My friend Kevin, over at Voices of Glass introduced a new campaign a few weeks back which I fell in love with straight away. I immediately said to Kevin “count me in“. Since then it’s been something I wanted to get on to, but there were other issues to discuss, and I admit I got side-tracked.
The Dare To See It Differently Campaign recognises that there are extra challenges in life when we are faced with health difficulties, including mental and physical disabilities. They make life that bit harder. They can include hardship, injustices, stigma and discrimination in many guises. But why should it be that way? Life is hard enough without these added burdens. Enter the Dare to See It Differently Campaign.
If you or someone you love faces physical or mental health challenges why not copy and paste the relevant logo onto your blog or site and with it write why you consider yourself not to be disabled but instead to be differently abled!
I happen to have both mental and physical health challenges, and therefore I am posting both images. It’s funny though, because I can’t get my head around the idea of being disabled. Partly I think it’s somewhere I just don’t want to go, but more so, I just don’t see myself that way. I like this quote from Fred Rogers:
“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”
― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember
In this, he really looks at disabilities from both angles, mental and physical and even though I know my abilities are sometimes restricted by my physical and mental health issues, I don’t see it as a disability. Yes, they slow me down. Considerably. But I don’t often have to grind to a complete halt.
Recently the ‘good’ NZ Government decided to switch me from a ‘temporary’ sickness benefit to what is generally recognised as a more permanent ‘invalids benefit’. The basic difference is in how long the doctor thinks it will be before I am able to work in some type of paid employment of more than 15 hours per week. Right now that is restricted because of being unable to get medication to treat my physical challenges. In reality, it actually suits me to be on the invalids benefit because I don’t have to provide medical certificates every thirteen weeks, but rather every two years. That said, I struggle with that word ‘invalid’.
I’m not an invalid. To me an invalid is someone who can’t get out of their bed and probably can’t walk. I’ve got this mental picture in my head (probably from childhood) of an invalid, and it’s not me.
The thing is though that it is just another word, just like disabled. I am still able to live my life and contribute to society, just not in the usual paid, 40 hour week capacity. So with that in mind, I go for Kevin’s suggestion of diff-abled.
Now I’m going to throw a spanner in the works. [I hope that’s not a kiwi saying and you have no idea what I am saying.} And apologies to Kevin if I am getting off the track, but my mind led me here as I was writing (it’s scary where it sometimes leads when I write).
What I’m thinking is that we often talk about invisible illnesses not being as accepted in society as those which can be physical seen. All of my illnesses come under the category of invisible illnesses and I wonder if I am contributing to stigma of these, if I refuse to see myself as disabled or even an invalid? Maybe (and it is only maybe because I am simply thinking out loud) if I accepted myself as being disabled, then other people could accept it too. Maybe then there would be better recognition of the challenges I face.
It’s timely that yesterday I had a random conversation with my brother. He’s very special to me and I appreciate his opinion, even if I don’t always go along with it. I had commented that my psychiatrist had labelled me as weird (I’m Just Plain Weird). My brother couldn’t accept that and was adamant that I was as normal as he was. I guess it was a compliment (in a way) because he’s certainly had to witness some weird stuff over the years. I found myself arguing the point. I didn’t want to be normal. But then I don’t want to be labelled as disabled.
It’s a hard one to get my head around and I would love to hear what you think. It seems to me that perhaps it is a bit of a two-edged sword. I want my illness to be accepted and acknowledged yet I don’t like the terminology that comes with it. What do you think?
I will leave you with this rather long, but insightful story from (again) Fred Rogers. I love it.
“There was a story going around about the Special Olympics. For the hundred-yard dash, there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and, at the sound of the gun, they took off. But one little boy didn’t get very far. He stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard the boy crying. They slowed down, turned around, and ran back to him–every one of them ran back to him. The little boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line.
They all finished the race at the same time. and when they did, everyone in the stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long time. And you know why? Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”
― Fred Rogers
It’s occurred to me that my 13 year old nephew describes everything he thinks is great as ‘sick‘. I guess ‘sick‘ is a 13 year old’s way of saying ‘love it’. Hmmm.
- I’m Just Plain Weird (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Dare To See It Differently Campaign! (voicesofglass.com)
- Dare To See It Differently Campaign! (prideinmadness.wordpress.com)