Tag Archives: family dynamics

Guest Post: Embracing Disability, Struggling for Emancipation, Part two: Dissecting Content and Medium

Eliot Renard is a genderqueer, feminist, socialist Chicagoan who enjoys making math and science accessible and fun for students through various online tutoring programs.  Ze also has a health blog, personal blog and tumblr, because compartmentalizing is fun.

This is the second post of a short series; part one, “Rocky Beginnings,” can be read here.

There is a part of growing up that was never really addressed in my family: leaving home and starting your own family.  When I met my spouse in college, I realized that I had no idea how to become a healthy, emancipated adult; I simply had no examples to work from.  When you throw in the fact that my health began to decline shortly after I began to make earnest attempts at emancipation – and stopped backing down every time I received substantial pushback – the process has frankly been excruciating.

I keep many aspects of my personality secret from my family – as a genderqueer atheist Catholic*, I have decided it is just not worth the effort.  I also imagine that the “I thought it was obvious!” defense would be plausible if I were outed, which assuages my guilt a bit.  Unfortunately, it becomes difficult to hide the extent to which your illness is affecting your life when you are sleeping 15-20 hours per day, and have dropped out of grad school.  Hence, the fact that I have not had a conversation that neither devolved into a frustrating, tear-filled shouting match, nor focused largely on the weather.

As discussed in part one of this series, I have addressed the content of my family’s objections to my “life choices” – because getting sick is obviously a life choice – extensively.  Numerous emails, phone conversations and weekends in my hometown have been devoted to explaining exactly what was wrong with each hurtful, disrespectful thing my family says.  These conversations usually end with my mother suggesting that if I can’t hold down a job, I should just move back home.  Yes, screaming at me, denying my illness, and accusing my spouse of abuse are all meant to make me want to be around that behavior 24/7.

Pursuing a suggestion from my therapist, I have tried redirecting the conversations to the core issues at play – emancipation, healthy boundaries, and the fact that I am an adult.  Given that similar discussions took place before this most recent series of health developments, many in regards to the fact that I went to college 200 miles away from home, got married, then moved to a city 500 miles from home, and that my mother has also dealt with issues concerning emancipation and healthy boundaries, I felt that these issues were worth discussing. I recently asked my mother whether she thought she had a right to know every detail about my life.  Her response terrified me in a way few things have: “Well, you’re the one having trouble.”  The thought that if I ever need help, I may have to trade my basic privacy scared me so much that my vision blacked out.  I had never felt the loss of my family’s support as strongly as I did then.

When my attempt to create healthy boundaries is perceived as an abusive spouse separating me from my family, what actions can lead to a happy ending for all involved?  I am afraid that, by insisting on what I perceive to be a normal, adult life, I am causing substantial pain to my family, who interpret these actions to be the results of abuse.  They are afraid of losing me forever to a terrible situation, and cling more tightly.  I am afraid of losing myself forever by staying.  No one is happy here.  No one is benefiting from this pain.

I don’t know what to do if this continues; I am worried about the effect that being in hopeless situations has on my suicidal and self-harm ideation, especially given that this very situation has triggered both.  I have no control over anyone’s actions but my own, but the idea of distancing myself from my very tight-knit family is disheartening.  Also unfortunate is the fact that if I don’t talk to my grandmother, Uncles A, B and C won’t talk to me, and Uncles D and E will spend any conversation time pressuring me to reinstate contact.  I would also lose absolutely all contact with my brother, niece and nephew.  Sadly, I know that if I chose to play family politics here, I would “win”.  It just isn’t worth the slimy feeling afterwards.

I am working to build a support network outside of my mother’s family.  I have a few very close friends from college and my neighborhood who have helped me tremendously.  I was only at my graduate school for a few months, and was so consistently physically excluded from events that I gave up on forming connections there.  The group of people that has consistently come through on helping me with whatever I needed is spread all over the world, and many of us have never met face-to-face; my friends from various online communities – activist groups, fandoms, friends-of-friends – have saved my life.  Days when I cannot get on the computer (which lives on my bed, along with all of my medications and enough food to last a few days) are rare, and the communities there are amazing – and not always in the inspiring way.  It is in this very community that I came to accept my right to feel angry and defeated at times.  I don’t have to be a “super-cripple,” and that realization is what keeps me going through the bad days.  I am hoping that this ability and time will lead to a healthy resolution with my family.  If not, I already belong to a strong community here.

