Content note: this post is a cathartic one for me, but necessarily contains references to ableism and denotes ableist slurs. If you need to skip this one, feel free, and look forward to next week’s Smut Saturdays post instead!
I am disabled.
It’s still a hard part of my identity to own and love. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of fourteen (but have since shunned that particular label for multiple reasons and now refer to myself exclusively as “autistic”). Fourteen-year-olds rarely want to think of themselves as being disabled in any context, in part because they’re young and adventurous and don’t want to think that there are limitations on their potential, and partly because (in my experience at a fee-paying secondary school in England, at any rate) there is ableism everywhere. Remember that time Trump mimicked and mocked a disabled reporter? That shit was the height of comedy to my classmates. Ableist slurs were very much in vogue, particularly slurs relating to developmental disability (“retard”, “spesh”, “spoon“, etc.), and were said with either pernicious laughter or outright vitriol alongside them. In an environment where it felt genuinely dangerous to be perceived as disabled, I worked my arse off to be perceived as neurotypical, and I refused to identify as disabled until a few years ago.
I’m also super mentally ill, and that has always felt disabling. I missed weeks of school, even at age fifteen, because of depression (which exacerbated my autistic executive dysfunction) and anxiety – leaving the house felt impossible. I struggled with self harm, an eating disorder, suicidal ideation… you name it, it was there. Trauma after trauma built up (my stepdad pushing me with force towards the top of a staircase, bullying, being groomed, a violent family member…) and when I realised that I could refer to my ongoing mental illnesses as disabling, and maybe even a disability, it made sense. It was sort of a relief.
However, trauma and depleted self-worth and my autistic assumption that everyone experiences the exact same things I do in the exact same ways meant that I didn’t notice the other way in which I’m disabled: I’m always in a fucktonne of pain. I legitimately thought this was normal until I was about sixteen. I’m hypermobile, which is fun at parties when I touch my left wrist with my left thumb, but which also means that things shift around in ways they aren’t meant to. Like my hips. And my shoulders. And my goddamn ribs. I have reason to believe that it’s a connective tissue disorder (and have tentatively labelled it Ehlers Danlos Syndrome in my head) on account of my terrible healing speed, weird scar formations and my soft and oddly stretchy skin, but whatever it is, it fucking sucks.
And you know what else fucking sucks? Being a service sub, and being disabled, both at once.
Service is a big deal for me. Because of the autism, I don’t always express adoration or devotion in ways that other people understand, so acts of service make me feel like I’m very clearly stating that I love someone. I have a 24/7 power exchange dynamic with my Daddy, so mundane acts of service can pull me into subspace, make me feel like a good sub, and help me to feel closer to him even when we’re both hella busy… but they can also be more challenging than they would be for the average sub.
A real-life example of this: it took me two hours to muster up the spoons to go and do some cleaning for my Daddy. I desperately wanted to – really! – but executive dysfunction had me frozen in my armchair, staring into space, unable to initiate the task. Once I finally dragged myself into an upright position and talked myself through all the necessary steps in minute detail (like, “take one foot and move it forwards. Repeat with the other foot. Continue until you reach the bathroom” level of minute), I managed to get one toilet cleaned. I went into the second bathroom, tried to open the bleach, and found that the childproof cap was threatening to sublux my thumb, rendering me unable to open the bottle and sending pain halfway up my damn arm. The pain was a sensory input I hadn’t expected, and I couldn’t open the bottle.
There is no foolproof workaround for this sort of thing. I can take anti-inflammatory painkillers for my joints, but then my meds-related paranoia flares up. I can write out step-by-step instructions on how to load the dishwasher, but that requires so many more spoons that I won’t have the energy left to take the bin out. Being disabled is hard enough, but being multiply disabled increases every difficulty tenfold.
The only thing I’ve found that truly helps is finding a dominant who understands the significance of your disability and of your submission. My Daddy knows that washing dishes is sensory hell for me, so finding that I’ve done two plates without being prompted blows him away – even if I’ve left five bowls and some cutlery to do another day. Take stock of what your disability makes extra hard and communicate that to your partner(s), and don’t be afraid to set limits, or to ask for more praise if you’ve pushed yourself – even if that looks different from other people’s pushing themselves.
It is uniquely saddening, frustrating and isolating to be unable to carry out all the service tasks you’d like to because of a disability. It sometimes leaves me feeling cut off from my Daddy; it depletes my self-esteem, making me feel “useless”, and I struggle to accept my own limits when I really want to serve.
It helps to bear in mind that these difficulties make your submission more powerful, not less. If you did a service task in spite of brain fog, or pain, or a lack of spoons, or dyspraxia, or whatever else, then you went an extra mile for your dominant, and you should celebrate that. Disabled service subs deserve to celebrate our accomplishments.