On Faith and Disability

I grew up Catholic. I wasn’t Catholic. My father insisted that we were Lutheran, but we rarely went to church, and when we did so, it was all very grudgingly. I also hadn’t a clue on what being Lutheran meant. Often, kids at school would ask why we didn’t take Communion or go to Confession. They asked, ‘aren’t you Catholic?’ It’s rare to be any other faith apart from Catholic in a Catholic school, but there were a couple kids who were Jewish and a couple who were Methodist. My answer, for a long time, was that I was Christian, but just not Catholic.

I wonder if they thought I was just being difficult or enjoying the cloak and dagger aspect of belonging to a secret religion. I really hadn’t a clue on what I was. Much of the religion confused me; I didn’t understand the point of Confession or why it was necessary to take Communion. I once tried to take Communion just to see what it was like. It didn’t help me get it. I know now that it has to do with faith.

But I didn’t know what faith was. I think I may have always been too curious. I wanted to know how priests could have the power to forgive sins if only god could forgive sins. I wanted to know what stopped anyone from sinning if you could just confess after every time. I wanted to know why it was so bad that Eve ate the fruit in the garden because how could knowledge be bad? I picked apart the wording in The Ten Commandments and I remember being confused about the ‘You shall have no other gods before me.” I asked if that meant that there were other gods that you could worship, so long as that one came first.

I was full of questions. I have to say, that they didn’t like that. After years of not getting answers, at one point, they started ignoring my questions altogether, I stopped believing that I was even Christian. I didn’t understand what being Christian meant. It made no sense to me. And then Atheism made even less sense to me. Eventually, I found Paganism, specifically Wicca, and while it’s original find was partly a sort of ‘screw you, Christianity’ teenage rebel thing, it also made more sense. You can see nature. You can find nature all around you. And I understood the symbols better. I can’t explain why I could understand Wiccan symbolism but not Catholic symbolism.

With Wicca, I felt that I had to keep my body pure, my mind relaxed, and that I needed to respect the world around me. I found comfort in meditation that I could never find at church. I found introspection through Tarot. I found a love of life that had been missing. And it was then, that I understood what faith was.

In Wicca, there’s a Year and a Day ritual, in which you begin to honestly commit to your faith. If I recall correctly, you begin on Samhain (Halloween), you celebrate the holidays and you decide if the path is right for you. I had just started my Year and a Day about a month before the car accident.

I never did finish it.

At first, I was tired and in pain. I had never really been injured before and it was a very strange and exhausting thing. I was told that I only had broken bones and that things shouldn’t hurt as much as I did. People thought I was exaggerating everything or using it to get out of doing things. Needless to say, this made me rather miserable.

I tried to celebrate Yule. I slept through it.

And then, over the next couple months, I was mad. I realize now that most of my anger over things wasn’t over becoming disabled, it was about how no one believed me and how much I really hated crutches and that I didn’t have a good way of getting around. But of course, I blamed my gimpyness because that’s what everyone’s taught. Supposedly, it’s easier to fix yourself rather than becoming innovative and finding new ways of doing things.

Through this, I lost the easy faith I had. I had believed in a religion that taught that the body was sacred. And I saw my body as broken. I couldn’t fit the two together. I tried. I really did. But meeting other Wiccans in places are no more accessible than old churches. And I had never been in a Pagan shop that was even the slightest bit accessible, and to find out information, books, or other people to meet, the shops are really the only place to go.

I had lost the community at a pivotal point. I had just recently become open about my faith and while my family didn’t understand, they were accepting. It felt wrong to hide faith, but I waited until I didn’t need faith to practice it in a more symbolic manner. I had wanted to meet others. I wanted to join a community. I wanted to feel faith with others like the Catholics in church.

But I couldn’t. And for all that I liked of the Wiccan faith (and including other Pagan faiths), it has a tendency to be full of people who believe that if you just believe hard enough, or wish hard enough, you’re body will be perfectly healthy.

I’ve long since decided that things just happen. That life just happens. At times, I still call myself Wiccan, though perhaps, ‘tentatively Wiccan’. Perhaps faith changes on an ‘as needed’ basis. Perhaps I’ll find something else that fits me better. Perhaps there’s something that’s more on living life. Or perhaps I’ll go back to Wicca and remember that most of my issues come from other believers, not the religion itself.