*Trust me, it works.  You just have to stretch your definition of “cafeteria Catholicism” a tiny bit further…

Guest Post: Embracing Disability, Struggling for Emancipation, part one: Rocky Beginnings

Eliot Renard is a genderqueer, feminist, socialist Chicagoan who enjoys making math and science accessible and fun for students through various online tutoring programs.  Ze also has a health blog, personal blog and tumblr, because compartmentalizing is fun.

I began experiencing the symptoms of what I now know to be depression, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome when I first hit puberty.  When I complained, the doctor would usually laugh and attribute my complaints to growing pains.  I was told many times by family members and medical professionals to grow up and to stop complaining.  So, I did.  For a decade.

Fast forward to now, and I am once again vocal about my experiences.  This willingness to speak up – to come out as a chronic pain, fatigue, and depression sufferer – has been incredibly beneficial.  I am now on treatments that greatly reduce my muscle pain and depression symptoms, although I have yet to find a solution for many other symptoms.   I have a supportive husband who understands when it’s me speaking and when it’s the pain speaking.  He has adapted admirably to “physical contact rules” that change daily.  He encouraged me to seek out a therapist, which I was reluctant to do after an extremely negative experience with a therapist in my childhood.  He helps me with whatever tasks I cannot accomplish on a given day.  In short, he is a wonderful spouse helping me through a very rough adjustment period.  The rest of my family, however, is problematic.

When my health began to decline rapidly this past summer, I assumed that my mother and grandmother, both diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis for at least a decade, would understand what I was going through, and instinctively know how to support me.  This assumption was untrue and unfair; being in pain and watching a loved one in pain are two very different experiences.  So, after many conversations in which I asked them repeatedly not to say some hurtful, untrue, and pointless things*, I sent out an email with a list of the offensive remarks, why they were offensive, and a request that the remarks stop immediately.

Unfortunately, this attempt was unsuccessful.  Every phone call was about my illness, and how I wasn’t doing enough to get better – I should be exercising more, undergoing this or that treatment, stopping this or that medication, finding something I “really want to do”, unlike the graduate school I loved and had to leave because I couldn’t get out of bed, much less get to campus and perform a 16-hour work day, being happier, etc.  Things got bad enough that I attempted suicide in September.  It felt like I was not only losing my physical and mental functions, but my family as well.  Nothing I tried was working, and it seemed that there was no way out.

After the suicide attempt, I turned off my phone for a week.  The first person I called when I felt well enough to use the phone was my little brother – he needed to know that none of this was his fault.  My sister’s 6-year-old son happened to be present, so I got to talk to him, as well.  My nephew noted that it had been a long time since we had talked.  I replied that I was sick and needed to turn my phone off for a while.  My nephew’s response was absolutely perfect: “Well, I’m sorry you were sick, but I’m glad you feel better.  At school, I got a dinosaur, and…”

Why can’t the adults in my life figure that out?  Why is treating someone like a person so difficult, not only for my family, but for people on the street or the bus?  Most of my frustration is not actually born from the constant pain, fatigue, fog, etc. – it is from the rest of the world failing to accept me as I am.  And, given the amount of frustration my illness itself causes me, that’s saying something.

*[Bingo, anyone?]

Dear Imprudence: Creating Space, Retaining Support

A recent Ask Amy column featured a letter from a college student with a common problem; parents who want to exert a high level of control. Here in the US, school’s been in session for a little over a month now, and the winter is coming on, and I suspect that the number of students struggling with the adjustment to college will be increasing, judging from my own experiences in college. The newness has worn off, it’s getting dark and cold, and, well:

Dear Amy: I love my parents, but even though I got straight A’s in high school without their assistance and have never gotten in trouble, they constantly nag me about homework and grades.

I thought this would end when I went to college, but I was wrong.

When I admitted I save my homework for Sunday afternoon, my mom chastised me.

She gets upset that I shield my personal life from her, but when I do share, she finds something to criticize, nag and/or make snide comments about.

