I was diagnosed with a chronic condition and invisible disability in February 2021. I didn’t realize it back then, but that was the moment my whole life turned upside down.
Upon gaining knowledge of this illness, my friend asked, “Is it because of your weight?” This was their first thought, and it set the tone for the next 2 years of my life.
You see, when you’re fat and disabled, you get to see a very interesting side of this world. People already believe that as a fat person, you’re a ticking bomb just minutes away from death, and they are always ready to pounce on you with blame and accusations the moment you get sick. When you add disability to this treacherous equation, people’s pity for your condition gets blown into pieces and it is replaced by the thought: “Oh, you did this to yourself.”
I purchased my first walking stick in the middle of November 2022. Before that, when people saw me retreating to a corner at events in pain, they used to attribute it to my introverted nature or the classic stereotype of ‘fat people get tired quicker’. With the walking stick, my disability became visible. “What could go wrong?” I used to think. A fool I was.
Amusingly, now, every time I walk down a street, I feel people’s constant gaze burning into me. People feel obliged to my explanation for my condition and I recite the same answers to every acquaintance in a monotone. I take constant cover as people from all corners shower me with their unsolicited pieces of advice in the form of gharelu nuskhe (translates to ‘home remedies’). My favorite piece of advice was given to me right after I came out of the ICU. It was, “You should start believing in God. The only reason you’re going through all this is that you don’t pray.”
Strangely, people have a habit of asking me the reasons for my pain. Maybe if they knew a cause, they would be able to give better advice. Maybe they would decide their emotional reactions accordingly. But, when I don’t bring up my mere existence in a fat body as the cause for my pain, they frown, perplexed. In the end, they bring it up anyway, desperate to attribute the disease to something, waiting to tell me to lose my weight.
Sometimes I feel grateful for my disability because it allows me to rest, and do things at my pace. It calms me to know that now when I am clumsy or am unable to climb a rock or a big step, at least people won’t laugh at me and attribute these trivial mistakes to my fatness. At least now I can justify it. That’s what happens when you try to navigate this ableist and fatphobic world. You keep excuses and justifications for the ways in which you eat,walk, stand, sit, and exist, in your arsenal, ready to deploy them whenever necessary.
I have been compared to folx who had the same illnesses as me, who were thinner and more active, more agile. It was as if surviving this condition was a race, and I was losing badly. I have searched far and wide, from social media chatrooms to subreddits, for people who had the same experiences as me, for folx with whom I could share my story. But even the communities that had the same illnesses as me gave a lot of importance to weight and demonized fatness. As if, losing weight would magically rid me of all the illnesses in the world.
The truth is, I am tired. I am tired of being blamed for a body that is a gift from my ancestors. For being blamed for the way I exist in spaces, for the ways in which I take up space. I am tired of defending my glorious body that works so hard to keep me alive. I am tired of shrinking myself to appease and make others comfortable. I am tired of hearing things like: “So, you’re just giving up?”, “did you even TRY to lose weight?”, “Have you tried yoga, meditation, walking, acupuncture, that will fix everything”, “maybe you should look into ayurveda, homeopathy”, or “there is a problem in your astrological chart, go get it fixed, you will be fine”. I am tired of aunties, strangers on the street, classmates, and family friends who surface from every corner with their version of a miraculous cure.
Existing in a body like this, you feel your autonomy slip away. My doctors and family make decisions about what sustenance and movement my body needs. Classmates and strangers ask me questions about my body and are quick to form opinions on it. Suddenly, there comes a situation where you have no say, whatsoever. Because the judgments have been made, and you’re both the culprit and the victim. Congratulations.