The Stigma of Having a Disability

Today I read an article about this woman with down’s syndrome and how she had got a job at her sister’s salon. When Jenna was asked what her favorite thing about working at the salon she stated that she didn’t have a favorite thing because she loved everything. Here was a beautiful woman just full of sunshine and she didn’t let her disability stand in the way of her being happy. Her sister is advocating for more businesses to hire those with disabilities especially those who have down’s syndrome.

The article made me think about my own disability and those with a mental illness. There is still a lot of stigma attached to having a disablity especially if it’s a mental illness. Whenever I tell someone new about my disability there is always this fear that I will be judged or they won’t like me. I’m learning to stop being a people pleaser but that takes practice.

Lately I’ve been spending my evenings sitting with my neighbors at the apartment complex I live in. When I first moved in I would notice a group of the residents sitting together and talking. At first I was a little put off by it, as I was very reserved and didn’t talk to many people, let alone people I didn’t know. They were always so friendly whenever I came to go swimming. It took me about a month and I started to join in on their conversations. Before long I became apart of the group and most evenings I’m outside with them talking about life. I love living here. These meetings give me something to look forward to, it’s really the highlight of my day. I’ve been very lonely lately and it’s really helped to fill that void. In the past I’ve always been very social so this has helped me blossom back into the social butterfly I use to be.

After you spend a good amount of time with people they start to ask questions and that always puts me in a very awkward situation wondering if I should tell them about my situation. I’m forty years old on disability. I have had this cover that I tell everyone that I’m a graphic designer which is true but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. What if I tell them and they don’t want to hang out with me anymore. Those are the things that go through my mind. Most of the residents are older and are on a fixed income as well but I know that some will wonder why I’m on disability so early in age. If I tell them I’m on disablity will they ask more questions as to what kind of disability.

My history with having a mental illness is not everyone understands it. Some don’t validate it as a disability because they can’t see the symptoms. If only mental health was treated just like general health then matters would be so much better. So if you have a disability that’s a mental illness you really have this stigma attached to you. People with depression and other mental illnesses are good at hiding it. On the outside it might seem that the person is happy but underneath is a lot of pain and suffering. I can see why some would see the disconnect but many of us have learned how to survive in a world full of stigma. Sometimes it’s easy to just pretend you’re okay.

If having a mental health disability wasn’t enough I also have the added stigma attached to being gay. I’ve always been really hesitant sharing that information with new straight people in my life. It took me about a month and it finally came up tonight. I’m in this new mode of not caring what people think, well I’m learning, so when one of the residents was talking about another resident who was in his 50s and not married implying he might be gay. She did the hand gesture to imply that he was gay. I started to cringe. I know she didn’t mean any harm by it but I couldn’t not leave the conversation without taking a stand. I didn’t confront her on it. I just made a couple of comments about that it’s not always the case about single men. Then another resident started talking about if you’re boyfriend is wearing nicer jewelry then you might having something to worry about. I replied well that wasn’t always the case, that not all gay people were fabulous like that. I then said that I was one of them but I said though I’m still fabulous. The one lady goes are you gay and I said yes. They laughed at that and we went on talking about something else.

In the back of my head I wondered were they thinking negatively of me now. Those are just fears and I can’t entertain them. Even if they did it has nothing to do with me. All I can do is be me and live the life the best of my ability. Some people will judge me and I really don’t need or want them in my life. It’s hard to let go of caring what people think of you. I’ve done it most of my life so it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I’m working on it. The same goes with having a disablity. Those who judge people with disabilities are the ones with the true disablity.

I think that’s the misconception that we’re half a person, were not able. I use to think my disability was just that. It made me feel like less of a person. I now see the value in myself and realize that my disability is what makes me special. Having to endure years of depression and PTSD has gave me the tools to help others who are walking down the same path as I have. I’m stronger and more empathetic for having to walk that path. I also judge life on one’s impact. You don’t have to have a college degree or even a job to impact other people. I know that I bring joy into people’s life. Just today I was talking with the complex manager and she talked about how she loved having me live here. She also talked about my joyful personality. It made me feel wonderful that she saw me for who I am. I don’t always feel that.

I think it’s important to not get caught up in those who don’t see you. Some people just don’t have the ability to see past something. That’s their flaw not yours. Sometimes you just have to let it go, which is tough as nails at times. Awareness is also important and something I’m working on creating with my blog. People can change and if other’s don’t take a stand and advocate for what they believe in, nothing will ever change. Some people don’t understand why I’m so public with my struggles. I know people judge me for that, even people in my own family. That’s just apart of the stigma, that you’re suppose to keep mental illnesses covered up. Being open about a mental illness will put shame and guilt upon the family name. This does more harm than good. They’re not living my life so they have no right to speak for me. They don’t have to fight the same battles nor have they had to experience what I did.