When I ask my mom to stop, she either gets defensive or tells me it’s her job as my mother.

I am still recovering from depression, so I need more support and acceptance from my parents and less passive-aggressive criticism and nagging.

Any suggestions?

— Frustrated Freshman

There are a couple of interesting things going on here, and I wanted to tease out one in particular because I was just talking about it with Anna: Policing of study habits. Many people seem to believe that there is a specific ‘right’ way to study and that if you don’t study that way, you’re doing it wrong. Staying up all night to study is wrong, even if your sleep schedule is actually better suited to studying at night. Studying with music on is wrong. Moving while studying is wrong. There’s a whole long list of things touted as ‘good study habits,’ like ‘don’t leave your work until the end of the weekend.’

To me, what makes a good study habit is what works for a given student. By all performance metrics generally recognised and accepted, this student is doing well. Studying at the end of the weekend hasn’t precluded making good marks and going well in school. Clearly, it’s a system that works for this student.

For this student, there’s an added dimension of depression and the need and desire for support. When talking about your personal life or your approach to school results in judgmental comments and nagging, you tend to shut down, which means that you can’t access that support. Nagging this student about study habits sets up two things: The student is being told ‘school, you’re doing it wrong’ and is being told that support isn’t available, even if it’s wanted, from family members. That has an extremely isolating effect.

What does Amy have to say?

Dear Frustrated: I hope you are working with someone at your college’s counseling center. Because of your depression, you should receive ongoing support.

A counselor at school will be familiar with the issue of hovering parents and will help you establish a healthy and mature distance from them.

Your mother’s behavior has consequences. You should continue to reassure her but not offer details about your life which she is likely to criticize.

Because your parents are having such a hard time letting go, you will need to establish the distance necessary to grow. If your mother starts to nag and criticize, you should say, “Mom, I don’t like this, and it’s not helpful, so I’m going to have to check in with you later.”

Do your best academically, and also join organizations that will bring you in contact with other students outside the classroom.

And don’t drink. Alcohol is woefully omnipresent on most campuses, and using it will aggravate your depression.

Ah, ok, a lecture.

This student seems to have it pretty together. Depression is recognised as an issue and it seems likely that the student, you know. Knows there is a college counseling centre, although it’s worth pondering how accessible that centre is. How easy is it to make an appointment? Is it possible to discreetly get information? Many students don’t seek mental health counseling because they are afraid of the associated stigma, or because they can’t figure out how to work the appointment system, or any number of things.

The advice with the script to the mother is pretty sound; after all, the student did write in for advice about dealing with parents. But the added lecturing seems a bit unnecessary to me; the student isn’t asking for advice on dealing with depression, but specifically for advice on navigating a relationship with parents. That’s a separate, although related, issue. The question here wasn’t ‘how can I deal with depression in college’ but ‘how do I set boundaries with my mother while also asking her for the support I need?’ And the student specifically mentions wanting more support from the parents, not just in general; this is a letter about a family relationship and how to make it work.

Readers who have dealt with dynamics like this, how did you deal with it? What advice would you give the student on addressing the dynamics of the relationship?

Dear Imprudence: Interfering in My Friend’s Marriage is My DUTY!

In a recent Carolyn Hax column, a reader wrote in with the following:

Dear Carolyn:

A friend of mine is getting married to a woman who has multiple sclerosis. His family is very upset by this fact (along with a few other issues they have with his bride-to-be). Should something like having a chronic illness even be a consideration when choosing the person to spend the rest of your life with? I wonder if my friend is setting himself up for a very difficult road ahead.

D.C.

Ah, yes, the old concern trolling ‘for the friend’s own good,’ turning to an advice columnist for backup; this letter seems to pretty unambiguously suggest that the family is justified in being ‘upset’ by the friend’s choice of life partner. It’s sort of surprising the letter writer is even consulting Hax, since the opinions in this letter feel very clearly formed, unless this is some sort of devious plan involving casually leaving the paper open to this letter and the expected approving response to say ‘see!’ to the friend.