Perhaps it’s not about having the perfect body. Perhaps it’s more about respecting your body and listening to its needs. Perhaps it’s about understanding your body. In a world full of body-image issues, weight and health issues, perhaps that’s where we’re all going wrong. We’re ignoring our bodies to listen to people who tell us ‘if we only tried harder’ or ‘if you only lost weight’ or ‘if you just wait until you’re cured’ or ‘you don’t want to use /insert mobility device here/’. Perhaps it’s about taking care of ourselves how we need to without listening to all the people who shame us.

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7 Responses to On Faith and Disability

  1. SudsySoap2006 says:

    Wow I just saw this posted on FB while waiting in my PT office and had to write you a response Wild Wheels! 😉 lol This is so totally amazing and we will need to talk about this the next time we hang out maybe not Saturday but soon. Anyway I’m glad you are being open about your confusion on reiligion and faith and as always I’m more than happy to talk to you about it. I know how hard the last couple of years have been for you and I know its hard to keep the faith when your world is turned upside down but perhaps its time to rekindle the flame of your faith in whatever religion suits you best. I’m in your corner as always my friend and you can count on me to be the shoulder to lean on or the listening ear to talk to.

    • Diana says:

      That doesn’t make sense. Freedom begins with the faith that you have foredem? Tell me, then, if foredem begins with that leap of faith, then how does one come to have the foredem to make that leap of faith in the first place?Solving the question by reducing it to a mere state of mind doesn’t answer the problem of foredem in the metaphysical sense that your title implies.

  2. Brett Myers says:

    May I say that I can very much relate. Buddhism is what I first was able to find that did not ring hollow. (I grew up in the Bible Belt.) Soon enough, you begin to see the dangers of taking it all too literally, too. Buddha himself warned of this. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not trying to convert or convince anyone of anything. At some point I recognized it as a path, nothing more. I would not now call myself a Buddhist. There is an expression I love, I think I heard it first from Bruce Lee: “To point at the moon requires a finger, but do not mistake the finger for the moon.” Now what the moon is, who the hell really knows? 🙂

  3. JR says:

    Being chronically ill eventually ended most of my involvement with paganism too. I heard one too many times, after two decades yet of being deeply involved in the community, that it was my “karma” or I was manifesting “deeply unresolved spiritual issues” through my illness or it was a sign that I needed to “let go of my anger or negativity” in order to become well, along with a deep hostility to science and medicine in the role of treating my ailments in favor of quasi-medicinal, “spiritual” healing techniques (that often were a form of cultural misappropriation by European descent people of non-European cultural practices and artifacts.) When I did finally find a huge jump in my health helped by being put on a certain medication, I was irritated to the extreme to find that my increased energy and mood (due to a great lessening of chronic pain) was interpreted by almost everyone I knew as “proof” that I had a psychiatric illness I was denying and was “really” on a psychiatric medication. In other words, that it was all in my head/heart/mind.
    I can’t stomach these people anymore. The “faith” might, in theory, be different from them, but it’s awfully hard to separate a faith from its followers.

  4. che koala says:

    “People thought I was exaggerating everything or using it to get out of doing things. Needless to say, this made me rather miserable.
    I tried to celebrate Yule. I slept through it.
    And then, over the next couple months, I was mad. I realize now that most of my anger over things wasn’t over becoming disabled, it was about how no one believed me and how much I really hated crutches and that I didn’t have a good way of getting around.”

    all of this article resonates with me – but especially the above excerpt

  5. I want to express my thanks to this writer just for rescuing me from this particular difficulty. After looking throughout the internet and seeing ways that were not helpful, I assumed my entire life was done. Being alive without the presence of solutions to the issues you’ve solved as a result of your entire guideline is a serious case, as well as the kind which might have badly damaged my career if I hadn’t discovered your blog. Your personal competence and kindness in taking care of every aspect was crucial. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t come upon such a solution like this. I can at this time relish my future. Thanks a lot so much for the reliable and results-oriented guide. I won’t hesitate to suggest the blog to anybody who will need counselling on this problem.

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