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Please Don't Write Off People With Mental Health Disabilities

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I am young and disabled. Well, let’s just say I’m under 50 and living with mental illness, and have been doing so for five years. To many people, I am “lazy” and just don’t want to work. Living with disabilities and dealing with the assumptions of society make life much more difficult.

Disabilities come in many forms. My disability is a mental disorder. In fact, it’s two illnesses, bipolar disorder and severe anxiety. To the public, this is often not really considered a disability. To me, it’s a difficult way of life.

In the past, when I told the first person about my disability, I got that look — you know, the one you get when people judge you. I was confused. I thought confessing my problems to a friend would help me handle my disabilities. Maybe I could even build a support system. The support system part was a good idea. The mistake was picking the wrong person to help me.

I know the mistake I made now, but then, I was hurt. I was devastated by the remarks and criticism from someone I thought was understanding. This was someone who supported those with physical disabilities and even went the extra mile to help them. I often watched with pride being inspired by the actions of this friend. Now, let me start calling this person an acquaintance because, since then, I’ve changed my circle.

I’m worth it.

It took a while to understand the problem wasn’t me. I wasn’t lazy, nor was I using the government to take care of me. I was sick. I am sick. Sometimes the days are almost impossible to complete. Over time, after admitting my position in life to others, I’ve learned who really cares and who wants to live in a bubble. I am no longer angry about the assumptions. I feel sorry for those who cannot wrap their minds around the fact that mental health disabilities are real.

I know now that I am worth the same as when I tried to hold down a job unsuccessfully, and when relationships spiraled out of control. Back then I didn’t see my worth, but now I see just how strong I was. To go through such hell in the past and come out with dignity was a feat many never accomplish. I am no better or worse than anyone else, but I will take pride in my accomplishments.

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No one gets to write off mentally disabled people. I am an advocate for them. I stand tall and make the ignorant look at what non-disabled people try to misunderstand. I know they have the capacity to get it. It’s just like how much I hate math, but If I tried hard enough, even I would grow to love it. Well, at least I would get better at calculations. That’s what it’s like. Mental health disabilities look ugly to some members of society, I know. So, how do you think it feels to the one who endures the pain?

The truth

Being disabled isn’t always about wheelchairs and leg braces, though sometimes that’s the case. But sometimes a disability looks like a physically healthy woman of 45 laughing at a few jokes. Maybe disabilities look like men at the gym with their friends. Maybe you cannot judge what disabilities are supposed to look like. Maybe you can just accept the fact that people are getting help. People are trying to survive, and they need support.

I am young, compared to some, and I am disabled. In fact, I’ve probably always been disabled. I have mental illnesses, and in the past two years even developed quite a few physical conditions as well. I am not bitter at those who don’t understand. I am sad. I have hopes that eventually society can take others at their word.

Remember this, just because “we don’t look sick” doesn’t mean we aren’t. When I look at you, I don’t guess at your intelligence or wealth. So, see me at face value and get to know me for who I am. I think there are millions who want the same thing.

This story originally appeared on Sherrie’s blog.

Getty image by LucidSurf.

Originally published: August 9, 2020
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