Unfortunately, these kinds of attitudes are distressingly common. People who marry people with disabilities are told that they are ‘brave’ for marrying their partners and staying with them, and they’re provided with plenty of outs for escaping the relationship; when things get tough, they’re encouraged to abandon their partners ‘because no one would blame you,’ and all problems in the relationship get reduced to the disabilities. And, of course, people preparing to marry people with disabilities are told that they should ‘reconsider’ and ‘think seriously about’ the relationship. The spectre of caregiving is raised to terrify people into thinking ‘oh, right, I don’t actually love this person! Thanks for saving me!’

And Hax’ response illustrated why I love Carolyn Hax:

Of course he is.

And of course a chronic illness should be a serious consideration — your friend would be doing this woman no favors if he didn’t take her prognosis heavily into account — but for many people it’s not a make-or-break consideration.

The way you pose your question, I’m not sure whether the “difficult road” you anticipate is the multiple sclerosis or the disapproving family. Either way, you’re right. However, there are plenty of people who think the toughest road would be the one traveled without the person they love.

Now, it’s not as if illness spins jerks into gold; if your friend’s family has legitimate concerns about the fiancee’s character, then I do hope they’ll spell this out for him.

But if your friend feels, eyes open, that his fiancee is the one he wants at his side, and if his family’s objection is to her illness (with the “few other issues” thrown out there as a fig leaf), then all I can say is, shame on them. Even though I utterly loathe that expression.

People are very fond of judging each other’s marriages. It honestly seems to be a bit of a national pasttime, whether people are judging people for the ceremony, or who is getting married, or changing names (or not changing names), or whether there are children involved, or any number of things. It seems to be generally socially acceptable to meddle in someone’s marriage planning and to make pronouncements about how a marriage is ‘doomed from the start.’ And these comments often come from family. When disabilities are involved, those comments tend to ramp up, and there can be an undertone of extreme ugliness that can be very revealing about social attitudes and the beliefs people feel it’s appropriate to air.

Here, the family has decided they don’t like the fiance, maybe because she has MS, maybe because of something else. The point is that the letterwriter seems to think the MS is sufficient reason to call off the marriage; how could the letterwriter’s friend be expected to marry a woman with MS? They’re in for a ‘hard road’! Everyone knows that people with chronic illnesses shouldn’t get married (and of course that they never marry each other).  The letterwriter seems to be hitting Carolyn Hax up to justify ableist beliefs; to me, it seems clear that the ‘hard road’ referenced isn’t dealing with the family, but, rather, being married to a disabled woman, and Hax didn’t let D.C. off the hook.

I know that at least some of our readers (and contributors) are married or in relationships and encounter these kinds of attitudes about their relationships; how do you counter them? Do you counter them?

Recommended Reading for 12 July 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

BBC News: Families with disabled children ‘struggle to pay bills’

Srabani Sen, chief executive of Contact a Family, said: “Many families with disabled children are in financial dire straits.

“Everyone has been hit hard by the recession but families with disabled children were already having to cope with a harsh combination of extra living costs and the difficulty of holding down a job and caring.

“These financial pressures have been worsened by the economic slump and have left many at breaking point.”

Researchers found that 23%, almost one in four, had to turn off their heating to save money and one in seven, 14%, are going without food.

Politics Daily: Thousands of Soldiers Unfit for War Duty

In an unmistakable sign that the Army is struggling with exhaustion after nine years of fighting, combat commanders whose units are headed to Afghanistan increasingly choose to leave behind soldiers who can no longer perform, putting additional strain on those who still can.

The growing pool of “non-deployable” soldiers make up roughly 10 percent of the 116,423 active-duty soldiers currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more Army reservists and National Guard soldiers are also considered unfit to deploy, a growing burden on an Army that has sworn to care for them as long as needed.

“These 13,000 soldiers, that number’s not going to go away,” said Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, who heads the Army’s Warrior Transition Command, which oversees the treatment and disposition of unfit soldiers. “If anything, it’s going to get larger as the Army continues the tempo it’s on.

“This is an Army at war.”

Laura Hershey: Some Thoughts about Public Space

I myself am a very noticeable presence in any public venue. I use a power wheelchair which I operate by blowing into a tube. I have more tubes going into my nose, connected to a mechanical ventilator, which pumps air into my lungs as I breathe. At symphony orchestra concerts, during pianissimo passages, I’ve become acutely aware of the mechanical sounds emanating from my respiratory equipment. My self-consciousness has sometimes veered close to embarrassment, but I’ve reminded myself that I have as much right as anyone to be in the presence of that great music.