So I’m going to keep being me and live the life the way I want to. Being authentic will only help me to grow it will also give others the courage to do so as well. I will finish with one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson. We are all meant to shine…

Image result for our deepest fear quote

Advertisements

Depression Stigmata

I wish… that depression didn’t have such a stigma attached to it. I wish people wouldn’t question my symptoms because they can’t be seen like other illnesses. I wish I didn’t have depression but I do.

It’s easy to get trapped in thinking that you don’t deserve anything good especially kindness. Depression grabs ahold of you like cheetah to an antelope and it won’t let go until it’s gotten the kill.

Many times in my life I’ve felt weak, more times than not. Recently I was faced with something very difficult and the depression flood gates were opened wide up. The waves could have taken me under and washed me into sea but I stood still.

It’s not been easy. In a few days time I was transported to three years ago when I stuck in Nashville faced with the death of my sweet Mama. No matter how far I run I can’t see to get away from those two days. With the snap of my fingers I’m instantly transported back to that scary place. Where I’m alone and scared.

Even today I feel alone and scared but I refuse to give into the pain. I might end up homeless and alone but at least I’m still standing. No matter what is thrown my way I will survive it.

When you’ve faced depression head on for so many years you begin to rack up the scars. Look at them one by one and all you can see is the pain but if you’re able to look at them from afar you realize they’ve turned into armor.

The future is unknown. Even tomorrow is unknown. What I do know is that I deserve kindness. I deserve to be happy. We all do. I am not my depression. I’m so much more than that. So if you know someone struggling and you’re unsure how to handle the situation just show them kindness. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems but a little kindness goes a long ways.

Living the Dysthymic Life

Depression can suck the life out of you. It can make everything bright in to muted colors. It can be loud and intrusive. Depression can turn you upside down and leave you dangling from the edge. Just when you think you’re free from it’s painful grip it pulls you back in.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life depressed. I’ve cycled in and out of deep depression more times than I can count or remember. They call that dysthymic, where you never really stop being depressed but you’re not at the rock bottom of a full depressive episode. It’s like the limbo of mental health.

My day to day life consists of me being alone hiding in the basement. The more depressed I become the less likely I am to take care of myself. I’m over 400 pounds and there are times I go hungry because I don’t have the energy to make a meal. I’ve learned to have food that doesn’t take a lot of effort but on a limited budget that’s not always easy. I go weeks sometimes without bathing and even longer doing laundry.

Why am I putting this out there? For starters it’s a part of my healing. I would like my life to mean something. I don’t want to just be this depressed person. By sharing my struggles and suffering I hope that I can help others. I know how it feels to be surrounded by people and yet still feel so alone. I’ve lived the shame that comes with not taking care of yourself.

I don’t do these things on purpose. I mean who would??? I’m literally torturing myself. I’m not lazy though some might think I am… This is what depression does. It turns you inside out. You bleed yet there is no blood, wound or scars. You scream but no words escape. You want the pain to end so badly that your mind starts to wander into the abyss.

I’ve done all of this most my life. I don’t know any other way but I’m trying to living a more stable life… One where I can be happy and have the things I deserve like a good pair of shoes, and more than one pair of pants. When you suffer depression you build a world around it and when you build a life on a shaky foundation the walls are going to crash. There is no way anything will stand up.

After my Mom died I spiraled into a deep depression. I have struggled ever since to pull myself back up. I constantly feel like I’m climbing Mount Everest. Imagine if every thing you did felt like that? Or felt like you were carrying 100 pound weights on both shoulders.

It’s very common for individuals who suffer from depression to have a secondary issue. When you feel bad you try to do whatever you can to feel better. Any way to numb the pain will do. Many turn to alcohol or drugs. I turn to food. To the point where I’m so heavy that mobility is an issue. I’ve spent over twenty years letting everything fall apart and now I’m learning to pick up the pieces. I’m not saying these things to have a pity party, they’re just the reality of depression. You not only have to combat the depression but all the secondary issues that go with it.

Which makes overcoming it much more difficult. I’ve ran all my life from the depression, pain and problems. This is the first time I’ve stuck around. I’m seeing a therapist regularly and have been on medicine to help control the depression for over two years. Unlike many illnesses there isn’t really a cure. You just learn to manage the symptoms.

I’ve never had stability and now that I’m getting older I so desperately long for it. I’m flawed but aren’t we all in some way or another. I’m also tired of falling apart and having to pick the pieces back up… starting all over. Some have the snap out of it attitude when dealing with someone with depression but it doesn’t work that way. I wish it did because I would have done that a long time ago. Depression doesn’t have visible symptoms like other illnesses do so many don’t validate the condition. So on top of everything you’re dealing with the depression, you also have the stigma that goes with it.

