the need to go in depth on this one as, frankly I’ve had enough. I’ll discuss 2 specific incidents that broke my patience with this issue, but these aren’t the only times this kind of incident has happened.

The Post Cage Warriors 100 incident

Before I get into this incident, I must stress this happened when we were back in London AFTER returning from Cardiff, before anyone gets the idea that this happened coming out of the arena from CW100 or anything. Now, back to the story: We (my friend Kiki and I) were waiting for our first bus back to Uxbridge after returning from a weekend in Cardiff for Cage Warriors 100 when a man approached us and handed Kiki a leaflet, and then he started talking about how we should join the meeting at the church on the leaflet and various other church related things. At this point I’m thinking “oh here we go” because, when people start inviting me to church, their next line tends to be “Can I pray for you?”. Sure enough, those were the next words out of this gentleman’s mouth (or more precisely “can I pray for your healing?”), to which I (VERY politely, considering my internal monologue) responded “no thank you, I’m disabled, not broken” (yep, my blog post title is a quote from myself). The man certainly looked like my response had wounded his pride, but you asked, so I gave you my answer.

Now, before anyone brings up the “I’m sure he meant well”, “I’m sure he was trying to help/do good in some way”. It’s gotten to the point where I no longer care about “good intentions”. Because telling me you’ve basically decided I need to change a fundamental part of who I am is NEVER good. I’m thoroughly sick of this implication that I MUST be broken and suffering and need healing somehow.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that some disabled people do want their illness or disability to go away and MAY want to be healed, but we need to stop generalising. Being disabled does not automatically mean I’m depressed about my life, or sad, or broken, or suffering in some way. Disabled just means I’m disabled, nothing else to it. If someone ASKS for your prayers, by all means give them, but stop assuming that JUST because I’m disabled, I MUST need healing!

This was also was particularly upsetting in light of the fact that I’d just come back from one of the weekends of my life in Cardiff. I don’t think I can ever fully articulate how demoralising it is to be riding high off the back off one of the best weekends of your life, a weekend where you were just one of a room full of people , of a FAMILY, all there to watch an MMA show, who didn’t care in the slightest about the chair, where it made no difference at all, and then have an incident like this happen. An incident that makes you realise “it doesn’t matter what I do, where I go or what I say, part of society STILL thinks I’m broken and need to be healed to be the best me”. When that realisation hit me, I genuinely wanted to cry a little bit. Definitely brought me crashing down from the Cage Warriors hype. But then I realised that if that man had seen what I’d just come back from in Cardiff he wouldn’t have thought I was suffering or upset with the life I have or wanting to change it AT ALL. And THAT’S why I write about all my adventures, to show the world this isn’t a sad or broken existence that need healing from. Far from it. It’s the only life I’ve ever known, the only life I ever want to know, and you do not need to pray for me.

The Tesco incident

Now, for a different story. One with quite a boring beginning. I’d nipped to Tesco with my friend Dev for some bits and pieces for our brunch, surely that can’t end in too much hassle? OH BOY WERE WE WRONG. As Dev’s unloading my wheelchair from her car, I see a guy trying to shove a leaflet in her direction, she stated that she was busy. Fine, I thought, assuming it was a leaflet for someone’s local cleaning business or something.

Then the next thing I heard was “do you not think it’s messed up trying to hand me a leaflet for a HEALER when you can OBVIOUSLY see I’m unloading my DISABLED friend’s WHEELCHAIR?! I spun round (and waved from the front, with a giant smile on my face, through the open boot to highlight my existence as said disabled friend because I’m kinda petty like that) eager to hear the man’s response to this whole idea of “disabled equals in need of healing” being raised.

His response did NOT help. He immediately became defensive and said, “all you had to do was take the leaflet”.  Very much a “just do as you’re told” response. I get that handing out these leaflets is someone’s job and they need a salary, but if your immediate response to someone’s no and bringing up a valid issue with the way you’re doing things is to get defensive and tell people to just take the leaflet, that’s going to make it even less likely for me to take the leaflet, just for the simple fact that I’m not gonna do what an angry defensive man tells me to in a supermarket car park.

Once the man had left, I noticed a woman walking towards Dev. I assumed she was coming to have a go at us for the refusing the man’s leaflet and everything else, but she in fact just came and said “that was very wrong of him” or words to that effect, and it was nice to hear those words of support. More to the point, Mr leaflet man, if WITNESSES who don’t even KNOW me, can tell that you approaching me with this healer leaflet is wrong, then doesn’t that tell you something?!

Also, I was literally just going food shopping, nothing extravagant, nothing spectacular, just food shopping like every other person, can I seriously not even go and pick up my dinner without society trying to somehow remind me that I’m broken and need healing?

The moral of these stories is: I don’t need your pity, I don’t need your prayers, I’m not broken, I’m not sad and I don’t need healing. Yes, I’m living life as a disabled person but that isn’t a BAD thing. I’m living my best life and I’m bloody happy about it!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

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