Change.org’s Environment blog: Going Under For Surgery? Doctors May Be Going Green Too

So I’m all for rooting out the last vestiges of wasteful carbon from every last corner of our society. But, I have to say, this study makes me slightly nervous. “Going under” is a dangerous procedure, and I’m not sure I want my doctor thinking about the fate of the planet at a time he should be focused solely on my own fate.

Now, obviously the doctors themselves were quick to say that patient safety should and will always come first when choosing the correct drug. But, regardless, doctors who are concerned about the environment would want to know this information, they contend.

SPOUSE CALLS: Born on the 4th of July

In the headline there was no name, just a number: “1000th GI killed in Afghanistan.” I skimmed the story: Name not yet released pending notification of next of kin.

Numeric milestones seem so arbitrary. What makes 1000 more significant than 999? Mourning families don’t care about the math.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Jenny McCarthy & Autism Part 2: Let’s All Be Normal (Acting)

When I wrote about Jenny McCarthy last week, I focused primarily on how her “cure” efforts affect parents. Today, I want to write about how “cure” efforts affect children with disabilities.

I feel pretty safe in saying that most people who are born with disabilities, or develop a disability very early in life, have experienced the Pressure To Appear Normal. The ones I have talked to have told me that the greatest amount of pressure to Appear Normal has come, either directly or indirectly, from their parents.

In my case, I remember being yelled at by my father after my parents, unaware of how unwell I was, and still am, read the diary I was required to keep at school. Finding out how unhappy I was that way made my mother cry. After that, I only wrote fictional stories in my required-diary at school. I didn’t want to upset my parents by being “sad”. [My parents may have a different understanding of this event. I’ve never talked to them about it. I also haven’t talked to them about my repeated hospitalizations.]

It took me a long time to convince Don that it was okay to talk about being in pain and how he felt about everything. Like me, his previous attempts to talk about his disability led to his mother being upset. His attempts to appear normal means he went over a decade needing far more assistance than he was getting. He felt like a failure for getting a cane, because everyone would “know” he was disabled. Getting the cane, and now his wheelchair, has led to a drastic improvement to his quality of life – and it didn’t happen until he was in his late 20s.

If you read many of the Very Special Lessons-type news media stories about disability, they will often include a paragraph about how the person with a disability’s parents had at some point pushed for them to be in a “regular” school until, giving up, they finally admitted their child needed more help than they were able to get there. It’s often presented as a sadness, that this child couldn’t “overcome”.

From Deaf children being denied Sign Language until their late teens to grandparents refusing to be seen in public with their autistic grandchildren until they can learn to behave, there is are a lot of messages disabled children receive from their families: Be Normal. Look Normal. Don’t upset us by not being Normal.

I hope my last post made it clear that I’m very sympathetic to the situation parents find themselves in. There are simply not enough resources available to help families. There is constant pressure on parents to explain how they “made” their kids disabled, and what they’re doing to “fix it”. I don’t just think that pressure is there. I know it. I know for certain that Don’s mother still feels guilty for “making” Don disabled.

But children are very aware of the pressure to be normal. And when people like Jenny McCarthy and her ilk push “cures” for disability out there, not only are parents asked why they aren’t administering these cures, children are, either directly or indirectly, asked why they aren’t cured, too.

“Why are you still disabled when your disability is curable?”

“What are you doing to make yourself better?”

Try harder. Do more. It will make everyone else feel more comfortable.

Power and Responsibility

An earlier version of this post was published in July, 2009.

When I mention that Don has a homecare worker, and explain what that job is, I often get this question:

“Why don’t you do all that stuff for him?”

This touches on something that I’ve referred to a few times, and that’s the idea that it’s totally okay (admirable, even!) that services for people with disabilities be offered by volunteers. It gets into a lot of complicated stuff.

For example, Don’s homecare worker does things like makes sure he is clean-shaven once a week, washes his hair carefully, and does some of the stuff he needs done for his back, which suffers from a lot of sitting/lying related issues, like heat rashes and sores. She’s there for about an hour or so.

