I have been managing my chronic pain and taking care of myself for years. But taking care of myself requires the cooperation of other people, and that can be the most difficult challenge to overcome. I cannot take care of myself or be well if others do not take my pain seriously. Just because I was able to do X yesterday does not mean I can do it today. The pain comes and goes. Once it starts I have to let it take its course. But society caters to people who are able-bodied and physically strong. Illness and pain are not compatible with the typical pace of life, and I admit I have anxiety about falling behind.
Living with an invisible disability can be exhausting – not only because chronic, searing pain is energy-draining (in my case), but because it leaves behind no evidence. Communicating with others about my pain often leaves me feeling misunderstood and isolated. Sometimes I want to wear tops that reveal my scar all the time, in order to silently “prove” there’s a *real* reason I just want to lie down, can’t carry that ten pound box, or don’t want to stay out all night partying. I cannot shake the feeling that other people doubt me or believe I use chronic pain as an excuse to get out of doing certain things.
Mental illness is no exception to this rule: people think they know what it looks like, that they can spot a person with a mental illness a mile away, and that if a person doesn’t live up to those expectations, they’re either seeking benefits they “don’t deserve,” or seeking attention. And with regards to depression specifically (as it’s the topic of the original article, and my greatest knowledge base), they tend to think that if someone isn’t spending all of their time crying, frowning, or refusing to get out of bed, they can’t possibly have it.
I have learned that differently abled means poor to many. It means that you are not working. It means that you have no identity or interests. I understand for many being differently abled means poverty because we live in a world that does easily make the accommodations that are necessary to participate in paid work. Knowing that this is the case, why does the stigma attach itself so ferociously? If a person is unable to work because of a lack of accessibility, why do we feel the need to persecute them because of the way our society is designed?
When I tell people that I write, the answer is usually that it makes sense. It does not occur to anyone that I chose this because of a love of writing and sharing ideas. Writing is something that I was interested in from the time that I was a small child. Because I am doing it, it certainly is not real work. Such ideas do not attach themselves to a friend of mine, who makes his living freelancing in this area. Sitting together, people will invariably ask him a multitude of questions, ignoring me completely. It is understood that he chose his work out of love and not convenience.
More than two dozen seniors at Lincoln University, in Oxford, Pa., are in danger of not being able to graduate this spring — not because they’re under disciplinary probation or haven’t fulfilled the requirements of their majors, but because they were obese as freshmen.
It might sound like a joke, or a violation of individual rights, but James L. DeBoy, chair of Lincoln’s health, physical education and recreation department, said he sees it as his “professional responsibility to be honest and tell students they’re not healthy.”
In the news:
Disability turns laughing matter in Channel 4 comedy show [Headline is really misleading past the first few paragraphs of the article] [Also, oh gosh! People with disabilities don’t all agree on everything! I love that they spelled that out in the article, but it always bothers me that this is considered news.]
Penned by writers from Skins and The Thick of It, the series features six disabled characters marooned on an island, including a blind man, a woman with cherubism and a paraplegic man. Each character is played by a disabled actor with the same disability, and one complains about the number of non-disabled actors portraying disabled people.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of the Royal Association of Disability Rights (Radar), says: “There is likely to be a storm of comment from disabled people and non-disabled people alike over Cast Offs. Some disabled people will find it funny and real – portraying disabled people as adults who swear, drink and have sex. A real break from covering disability with kid gloves, or not covering it at all. Others may well find it offensive.”