Shame, Pain, and the 3 P's


Adopting the "3 P's" has allowed Elaine Willis to overcome obstacles and make constant inroads in her quest for change


By Elaine Willis


For those of us with disabilities, no matter how confident we may seem, or how much we accomplish, hidden (or maybe not so hidden) inside are the symbiotic emotions – shame and pain. And with emotional pain hidden by shame, the two feed each other and can be quite paralyzing (pun perhaps intended).


Those who are vocal about abuse and neglect received as a result of being disabled in an ableist society often sound angry. I am past angry, but definitely not past the shame and pain.


I have adopted my three p’s – some may be tired of hearing how I work to be positive, polite, and persistent in my attempts to initiate change.


Lucky to have had some positive influences in my life, a mother-in-law, an aunt, a teaching colleague, a poet and many friends, angry and critical have moved aside.


"I have adopted my three p’s.... positive, polite, and persistent in my attempts to initiate change"

When younger I had no tolerance for those abusers of power no matter how tiny their power may have been. I now see everyone (well ALMOST everyone) as someone who is capable of, and perhaps even interested in, learning about themselves and their perception of the world, and of the inequities and challenges (not just to the built environment) experienced by people with disabilities.


There are memories I like to repress but… me, too. As a disabled patient I watched a system undermine not just the dignity, not just the emotional health, but even the physical health of people with disabilities.


"I watched a system undermine not just the dignity, not just the emotional health, but even the physical health of people with disabilities"

These workers, including doctors, nurses and care aides work in a system and a society that has a hierarchy of value with disabled persons and the elderly (often but not always disabled) at the bottom.


It was pointed out to me the systemic racism and sexism within these jobs as well. It can be overwhelming to think of overthrowing the system all at once.


So… I choose small but constant inroads, single victories with positive, polite persistence so I can change the world for myself and for others.


"I choose small but constant inroads, single victories with positive, polite persistence"

Ready to share those personal stories of neglect and abuse…not yet.


Maybe soon.

Elaine Willis is a teacher, a community activist, a business woman, an environmentalist, a techie and an advocate for people with disabilities.


You can find more from Elaine at elainewillis.ca and twitter.com/castlemeadow

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Editor, Spencer van Vloten: spencer@bcdisability.com

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