What she does for Don is a huge deal in terms of his personal hygiene. All those little things that allow him to be “acceptable” to our neighbours take energy, such as having clean hair and a neatly trimmed beard. Before homecare, Don would often go weeks, if not months, without a proper shave, and look very scruffy and unkempt. But it would be a decision for him – does he shave today, or does he make a meal? There wasn’t enough energy or concentration to do both.

The question of why I don’t do these things has a few assumptions under it. First, it implies that, because I’m his spouse, I should be in the caretaker role. I should be making sure all his personal hygiene needs are taken care of. There’s a power imbalance there that makes me uncomfortable. It puts me in role as adult, and Don in role of child, and this is just not acceptable.

The other thing is part of why this volunteer thing bothers me. Don’s personal level of comfort should not depend on my energy levels. It shouldn’t depend on my mood. It shouldn’t depend on whether or not I’m angry at him today, or I’m too busy, or if I’m home.

Right now, it depends on whether the woman who is paid to come to our home and do these things shows up. If she calls in sick, there is someone else who will come in. I know she has a degree in nursing, focusing on homecare for people with disabilities. I know she’s a professional, who has been taught the issues around disability and privacy, around personal autonomy, and around sexuality and disability. I know the process we will go through if either she or Don does something sexually inappropriate. I know the appeals process if she threatens him or he threatens her. I know what will happen to Don’s care in those situations. More importantly, Don knows what will happen in those situations. He has personal autonomy.

Don’s health needs shouldn’t be dependent on me in any way, because that’s not safe for Don.

In my experience, Feminism tends to have discussions about caregiving focusing around the fact that caregiving roles fall predominately on women, and lead to things like “the second shift”, or caregiver fatigue, or even directly impact women’s abilities in the workplace. (“I can’t work late because I need to get home now.”) I think this is an important thing to discuss, but I don’t think it’s the only part of the caregiving equation. I think we, as feminists, need to also talk about the power inbalance that comes in when one is a caregiver for a spouse or parent that has a disability.

As well, we rarely talk about what happens when the role of caregiver falls on women with disabilities? What happens to that allotment of spoons then? What view do we have of women with disabilities if their children aren’t “properly” cared for? If some other loved one isn’t getting everything they need? What happens to the caregiver/second shift issues then?

I think feminist discussions about caregiving and responsibility need to broaden out to include these complicated issues.

Recommended Reading for November 11

Rough Road for military families with special needs

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq rage on, repeated deployments are taking a toll on military families.

Service members are prepared for the dangers that lie ahead, but spouses and children are often left to navigate the emotional and physical challenges that come with separation alone. Those challenges are compounded when a parent has a child with special needs.

Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Veterans

What is the Veterans Multi-Purpose Center’s Equine Assisted Therapy Program? Equine assisted psychotherapy is an emerging form of therapeutic intervention in which horses are used as tools for clients to gain self-understanding and emotional growth. Equine assisted psychotherapy is a type of animal assisted therapy, a field of mental health that recognizes the bond between animals and humans and the potential for emotional healing that can occur when a relationship is formed between the two species.

Disabled veterans’ families feel strain on finances, health: survey

People who care for Canada’s disabled veterans often face overwhelming demands and financial pressures, according to a study prepared for Veterans Canada.

The study by the University of Alberta’s human ecology department indicates the families of Canadian soldiers released from active duty with severe disabilities suffer long-term financial burdens, as well as high rate of emotional stress and health issues.

New Site for Veteran Benefits [US]

A new veterans information site, Today’s G.I. Bill, has been launched this week by the Lumina Foundation. The site aims to put all of the information about access, eligibility, and benefits for veterans all in one place. The Lumina foundation funds a lot of higher-education access information endeavors, and this seems to be its latest project.

The site could be useful for veterans seeking to understand their benefits, but much of the site links to other tools (the housing stipend section links to the Department of Defense’s Basic Allowance for Housing tool and the section addressing the Yellow Ribbon Program, which outlines private institutions that provide a benefit for veterans, links to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of participating institutions). Increasing information for veterans will help ensure they have access to the benefits expanded by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill update that went into effect earlier this year.

