What if Mental Health Was Treated The Way Physical Conditions Are?

If you’ve lived with a mental health condition then you’ve probably noticed people often say unhelpful things like “Time to move on & get over it” or “You don’t seem that sick” or “It’s just in your head”. You’ve probably thought to yourself, “No one is that mean to people with broken legs or food poisoning” and either wished they’d take you more seriously/fallen into a tasty vengeance fantasy/felt even worse than you did before. There is a good chance you’ve been shown this webcomic by Robot Hugs, often with this header attached, and nodded along:

A comic strip from Robot Hugs captures the differences between the way we treat physical health problems and mental illnesses.

I can see why you are nodding along, I’ve been there myself. People can be extremely hurtful when your problems are often invisible to the naked eye. The thing is, I really think this is the wrong way to go. In fact, I think it’s harmful and, comes from a position of privilage. “Why!?” I hear you cry. “This articulates the struggle many of us live with daily! How is that a problem?”. Well, I shall explain. Continue reading

At The Intersection: Down’s Syndrome & Abortion

Picture of a girl with Down’s Syndrome

There has been a lot said over the past 48 hours about Downs Syndrome, prenatal screening and abortion thanks in large part to some tweets sent out by Richard Dawkins:

Whilst many of us naturally baulk at such words we must remember that in the UK prenatal screening for Down’s Syndrome is common place. With an overwhelming majority of the people who are told they are pregnant with a foetus with Down’s Syndrome choosing to terminate and many will then go on to try again. This is something that is worthy of discussion. It doesn’t take much research to realise that many people with Down’s Syndrome live perfectly healthy & happy lives. So why do so many make the choice to terminate? Continue reading

Can We Stop Pitting Visible Against Invisible Disabilities?

Seriously.

Today I read another post about how people with visible disabilities have it so much easier than over those with invisible disabilities. I have, in my time, also read posts about how people with invisible disabilities are have an easier time than those with visible disabilities.

Who is this helping? No one.

It’s one thing to raise awareness of the different challenges that arise from the wide array of impairments disabled people have. It’s another to wallow in “who, in this group of people who are all oppressed by a disablist society, has it worst” .

Passing as non-disabled (having an invisible disability) means you probably don’t get the constant stares in the street stemming from your impairment, the “what’s wrong with you?” questions from people you’ve never met when you are just trying to eat a sandwich in a park, the constant pressure to become a paralympian, random people telling you that you are cursed/are being punished for past life transgressions whilst you are window shopping (and that they can fix it if you give the £250), you probably have never been in a situation where two small steps have meant you can’t physically enter a building or experienced the bus-buggy-war first hand and you probably haven’t had people assume you can’t communicate for yourself on a regular basis. But it also means you have to deal with other problems arising from a lack of visibility. Such as constantly running up against people who don’t/won’t believe your impairment is disabling (because if it was you’d have a wheelchair), being told off for using accessible toilets or parking spaces, having your own bus-war when it comes to using the priority seats and a whole lot more that comes from living in a world where people think disabled people look like “x” and anyone else is either non-disabled or non-disabled and lazy/on the scrounge/attention seeking. Continue reading

One Survivors Perspective on Trigger Warnings

We all hear a lot about Trigger Warnings, love them or loathe them everybody’s got a view and I’m no exception so here is my take on them.

As you may or may not know I’ve got complicated PTSD. I’ve experienced quite a few traumatic experiences in my life (which will get some passing mentions in this), from being severely burned to being trapped in an extremely violent relationship where over 5 years rape, sexual assault and attempts to kill eventually became almost everyday experiences. When I talk about being triggered I’m normally talking about flashbacks. These situations lead to me physically, mentally and emotionally re-experiencing traumatic events the way I did when it occurred. I’m not sure if any of you have been burned neck to ankle but I can assure you it is excruciating. It’s the kind of pain that you hope you’ll only ever experience once in a lifetime, not every time you watch an action movie with a lot of fire effects in it (pro tip: that’s nearly every one). Sometimes I also use the word triggered to describe the non-flashback effects that happen when I disassociate from the traumatic memory; behaviorally I might completely shut down for 30 seconds to an hour, unable to speak or think, or I might be hit with a sudden wave of mortal terror or righteous anger as my fight or flight responses kick in. In short, getting triggered sucks for me and for those around me. Continue reading

BADD 2014 – Nothing About Us Without Us?

It’s Blogging Against Disablisim Day!

There are loads of topics I could talk about today to illustrate disablisim, from the day to day grind of small & institutionalised oppressions to the cases where disablism ends lives. This year however I want to talk a little bit about internalised disablism that exisits within many, if not most disabled people. This is only a very quick post on a subject that could easily become a 10,000 word essay but hopefully it will give a few people something to think about.

When we think institutional disablism we think of classic cases which involve non-disabled people not thinking about/not caring about whether or not something is accessible. Be it because of steps, lack of suitable communication or allowing a atmosphere of exclusion to exist.

We don’t tend to spend much time looking at disablism many of us have picked up over the years and how it can effect our interactions with other disabled people – and it can effect those interactions. We really can be part of the problem.

