Posts Tagged ‘ableism’

Blogging Against Disablism Day: The problems of having an acknowleged problem.

May 4, 2010

I had a bad weekend so this is a couple of days late. I hope it’s not all stuff that’s been said before.

Blogging Against Disablism Day

I have a mental health condition. And it’s proved practical for me to tell people this, especially if I’m going to be living or working with them. I have mood swings, I have days on which I can’t do anything, I react oddly to certain things which seem minor, I use hyperbolic language as a coping mechanism. And if someone’s going to be in close quarters with me, then it can help for them to know that.

So I have an acknowledged mental health condition. Which often seems to mean that it’s open season on my character and behaviour. I know I’m ill, so do my Able friends and acquaintances, and therefore they pass comment.

Often it’s the helpful analyses of my behaviour. ┬áIf there’s a personality clash of some sort, everyone feels free to examine my behaviour, explain how I’m ill. People tell me about discussions they’ve had about personality traits (“you seem too quick to condemn people, and decide they’re bad people”). Oh, and there’s the crying: “[X thing] would probably go better if you didn’t burst into tears”. My behaviour almost always needs to change, and Able friends don’t realise the things that I just can’t change, can’t stop, like the crying. I’ve cried uncontrollably in certain situations for years, and if there was any way to stop it I would, because it makes me a focus of attention in all the ways I don’t want to be.

Quite often people do this without examining their own behaviour. I was recently subjected to a long, “reasonable discussion” of how difficult and unpredictable I’ve been to live with this year, during a depressive spell. Whenever I attempted to explain how my depression had made things difficult to live here, and how other people may have contributed to that, it turned into how my interlocutor understood really well, because I’d caused the “exact same” feelings in him, and then into analysis of my “problems”.

It’s been worse at other times this year, when there have been clashes with people who might, also, possibly have similar problems to me. But who, officially, don’t. By which I mean, people who will appropriate mental illness in discussions of it, but who “don’t really have a problem” or “aren’t that ill”. I’m open, with my friends at least, about my hospitalisations, my continuing problems with anxiety and depression. I kind of have to be, owing to my tendency to burst into tears. But people who are convinced that they understand mental illness, who indeed, probably do, use my diagnosis and my openness against me. Because, in their minds, of course Melusin’s behaviour is problematic, Melusin has a Problem.

This is ableism, and it’s pervasive, and I find it in a great many situations. It’s enough to make me want to stop being open about my condition and symptoms, (which I’m not in all situations) but I still think that’s one of the biggest things I can do to reduce stigma.