Group uses fly fishing as therapy for veterans

Teach a wounded veteran to fish, and you’ll help him heal.

That’s what the creators of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., believe. The organization, which offers expense-paid fishing trips for military veterans who have a service-connected disability or have earned a Purple Heart, began its first chapter in Onslow County this month.

For the veterans involved, casting a line is the last part of the journey.

Recommended Reading for October 30

#Antidev: Some thoughts on disability “devotees”

The issue of disability devotees — and let’s call a spade a spade here: they’re fetishists — divides the disability community at every level, from academia to, well, Facebook. It’s something women with visible disabilities encounter regularly. And I believe that, while the extremists are relatively rare, the growing acceptance of “devotees” online will trickle down into the broader social constructs around disability.

It’s widely believed that people with disabilities are viewed (in contemporary Western culture, at least) as “asexual.” The truth is more complex. We certainly do not fit the airbrushed-cover-of-Vogue ideal of beauty that is shoved down our throats. But then again, neither do all but a few supermodels on the planet; we don’t consider 99.99% of women as asexual, though. So here’s a key point: differentiating beauty (or physical attractiveness) from sexuality. To be sure, sex can be different and require a bit of creativity and patience, but most women with physical disabilities (at least, the ones I know!) have pretty normal sex lives. Nevertheless, because we can fall so far outside the norm of what is considered attractive, we (like all women) tend to conflate general beauty with sexual attractiveness, making us easy targets for people calling themselves “disability devotees” — sexual fetishists who objectify women with disabilities and reduce them to the sum of their (disabled) parts. Many women with disabilities entertain such advances, or even encourage them; when you’ve lived in a society rife with ableism it can be easy to believe that your disability defines you (and as a woman, that your sexuality defines you), and fetishists play right into that mindset.

Personal Situation

Now that I know all these things about my father I can‘t stop thinking about it (especially the new info in addition to the terrible tirade from him the day before). I don’t want to live with him anymore, but I don’t really have any other options. I need constant care and there’s no one else in my family who is able to take care of me. I know everyone says this, but he truly does love me and wouldn’t be able to take care of me like this if he didn’t. Out of everyone in my life he’s given above and beyond anyone else when it comes to my caretaking – he’s here full time and any one else is less than once a month. But I can’t stand to be around him anymore. I have so much anger. I’m angry how he treated my mother, and indirectly caused her to hurt me. But I’m angry at my mother for directly hurting me. I’m angry at my father for having such an anger problem that we had to be afraid of it. I wish I was healthy so I could just move away, but my disability is so severe that I really can’t do anything for myself and need the constant care. I don’t want to go to some nursing home – I’ve heard too many stories about that to trust it.

One time in the past when he exploded emotionally, I called a nearby shelter because it was having such an emotional impact on me. I told them about my physical situation and they said that they were not handicap accessible and referred me to another shelter. Neither shelter would be able to care for me in the way that I need it. I just don’t want to be alone in this world – it‘s not just emotional, I need a someone to physically protect me because I am that fragile. It sucks that my family sucks, but they’re all I’ve got right now and they’ve helped me in a lot of other ways.

In the news:

Via email from Ira G.: Minds Interrupted: Stories of Lives Affected by Mental Illness:

The three will be among eight Baltimoreans who will discuss the ways in which mental illness has wreaked havoc with their lives in a program called “Minds Interrupted.”

Participants wrote and edited their intimate, sometimes funny, often harrowing tales at a recent workshop that included tips on performance skills. Tickets will be sold to the show, which is being held at Center Stage, and which was modeled on the popular Stoop Storytelling series in which nonactors tell seven-minute-long anecdotes about their own lives.

The hybrid nature of “Minds Interrupted” can be perplexing: Is the evening a high-minded attempt to publicize a vexing and misunderstood social problem, or is it entertainment? And can the two categories successfully be mixed?

Five benchmarks for social assistance [Canada]

The next bold move the government must make is to stick to its guns on a comprehensive review of Ontario’s broken social assistance system.

The commitment to review Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program – made in the province’s poverty reduction strategy last December – has been agonizingly slow to get off the ground.

