I think the main reason I write is because of the refreshing clarity that comes with being so much more honest than most people are willing to be. I hate to say this again but, especially in New Jersey. I am not against New Jersey. I actually love it here. But, did you ever love someone who didn’t know how to love you back?
What am I trying to tell you today? What is making me break from my normal routine to put fingers to keys and express my distress? It is mainly this; I have a disability.
That is very hard for me to say. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to know me. But I don’t want to be looked down on, or treated differently, due to something I can’t even help. If I say I’m having trouble catching onto something, I don’t want a certain teacher to say, “oh, that’s the slow one with A.D.D. Well I can’t make changes just for her.” When the reality is, due to my strong gifts of analysis and keen perception, I can see what the teacher cannot; everyone in the class is struggling.
I work with people with disabilities. I get them jobs. And figuring out how to approach this topic can be tricky. If they choose to disclose that they have a disability, they may get a break that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, because the employer will get a tax incentive. But many choose to not disclose that they even have a job coach because of the obvious discrimination that is out there. I’ve seen some of my client’s pitied also, and that’s not what they want either. They want to be treated normal just like everyone else.
The reality is, each one of us does have one or more disabilities, deficits, or shortcomings. We just go around acting like we don’t, and expect others to do the same. I don’t want to do this anymore, even though many won’t like me anymore. I want to be forgiven for who I am, rather than liked for who I’m not. I’ve never been pretentious. I can’t stand pretending, and I hate the sense that I’m supposed to.
The reason most of my good friends are people with mental disabilities is that I feel like I can be honest about the reality that I’m not perfect around them. I love them for that. I want to move in, hang out, do my laundry at their house, stay up to stupid hours of the night, eat the wrong food, say the wrong things.
I have difficulty with anxiety sometimes. I have to find a way to deal with this, or I am inclined to drink, spend the evening watching illicit movies, or both. I found that the one thing that was stressing me out the most was pressure being put on me by my boss. Once in a while she has gotten angry at me through email due to some stupid thing that I forgot to do. It seems I have hundreds of things I’m trying to remember all the time, and so it is not unusual to forget something, or mess something up. When I take a look around, others in my line of work make the same mistakes or worse. But feeling burdened beyond what I could handle, I wrote her an email. I told her that since I always did so well at my job, I never wanted to disclose this, but the truth is I struggle with some of my own mental health issues, just like our clients. I let her know how bad I felt when I let her down, and that I would continue to try and do my best.
She responded that I was doing a very good job, and I don’t make a lot of mistakes, but she is just frustrated that she sometimes has to tell me things several times. She is only telling me as it is how I will grow in my position. She said she understands that I may need extra support and I am a valued employee.
So, how do I feel about this? A little sad, tearful, humiliated or humble, or a little of both.
Can we ever conclude as a society that someone can have deficits in some areas, and at the same time be exceptionally gifted? What will it take for us to finally lay down our strict clocks, to allow an older cashier to take all the time she needs, to forgive the driver who is driving way too slow for the rest of us, with a handicapped decal hanging from his rear view mirror, to actually make friends with the lonely single man in the back of the church who seems strange to our societally tuned in sensibilities?
As for me? I see it as an act of rebellion to insist on being so imperfect. It is a fight to not let myself be looked down upon for my inherent human weaknesses. But I know my rights. And I am a big believer in self-advocacy, for myself and for others who are able to speak. For those who cannot speak, I will fight to the death for them, risking my job if need be, and I have. I’ve also failed to speak up for them, and carry that to my grave.
Being weak, cutting my hair in a defiant act against some inner insistence that I be beautiful enough to attract the right guy, having a “lower” job than my degree affords me, allowing myself to carry around a few extra pounds and not be less of a person because of it; or admit to my friends that I need a support group, and really should attend AA.
No doubt these things strengthen me in the long run. I thereby lend my resolve and strong will to a society that is painfully frightened to stand up and declare that it is also less than perfect, although deep down inside, each and everyone one of us knows for a fact, there really is no such thing.