Disability Pride is a thing with Disability Rights Activists that has garnered us July as a theme month.
Au contraire I’m not proud to have a disability.
I take pride in the skills, abilities, and strengths that I used to help myself recover and continue to use to empower others to recover.
The fact is that the breakdown and major relapse I experienced were two terrifying events. What happened to me wasn’t normal. I’m not proud to have been symptomatic. I cannot champion that being ill was a good thing.
What happened after I recovered was the great thing: I decided to do pro bono public speaking as an Advocate. My goal here was to motivate other peers to go after their goals with gusto.
I wanted to be the cheerleader for others who didn’t have family support or mental health staff in their corner telling them that recovery was possible.
Since 2002 when I first started out I’ve been attacked for claiming that recovery is possible.
One critic told me they doubted other peers could do what I’ve done.
That wasn’t my point in publishing my memoir Left of the Dial–to dangle an unobtainable carrot in front of people.
The exclamation point was that you could have your version of a full and robust life living with an illness.
Finding the career that gave me joy and listening to music and dressing in outfits and making art was what enabled me to recover.
Recovery comes to each of us in different guises. Each person’s recovery is as individual as our thumbprint.
Sing in a choir. Bake a cake. Ride a skateboard. It’s all great.
In 1988 I wouldn’t accept “the only option” presented to me: warming a chair in a traditional day program, collecting a government disability check for the rest of my life, and living in crack-infested low-income public housing.
It’s fine if a person must collect a government disability check and can’t hold a traditional job.
Yet even with these limitations I submit that they can have their version of a full and robust life.
It’s called No Judgments okay.
Elsewhere in other blogs I’ve praised the hard work and cheerfulness of Rite Aid cashiers. Some of them have been working at their jobs for three four or five years.
No one gives them grief for not having “competitive employment.”
Yet as soon as a person with a mental health issue can’t hold a job they’re looked down on.. The Right Wing crucifies people for collecting “entitlements.” Even if you have a genuine disability in some states the government doesn’t want you to collect Medicaid unless you have a job.
Intelligent thinking right? How is someone who’s actively symptomatic always going to be able to hold a job?
The point is my memoir Left of the Dial went a step further than Elyn Saks’s memoir The Center Cannot Hold.
What both our books had in common was the premise that you can do what you love even when you struggle.
You can have your version of a full and robust life even when your life is hard because of your illness.
And it’s precisely because you’re doing what you love–on or off a job–that the pain is alleviated.
Point taken? I hope so.