One of the hardest things I have had to learn since becoming disabled is how to pick my battles. There is so much ableism & general injustice to get angry about that if I didn’t pick my battles, I’d be like Bruce Banner at the end of The Avengers; always angry. Given the blatant ableism I personally encounter on a daily basis, it would be all too easy to become totally consumed by the constant battles for equality I face. In fact, there are times when that has actually happened.
In December 2019, I had a week-long fight with my doctors to authorise a prescription for my recently diagnosed endometriosis. After much back & forth it finally went through, but then the pharmacy dispensed an incorrect amount & refused to amend it, despite me explaining why going back to the doctors within the next few days to correct their error was simply not possible. Eventually their obstinate attitude & my desperation for pain relief lead me to have a panic attack at home, talking to them over the phone, but they refused to help.
A couple of days later I rang the doctors & managed to coax them into sorting out the pharmacy, & by the end of the day I was feeling much brighter. Then I left the office to find the only accessible pavement around completely blocked by news crews who claimed to have been given permission to park there. They refused to move, telling me that my wheelchair could get through the tiny gap that had left & even came at me with a measuring tape to prove it. After 20 minutes of being told by someone who had never used a wheelchair how to drive one, they finally moved. The long exposure to the cold left me feeling extremely unwell, & the police ignored my report despite it including photographic evidence. Some digging uncovered that they had never been given permission to park there at all, but this being after the incident meant they got away with it. I contacted the news company involved multiple times but was simply passed back & forth between different teams with no one owning up.
The next day I had a call from the pharmacy telling me I was banned from them for being a safe-guarding issue to staff. Apparently having a panic attack in my own home posed a danger to them. They refused to tell me if they would still dispense my outstanding prescription, put the phone down on me, & refused to answer it again. I went to the store where the rest of the staff knew nothing of this supposed ban & finally dispensed the correct medication. I tried to complain to the company, but the only response I got was a rude & inappropriate letter sent from the store after I had left their care, meaning they had retained my contact details (illegally). The company refused to look into the matter or address it in any way.
With both the news crew & pharmacy, there was over a month of arguing without any progress, & it consumed my life. I couldn’t help but think about it; at work, at home, everywhere. When I returned to work after the Christmas holidays, I pressed the matter again, & in both cases I essentially got an electronic version of a shrug. The complete lack of concern for the blatant ableism made me livid; no one cared. It was then I knew I had to drop the matter. I gave each team one last tongue-lashing over their atrocious attitude, then blocked them.
That first evening was really hard. I rarely, if ever, finish a fight where I feel I haven’t at least been listened to, & part of me wanted to carry on. My depression spiralled downwards as I could only see this as a failure to protect other people from similar treatment. However, as the days passed, I found myself thinking of it less & less. There were other causes to take up, & other work to be done.
I wish I had the strength & time to take on every incident of ableism I find, but I don’t. I can’t pretend to be some kind of superhero. Loathe as I am to admit it, sometimes simply to protect your own sanity, you have to move on. It’s not a loss or a failure, even if the opposing side would suggest otherwise. After all, if you drive yourself into the ground fighting one battle, you won’t be around long enough to continue the war.