I’m not saying it’s intentional, or that we are morally vacant monsters. As we are growing up we learn how to relate to different people by watching how others do it in the world around us and then we start to mimic the socially acceptable ones. We too are fed the same steady diet of media-bias, mis-information and unhelpful stereotypes as non-disabled people. We’ve all grown up in a disablist society. It’s hardly surprising then that some of them stick with us! I think it’s no great surprise that some of the best heard/most listened to voices in disability activism come from wheelchair users rather than people with cognitive or learning disabilities.

Certain kinds of disability are frequently left out of or marginalised within the conversation:

  • Severe Learning Disabilities
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Congenital Disabilities
  • Cognitive Disabilities (including Dementia, one of the fast growing causes of disability in the UK)

It’s no coincidence that one of the most disabling aspects of these conditions is the ability to communicate the way that non-disabled people do. It makes it even more vital that we work to include these voices in our work if we want to make it stronger. I hear and read comments from wheelchair users about how they don’t want to be confused for wheelchair users with cognitive disabilities because it’s insulting. Isn’t it a sure fire sign that disablism is alive and well when we don’t want to be thought of as a disabled person? I watch as bright, interesting people who use communication aids are sidelined “because no one wants to listen to a computer”. We (disabled people) are not immune to taking the “easier” option of talking to a PA instead or talking in a patronising manner, straight away assuming a lack of mental capacity, something we’d hate to have done to ourselves. Being disabled does not make us immune to treating other disabled people in a paternalistic manner. It’s easy to think that you know better what someone needs than they do but that doesn’t make it right. Of course it’s not just individuals; far too often do I watch councils and organisations choose to talk to carers or people with physical/sensory disabilities about how to cater best for a clientele consisting mainly of people with cognitive disabilities. Shouldn’t they include the people they are supposed to be serving? Is this assumption that they “wouldn’t get anything useful from them” not just another way of propping up the disablist status-quo?

For years disability rights activists have clustered around the banner “Nothing About Us Without Us”. I think today is a good time to take a few moments to have a think about the inclusive meaning behind that statement and how we can best work to make it a reality.

 

 

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You can read all of this years BADD posts by heading over here!

Disabled Women & Domestic Abuse Posters

I stumbled upon two extremely poignant posters created by Women’s Aid to highlight some of the issues surrounding domestic abuse and disabled people. You can click the links to download .pdf versions.
They are fantastic resources and free to anyone wishing to use them. You can find the originals here.

Disability & DV Poster 1

disDV1

Disability & DV Poster 2

disDV2

It’s been a tough six months

I’ve not been so well over the last 6 months and I feel like I want to explain myself.

A lot of what I’ve written about has been about how being a unemployed wheelchair user with a chronic pain condition effects my day to day life. This time, even though there have been a fair few big physical health flares in the last half year, it’s been my mental health that has been the biggest barrier to living my life the way I’d like to.

As you may or may not recall, in September I ended a 3 year slog of intensive psychotherapy. It was all part of the process to help me come to terms with, and move forward from my past. Five years of horrendous domestic abuse and three years of hell afterwards coupled with the trauma of being burned from neck to ankle and of being raped on top of dealing with becoming physically disabled left me needing some help to make sense of it all. It was very easy to believe that either the world was a terrifying place and that I was better off dead than living in it or that I brought all that stuff on myself because I was a fundamentally broken & despicable person (and was therefore better off dead). Feeling suicidal constantly is pretty tiring, simply living becomes such a battle there is hardly time to deal with anything else. Understandably I wanted that feeling to go away and was prepared to work very hard to get that noose off my neck.

Over the years I managed to come to terms with it not all being my fault, that maybe I was not some sort of monster, that people do not always view others with empathy and coincidence is something that really happen. I got some of the most debilitating elements of my PTSD under control, came to terms with the fact a pretty hard life had left me with a personality disorder & some pretty severe dissociative problems and learned to differentiate “not wanting to feel this way” from wanting to be dead. All in all it was pretty successful! The therapy ended as well as it could, I knew it was coming & we talked about it plenty before the end came. I left feeling like I had achieved a great deal and was ready to take a break from the process for a while.

I wasn’t expecting, and certainly wasn’t prepared, to be a victim of my own success. The thing is I’d learned to dissociate at a very young age and had come to rely on it heavily as a defensive mechanism. It makes it difficult for me to connect with my memories in a meaningful way – which helps to protect me from the pain but makes acknowledging & accepting it all pretty hard. I’d done a lot of work to break through that defense mechanism thinking that I could cope with what ever surfaced as a result. You can guess what’s coming next. It turns out I didn’t cope very well. The whole world became unbearably scary, every thing courted a panic attack, flashbacks started getting triggered left, right & center, I started sleepwalking when I wasn’t having nightmares and I stopped being able to manage interpersonal relationships as well as before. 

Because of the nature of the online world, especially when you work to raise awareness of issues like feminism and disability, I decided to step away before I let it exacerbate my condition. I ‘m sure I’ve missed out on loads of interesting conversations, debates and ideas – something I’m going to try to catch up on though it will take some time. I’ve missed you all and I’m looking forward to getting back to normal x

 

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