Jan 16, 2018
From Ellen Samuels, “Six Ways of Looking at Crip Time,”:
I keep returning in my mind to a moment in a doctor’s office in the summer of 1995. I was twenty-three years old and had recently entered the world of disabling illness, had crossed some invisible and excruciating threshold from being someone with health problems to being a problem, apparently insolvable. I had come to this doctor, a psychiatrist, after many months and many doctors, searching for a diagnosis to explain my constant pain, weight loss, wavering legs, and thumping heart. Like the others, this doctor didn’t have an answer. What he did offer, though, was remarkable compassion and a willingness to listen.
What I keep coming back to is this one thing he said to me. “You’ve lost so many things already in your life: your parents, your health, your independence. You have a level of loss we would usually expect to see in someone in their seventies.”
Crip time is time travel. Disability and illness have the power to extract us from linear, progressive time with its normative life stages and cast us into a wormhole of backward and forward acceleration, jerky stops and starts, tedious intervals and abrupt endings. Some of us contend with the impairments of old age while still young; some of us are treated like children no matter how old we get. The medical language of illness tries to reimpose the linear, speaking in terms of the chronic, the progressive, and the terminal, of relapses and stages. But we who occupy the bodies of crip time know that we are never linear, and we rage silently—or not so silently—at the calm straightforwardness of those who live in the sheltered space of normative time.