Ain't no party like a Z list party

"Dear Sir/Madam, 

I have recently become a disabled person. Could you please send me the rules by which I must now live, plus a list of all the descriptors I should not use when referencing other 'crips', so I can assimilate instantaneously. I agree never to heed context, or apply common sense.



This probably sounds harsh. As a relative 'newbie' to the disability rights movement, as opposed to just 'disability rights',  (a.k.a. Just plain ol' equal rights) I'm constantly led to believe that anyone with a disability who believes in the rights of others with disabilities should also be over the moon to tell everyone about their disability, and keenly so. Yet, we still use the word 'disability' (notice how many times I've already used it here, just to make a point really) which I feel is a negative term anyway. So what if you believe in equal rights for those with disabilities, but just don't fancy putting yourself out there by telling people you are disabled? 

Most people with a mental health condition seem to feel they must put up with the same inequalities that exist for those with physical disabilities, yet remain unqualified for the title of 'disabled'. Maybe that's because it's a very misleading label anyway, but when you look at the realities of living with an already stigmatising label, it would seem that we get a bit of a raw deal. I'm also in the bracket of being amongst the most stigmatised of mental health conditions, so forgive me if I wave my disability status around like a badly drawn flag at the World Cup just so I can diffuse that a little.

There is a definite hierarchy within mental health; there are diagnoses that everyone understands to some degree, and there are diagnoses that will never illicit a positive response if you bring it up over the dinner table, even with close friends and after a few bottles of plonk. At the end of the scale where depression, anxiety and stress sit, you find the usual z-list celebrities clamouring to share their 'real life' stories and most of society bandying the terms around as if they were meaningless. 'Im so depressed' is akin to saying 'That annoyed me a bit' these days. That in itself is demeaning to those who are living with the kind of debilitating depression that dries up your last drop of hope and destroys your will to live on. Depression kills and yet we use the term as a throwaway. For the record, depression is a huge part of my own struggle, so I do not for a second wish to belittle it.
But at the other end of the scale, those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, psychosis or one of those inappropriately named 'personality disorders' are still billed as axe-wielding, child-murdering criminals with no chance of living their lives quietly under the radar. We lap up cheap 5* documentaries on 'mental patients' who stab their own parents to death because they're suffering psychosis. We ring our hands at the horror after reading the Daily Mail's coverage of a schizophrenic who goes on a shooting spree. We listen when told that the prison population all have 'antisocial personality disorder', and think that 'they should've been jailed immediately after diagnosis damnit!'. We allow the press to report in a way so irresponsible that it's hard not to think they may have their own dissociative personality disorder, whereby they are completely detached from the reality of any story they report on. There has to be an element of detachment when your job requires you to put your name to such bullshit every day, whilst knowing that your work is actively contributing to negative stigma and causing people to suffer unnecessarily - one wonders what sort of narcissism is required for such a role... 

I recently revealed my own personality disorder to my colleagues at work in a mental health campaign designed to break down some of the preconceptions about mental health and get people talking, and surprisingly, I was probably the only one who didn't receive any congratulatory emails extolling the virtues of my revelation, or messages from fellow disordered personalities who finally felt they could speak out about their own illness. At first I didn't even think about it, I was too busy thinking about how best to promote what I thought was an amazing campaign to as many people as possible. But then I realised I felt a bit, well, left out really. I hadn't gone into it consciously with any reward in mind, other than knowing I was doing something to challenge the status quo, but it hurt to feel that yet again I was the only one that nobody identified with. I've chastised myself for this, as you might imagine - contrary to popular belief, my ego isn't the size of a small planet and I actually feel embarrassed that this experience has been tainted by my need to be recognised for my contribution, or my failure when it comes to putting my own feelings aside for the benefit of the mental health agenda. I genuinely didn't view myself as any different to the people who shared stories of depression or anxiety - I assumed I'd just be accepted just because I put myself out there. But the truth is that although everyone has been extremely sad or a bit anxious at least once, making them instantly identify with at least some of the issues of those two more familiar conditions, most people haven't experienced having something wrong with their entire personality. I refer you back to one of my previous posts - there's nothing wrong with my personality per se, that's just the ridiculous terminology so thoughtfully dished out by doctors who would have no reason to function if it weren't for people like me.

So maybe I really am disabled; maybe I'm disabled by the very label I thought would signal the beginning of a new journey towards finally getting the treatment I needed, by giving the psychiatrists something to treat, the therapists something to cure. Maybe there's still a last bastion of stigma that I and others will kill ourselves trying to defeat, but will be in the end be forced to hand over to our younger counterparts from a new generation of poor souls to fight. 

"Dear Sir/Madam, 

I have recently become a disordered personality. Could you please tell me if there are any situations in which this won't be a disability?"


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