With the first anniversary of the strategy quickly approaching, more and more Ontarians are being forced to deplete their savings and join Ontario’s swelling welfare rolls.

As the province moves to more effectively employ resources to meet people’s needs and promote economic recovery, we can no longer afford to wait.

Student beaten to death in his Sac State Dorm Room

Scott Hawkins had Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, “that made him very obsessive about his favorite things,” his father said. He especially enjoyed studying ancient European and Middle Eastern history and was hoping he could graduate with a minor in one of those areas, his father said.

“He could go on and on about the history of Rome or the reasons that the Greek empire did this or that,” Gerald Hawkins said.

The attack was reported just before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday when one of the dorm’s resident assistants called police after hearing a loud disturbance coming from one of the suites.

Guest Post: Negotiating Disableism

This is a guest from from Renee of Womanist Musings.

Disableism is very new to me. My chronic illnesses not only changed my status, but forced me to see just how pervasive ableism is. It has been a huge learning process, as I have sought to reduce the ways in which my language and behaviour support ableism. I have a physical disability which has caused me to more aware of the ways in which society is structured to benefit those that are able bodied, but it has not helped me to understand the ways in which those that are neurologically atypical face discrimination. Common phrases that I used to utter like bat shit crazy, must be erased from my vocabulary. I have struggled not to say that someone is blind to something, rather that pointing out that they are unable to see or understand.

What I have learned is that ridding oneself of disableism, is a process that is not easy but so very necessary. Each time I am reduced by the assumption of another, it causes me to examine the ways in which my language or behaviour support this. It took time to understand that though I am disabled, I still exist with privilege in certain areas. I can hear, I can see, I can get up and walk if I have to, I have all of my limbs, and people do not dismiss what I am saying because they deem me non-sensical due to being neurologically atypical. As long as they are not referring to my specific disability, many are quite comfortable displaying their disabliesm, as though it does not effect me.

I have sat and listened to the complaints regarding the accommodations that those who are disabled must have to participate in society. While most will not scream and carry on about a ramp, even a small thing, like getting more time to hand in a paper at school, is enough to cause a rant about favouritism and unfair standards. Disableism occurs when people feel as though they cannot take advantage of their able bodied privileges. It occurs when people resist that a task can be completed differently to allow a greater participation.

This weekend, on the way to Destructions hockey game, I ran into an old friend. She had not seen me since I contracted my illnesses but her first comment was that she had to get herself a scooter. To her it seemed a cool toy, while to me it is a reflection of all the things I cannot do. There is a man in my neighbourhood who uses a manual wheelchair and he has commented on more than one occasion, that he wished he had a motorized scooter to get around in. Though I am hurt by the ableist comments of a former friend, my class privilege is part of what allowed that pain. When I needed a scooter to facilitate my activities, we were able to afford one.

Though I am differently abled, I am barely at the 101 level. I went through anger, denial and finally acceptance but negotiating this life is something I must begin again like a newborn babe. I have isolated myself because I viewed my body as the great betrayer, refusing to see the ways in which I could and can still participate. When someone is racist against me, it is easy to find my voice because this is something that I have lived with all of my life, whereas; disableism, even when clearly directed at me, brings about silence and sense of shame. For now I count on the unhusband to speak when I cannot and this again is a marker of how blessed I really am. Even in times of weakness and sorrow, I can count on my family to do the heavy lifting. When I need comfort, each one of them is quick to run to my aid. They may not understand what I am feeling but my pain is enough for them to intervene or try to comfort.

I have learned that disableism cannot be reduced to a simple Black/White binary. Even as I struggle against it, I perpetuate it. Just as we understand that society is inherently racist, classist, or sexist, it is also highly ableist. If this were not an absolute truth, the various barriers that block or limit participation would not exist. My task is to now unlearn that which I have accepted as truth. For me it becomes difficult when I begin to look beyond the limited experiences I have had as a differently abled person. There are issues of race, class, gender and even differing abilities to contend with. This task would not be so difficult today, had I made a conscious decision to acknowledge my various privileges in the past. I allowed my privilege to dictate what I learned and studied, thereby reinforcing the very hierarchies that I claimed to struggle against. Today I understand is that there is no universal experience and it is this very rainbow of difference that I must commit myself to embracing.