I interrupt this ignorant transmission to deliver an important public service announcement: I realise I have a disability but I’m not Peter Pan, I have grown up!
Ok, I am the height of an average ten-year-old so possibly that has thrown you but let me make this very clear.
My life as a disabled child was very confusing. Most of my extended family refuse to acknowledge the fact that I had a disability, (apparently this was just too embarrassing).
I remember one day sitting on the floor watching TV when suddenly my uncle appeared in front of me angry that I had ignored him. Apparently, he had been trying to get my attention, but as he was standing on my left (aka deaf) side and I was facing the TV, I didn’t notice him. When I told him this, adding that this was part of my disability I was subjected to a lengthy telling off. Actually, I was not disabled, just very rude.
Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I was never allowed to admit that I had a disability. But, I was never allowed to do what the other kids did because, “don’t you realise you can’t?” Not surprisingly I developed an identity crisis and severe depression.
As I got older, this did not improve. In my late teens and early 20s (even though I was almost completely self-sufficient) I was still being treated like a toddler.
On one family occasion, I remember we were all eating roasted chestnuts. A different uncle was feeding said chestnuts to his toddler grandsons by inserting them directly into each child’s mouth one after the other. Then next thing I know the same slobber-laden fingers were in my mouth too. EWWWWW!
I pulled away and told him I didn’t want any. But he could not understand why what he had done was inappropriate (I was 24). I struggled with this issue for many years. In the end, I realised that you can’t argue with stupid, and in order to preserve any remnants of my self-confidence I cut all ties with this side of the family.
A lot of people (myself included) suffered because of this decision and I felt a lot of guilt. But I have no regrets. I did what was the best for me for once. I know this was my family, and in their eyes, they were helping. But this is not a good enough reason as it made me feel belittled and inadequate.
The problem wasn’t so much what they were doing but rather their disregard and lack of respect for me as a person. My dignity was never taken into account.
No one has the right to make you feel bad no matter what relationship they are to you. Your self-esteem and sense of self-worth are precious. Guard them with your life.
It is a big thing to cut ties with someone though, especially if they are family. So, if possible, try and explain to them why what they are doing is causing you so much anguish. Sometimes, it will help and the problem will resolve itself.
But if it doesn’t, know that you are not alone. I understand.