As I await response on whether my disability will be denied or extended (and please, no horror stories about how yours was cut off, because I know it can happen to me and it just makes it all worse, freaked out enough) I’ve come to ponder the question:
Is mental illness truly a disability?
There is a huge difference between having a singular diagnosis which responds well to one medication and stabilizing or spending 20 plus years of your life on a never ending medi go round because you have so many diagnoses none of the meds will work in concert.
You get a little better. You slide back. You go manic. You slip into a months long depression. Rinse, lather, repeat. Now toss in the fact I’m only “functional” for about four months of the year (used to be spring and summer) and there are days when the anxiety and paranoia have me literally ready to physically launch myself at someone who sets me off…
I’d call it a disability.
What does an employer want more than anything from an employee?
Stability. Half the time they don’t care if you have the IQ of pocket lint. If you show up as scheduled without fail and mimic doing a half assed job…You’re golden.
If you bounce off walls, excel, then for months sink into this slovenly tear streaked “hiding in the bathroom” trainwreck who can’t complete a simple task to par…It doesn’t matter how skilled or smart you are.
You don’t meet criteria one for employment.
With other disabilities, employers will make concessions, accessibility, compromises. If you use a wheelchair, they obviously don’t expect you to stand. If you’re diabetic and need to dash off because your blood sugar’s gone wonky, they don’t fire you for being a flake. If you have cancer and aren’t feeling well due to treatment, they won’t castigate you for calling off or throwing up on the floor.
(And no, I am not saying mental illness is worse than cancer because any chronic illness sucks equally for the person going through it.)
I’ve never had a job where I got “mental health days”.
“I can’t stop crying and I think people are going to attack me so I may need to stay home to avoid ya know, getting violent.”
“I’m manic and thinking it’d be a good idea to table dance at work while demanding dollar bills be stuffed into my bra, perhaps today is not a good day…”
“My meds make me too groggy to be coherent.”
“My others meds are making me nauseous and I have to throw up every five minutes.”
Oh, nooo, those are not legitimate reasons. It is not an illness to employers, or for that matter, the general populace.
You are weak, lazy, making excuses, you don’t want to grow up, you don’t want to take responsibility, you’re milking the system…
Anything but facing the fact that mental illness is real and it can happen to anyone, including the naysayers. If they acknowledge that it might be contagious and put them at risk.
So suck it up and quit being a baby.
(All the while your fight or flight response is on high alert, you’re terrified, and can’t think straight so you assume the fetal position in a stock room-true story)
Nope, not at a problem at all, when your mind is all fucked up. Totally capable of rational thought and reaction.
Hey, here’s an idea. Hire people drunk off their asses, stoned out of their gourds or hopped on drugs. Then see if they can do a good job.
Because like it or not, mental illness is like being under the influence. Your reactions, your thoughts processes, coping abilities…it all hinges on your brain interpreting situations correctly and sending the proper impulses to respond in kind.
No more than one can “talk” themselves sober, a mentally ill person cannot talk themselves out of imbalanced brain chemicals. We may learn techniques in therapy to minimize or at least postpone some meltdowns, but for every one of those, there are ten failures. To fail in front of others and have your intelligence questioned when the problem is illness, not a matter of smarts, is insult to injury.
If my brain processed things properly so I could respond properly, I’d hardly call it a disability. It’d be an annoyance like my allergies.
Te fact is affects every aspect of my life, including the “fun” stuff, tells me it’s no affectation, no dramatization. I have twenty years of records to prove something’s off kilter.
Wanting to be stable and make a contribution and have some self esteem is not the same as being capable of it. It seems like a matter of positive thought and rah rah rah I CAN do this.
Until you live inside a mind with its circuits crossed.
Then you realize how futile it can be. You fight your hardest and have more failures than wins. It takes a toll on your self esteem, your motivation, even your hope for things to improve.
How is it not a disability to never be in your “right” mind?
In fact, the notion that anyone can say a long standing history of mental illness without any long periods of stability isn’t a disability only proves their own ignorance.
Big difference between being on Prozac for six months due to the blues or whatever or spending your entire life balancing a multiple diagnosis, battling your own mind, dealing with med after med that doesn’t work or quits working or has horrendous side effects. And it is truly horrendous when the very meds that “correct” what’s causing the bad input then affect other normal aspects like appetite, weight, sex drive, sleep, lucidity…It’s a constant trade off.
And it makes you want to go off the meds just to remember how you should feel, in case there is something wrong that isn’t a side effect from the meds. Not to mention the manic episodes when you’re pretty sure you’re cured and could solve world hunger while riding a pegacorn over Atlantis. The mania convinces you that you’re happy, all is better, fuck the pills.
It’s an endless cycle.
And it is not WHINING.
Mentally ill people just want what we were born without that comes standard issue for most. Normal brain wiring. There’s no fun in constantly feeling like you’re in danger and can’t breathe or that life isn’t worth living and you should kill yourself and solve it all.
We want to NOT have such thoughts constantly.
Because if someone roofie’d you and you were held accountable for your actions and called a whiner…You’d be pissed.
We are at the mercy of our disorders.We live with the fallout, even though technically, we’re generally in altered states which leads to bad choices and bad behaviors. Like being drugged.
Our brain is pretty much the epicenter around which everything stems and it is the brain that directs everything to work in concert.
If the brain itself isn’t doing its job properly, how can we be expected to perceive things properly to keep everything working right?
One bad fuse, in our case, faulty wiring, can take an entire car down.
Is it so far fetched to view humans as such?
NONE of us with mental illness want to feel this way. We don’t want the stigma, the judgments, the “looks”, as if we’re going to eat your young and spit out the gristle or something because mental illness means “bat shit violent crazy lock them up in the rubber ramada”.
Our thoughts get distorted. Through these distorted thoughts, our bodies react, with fight or flight, terror, breathing problems, stomach problems, ability to focus.
No different than any other illness that affects your ability to function “normally”.
Except we will never be cured or in remission.
We can only keep trying to be stabilized and riding the roller coaster of that is mental illness.
Next time you want to roll your eyes and scoff as mental illness being a disability…Remember a time when you were drunk, high, on pain killers, coming out of surgery and feeling out of sorts…How would you feel, if in that altered state through no fault of your own, your entire worth and intelligence was judged based on your inability to be coherent, walk a straight line, stay awake…All things you’re perfectly capable of when not under the influence of something.
No one wants to be judged for things out of their control.
It’s not shirking responsibility, it’s just facing that due to whatever twist of fate…We do not have the level playing field others do in which to make informed choices at all times.
Cut us some slack, please.
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