#GeekDis is a month long collaborative event created and being run by the lovely Heather over on Just Geeking By! Disabled members of the community talk about disability representation within Pop Culture!
In my life so far, I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Chronic Depression, IBS, and an unspecified anxiety disorder.
I am also visually impaired due to Keratoconus, and I’m currently in the process of trying to get a diagnosis for the chronic pain I’m struggling with, mainly in my arms, and fatigue that plagues me daily.
All of my issues are invisible. Unless you know that I have them and/or have seen me during an episode of mental illness, or what the fatigue/pain does to me, you’d be none the wiser.
In an average day, I often struggle to get out of bed. I have frequent mood swings, and I struggle with suicidal idealisation, and urges to self-harm. And this is only the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.
IBS has me constantly worried that I will have an accident in public, I can also suffer with excruciating cramps on a bad day. Anxiety makes leaving the house feel as if I’m navigating a minefield, constant pain makes doing simple things difficult and being visually impaired has impacted the way I enjoy my hobbies.
I don’t ever recall seeing any representation for mental health when I was a child. I definitely showed signs and symptoms, though.
I remember I used to grind my teeth at 3 years old, I also remember being punished by the headmistress at my primary school because I didn’t say “thank you” when I was given a cup of squash and some biscuits.
She took them off me and made me sit on the “naughty” mat. I still remember this vividly and how ashamed I felt.
I was able to speak. I was able to speak in full sentences. I only really spoke to my parents, though. I’d also only turned three a week before I started the nursery. I was used to being with my mother.
From that point on, I was just considered shy, when it was in fact anxiety that held me back socially.
As I got older, I struggled with keeping myself clean, cleaning my room, managing my life, and it felt as if more symptoms kept piling on.
I was only taken seriously when I started self-harming.
I was too afraid to talk about what I’d felt for the longest time, I was told I was lazy, scruffy, and kept hearing ignorant things on the subject.
No names, but someone once told my sister to go cut herself like her “mental” sibling. Another person said that people with mental illnesses just needed “a kick up the arse” and to get on with life.
Outside of ignorant statements, it seems that disability representation is often based on degrading stereotypes, not factoring in the different scenarios.
- Visually impaired people are often shown wearing sunglasses, with a guide dog and needing constant support. In reality, visual impairments are a spectrum.
- Anxiety disorders are often portrayed as a person being nervous when it is much more than that.
- ADHD in children gets portrayed as that naughty, hyper child when ADHD is far more complicated. I didn’t realise how many symptoms there were until I met Ben. There also seems to be little to no representation to the disorder in adults.
These are just three examples, I could easily write a 10 part series on stereotypes and how harmful they are.
Disability representation is important to me because of how isolating having your quality of life impacted by things out of your control can be.
It’s also disheartening seeing something you struggle with being represented in an often exaggerated way.
Ignorance grows through this type of behaviour, and people get treated differently than they should be.
In some cases, people are treated as fragile due to their conditions. I have been in the past.
It’s not often done with malice, but it can be quite condescending having people treated you a lesser person because of your disorders.
I believe that we need to teach children about disabilities and how different they can be. It’s important that people learn compassion, without belittling disabled people, they need to learn that people are different, they need to learn the information in case they find themselves dealing with similar things.
Representation is important, we’re all different, and we deserve to be treated well.
Thank you for your time, I appreciate you being here.
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