Some have said to me, in the past, why do you share these parts of yourself publicly? I do it because we shouldn’t have to hide. If we talked more about depression the stigma of getting help wouldn’t be there are severe. I also know that I’m not alone. So many people are in my shoes. If I can impact one life that would mean my suffering meant something. Twenty years of suffering has to mean something.

So I’m putting myself out there. I’m letting known my intentions to the universe. I want my story to make a difference in other people’s lives whether that’s through my story and/or my art. Not everyone will understand my struggles and that’s okay. I don’t do this for them, I do it for you. I also do it for me.

I matter. You matter. We all matter. Happiness is not a privilege. I don’t have much figured out and the future is very hazy but I hold onto hope that good things are yet to come. Until then I will just hold on for dear life and ride the storm out. You might not be able to see it always but the sun is always behind the clouds, even the darkness of night. We are meant to shine. While I don’t always feel good about myself and my self worth is fairly low I’m bound and determined to feel fabulous.

Wading Through The Depression Muck

Its not always easy to do. Motivation while depressed is like trying to push an elephant. Today I’m feeling alright.

It’s common for me to not leave the house for days. Isolation is on symptom of my depression. I also have PTSD.

Today my niece has a volleyball game. I love watching her play. There’s a part of me that wants to go back to bed. Getting ready seems too big of a hurdle but I don’t want to disappoint her.

The problem with depression is that you miss out on the living a lot. That’s one of my regrets dealing with depression.

I know that recovery means pushing through the muck of depression. I really wish I had a paddle boat. Often I feel like I’m not advancing like others think I should. I move in slow motion. A friend once told me that even when you move like snail you’re still moving.

So I’m thankful that I feel like going out into the world. Facing my fears one step at a time.

Living a Depressed Life

depression

Let’s be honest, depression bites. I mean if it was fun everyone would want to have it, right? There are few things in my life that’s remained constant and sadly depression is one of them. It’s an unwanted house guest who never leaves.

I’ve blogged most of my adult life and a lot of my posts have been related to depression. There is so much stigma out there related to anything mental health related I felt it was important to share my daily battles with depression.

My depression is crippling. I get the idea that many don’t understand (or don’t care) how much it affects my life. I know there are those who think I’m just lazy. If they could only living inside my mind for just one day they’d see that it’s not something I’m choosing. When I’m deeply depressed I feel down right awful both inside and out. Why would anyone inflict such torture onto themselves?

Depression is like a snowball, the longer you let it roll down the hill the bigger it’s going to get. The battle with depression is that it not only affects you emotionally but physically as well. If you’ve sunk to the bottom of the depression well it’s going to take a lot of effort to get out and most likely you won’t have the energy to call out for help. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth becomes like climbing Mount Everest. Imagine having to make it through the day weighted down by heavy chains and being unable to remove them. That’s what it’s like.

I’ve come to learn it’s about learning to maintain and cope with having depression, lately I’ve been struggling majorly. Logically one would think I would be on cloud nine being that I’ve just had my first art showing but that isn’t the case. Ever since I installed my artwork a few weeks ago I could feel that depression snowball build momentum. It was chipping away at everything good. It started out as little whispers eventually turning into lion roars that I wasn’t worthy of anything good.

Depression is deceptive and sneaky. It’s that little devil on your shoulders instead he’s inside your mind poking his stick at your consciousnesses. Depression tells me I’m alone and that no one loves me. Depression doesn’t give up until it’s unplugged your cord from the outlet.

Once you’re without power everything goes haywire. You’re disconnected from everything, especially the ones who love you.

The question is how do you get off that broken record. If you’ve suffered from depression a long while you will understand what I mean. I find myself repeating the same things over and over, and being unable to stop. I find myself repeating things over and over, and being unable to stop. I find myself repeating things over and over, and being unable to stop. I find myself repeating things over and over, and being unable to stop… I think you get the point.

Getting help is important and sometimes the hardest part of depression. Most of the time when you need help you are so battered and bruised that you can’t even voice the word help. Can you imagine being in a life and death situation where you are surrounded by people who can’t see that you’re in trouble and not being able to get help. The problem with depression is that many times the symptoms are masked. A prime example of this is Robin Williams. One of the funniest of all and inside he was dying and couldn’t tell a soul.

For a moment imagine what it’s like to feel like you are dying and there is no cure. It’s not a fun place to be. I’ve been running that broken record for over twenty years and I’m tired. So very tired. I want to be happy but I start to wonder if it’s even possible or if I deserve it.

Something has to give. I know I’m not alone. The National Institute of Mental Health stated that in 2012, an estimated 16 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. I hope that by creating this blog I’m able to release some of this tension while helping others.

If you know someone who suffers from depression reach out to them. Show them kindness. You don’t need to have the answers. Be there for them. Let them know that you’re on their side. All we need is a little love.