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When I Tell People I'm on Disability Due to Mental Illness

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I’ve been on disability for a couple of years now. When people ask, “so what do you do for a living?” I often am hesitant to reply. But the honesty in me and the boldness that I possess does not allow me to lie. So I spill it: I’m on disability for my mental illness. The looks I sometimes receive make me uncomfortable. It’s as if they now think that I am less of a person.

There is a stigma attached to not being able to function in society as a “normal” person. As a whole, the US pushes the American dream which consists of the perfect career, spouse and children; the white picket fence with a pet; the social life. However, it feels like there is no room in there for the people whose American dream became deflated by mental illness. And because there is no room for it, there is no acceptance of it. And because there is no acceptance, that leads us as disabled individuals to feel ashamed and embarrassed. I’m here to tell you that we want to be accepted, too.

There shouldn’t be any shame attached to something that a person or group of people struggle with. We didn’t choose this struggle; this struggle chose us. And I believe that everyone who has the struggle of living with mental illness is brave. We should not be looked down upon or made to feel ashamed because we have a documented disorder that makes us unable to function like everyone else. It’s hurtful and damaging to be frowned upon just because we have a disability.

We have families, careers, homes and social lives. We have everyday fun; we make people laugh; we are empathetic and intelligent. In my opinion, where there is a lack of understanding, there is ignorance. Where ignorance rests, compassion, understanding and sympathy cannot dwell. We are human beings. Everyone has issues, and ours shouldn’t be looked at as a personal weakness or a character flaw. We deserve respect just like everyone else.

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Originally published: November 7, 2016
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