Previous post in this series Finding Pride in My Disability
I spoke with my therapist about this concept, something she had never heard of and she suggested that it might stem from the positivity movement, similar to body positivity. She suggested that a body neutrality approach might be more comfortable.
I appreciate that she reiterated that I am not obliged to have pride in my disability or obliged to have any type of conceit around it.
I watched a video from The 19th on this topic and it is worth a viewing.
For Disability Pride Month, we were thrilled to welcome Raven Sutton, a disability advocate and influencer, and Carson Pickett, a defender for Racing Louisville FC, to discuss the state of people with disabilities in our culture. The 19th’s caregiving reporter, Sara Luterman, interviewed them about their careers, how people with disabilities are increasingly in the spotlight and how they’re telling their own stories.
One guest, Carson PIckett, says that disability pride is about feeling good in your body and not feeling ashamed of it. She then says that every time she walks out of the house she knows people will stare at her because she is missing an arm, but then a few seconds later claims she doesn’t even notice it. I wasn’t convinced she has processed all of this. But I am convinced she means well by trying to have these conversations.
Perhaps the absence of individuals with mental health disabilities is so striking in this conversation simply because there is a difference. Not in a hierarchical way, but a fundamental way. My trauma is certainly not beautiful or a source of pride, the same is true of my mood disorder and my anxiety to varying degrees. There’s a common trope that mental health suffering is tied to creativity and thus a sort of penance the artist (and the people who love them) must pay for their vision. It is more than the simple “learn to live with your suffering or offer it up” mentality because it was saying that the creation is more important to us as consumers than is the creator. Almost every week, we hear of creatives dying in accidents or due to self-harm or addiction and there’s almost a sense of it being the price we (they!) pay for their artistry.
That’s pretty fucked up.
Just yesterday, I unintentionally came across some data about life expectancy for women with mood disorder and it was a punch to my gut. Later in the evening, a colleague was describing a SWAT situation in his neighborhood, said it “was mental health” and that he firmly believes no one with “mental issues” should own a gun. I took several breaths before I opted not to confront him, but I felt the weight of that conclusion.
And going back to the video, early on the host is describing ‘disability porn’ as a tool to reduce the humanity and capabilities of people with disabilities. She said something like “Oh yay you went outside today” as an example of the condescension.
For a lot of us, going outside is a BFD. The mistake is diminishing people and assuming how they define accomplishments. I have multiple friends with significant autoimmune disorder symptoms that render a trip outside into the yard nearly impossible. Or the conditions of their home accessibility or insurance coverage keeps needed tools out of reach. For me as a person with anxiety plus a trauma history, going outside might be the hardest thing in the world for me.
Having someone affirm that yes, I did indeed do it is quite validating. I wish they had framed that issue as about the assumptions of the other person and the importance of communicating, rather than a one size fits all solution.
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