Tapati (tapati) wrote,

When You and Your Friend No Longer Feel Like Equals

Still analyzing what (gradually) went wrong in my lost friendship. One thing I didn't consider is how power dynamics can change between friends once one of them becomes disabled or chronically ill. You begin to feel so socially isolated that you don't feel you can take the risk of asserting yourself if a nondisabled friend is talking to you in ways that are condescending and ableist. They still have tons of friends out in the world while your world has shrunk to almost nothing. Add to that memories of what they've done for you in the past and loyalty, and you fall silent and try to just keep tolerating their behavior. There's also an aspect of internalized oppression because I began to feel like I was so much of a bother that I was lucky if friends kept tolerating me and I shouldn't rock the boat. I both devalued myself and allowed myself to be devalued.

I had learned over the years that even though I don't like conflict I had to step up and speak out when behaviors of friends really bothered me. That worked well when I had a great circle of friends and I saw lots of people every day. If I had a conflict with one friend I had lots of other people to cushion the blow and have more pleasant interactions with. I had an awesome group of people at work, for example, some of whom are my FB friends still.

But when you're in-person world shrinks down to your husband and a rare visit from an out of town friend or two, and you've moved away from your old support system, keeping that old friend at all costs seems worth the pain of not challenging ableist or fat phobic comments. Until you finally can't take it any more. I recognize that I made a choice to let the distress build up to that level rather than assert myself. I'm just trying to be kind to myself by recognizing why I handled it that way.
Tags: ableism, fat phobia, friends, oppression

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