Monday, June 13, 2016

If You're Unhappy & You Know It, Shut Your Mouth

there's been a lot of discussion lately about assisted suicide, a lot of it stemming from a movie that's coming out called "me before you" which i know nothing about and so will not comment on directly. instead, i want to talk about how disabled people talk about and treat other disabled people. id like to talk about the voices that go unheard in our struggle to be treated with respect and dignity, and mainly id like to talk about the multitude of people, both SJW's and disabled people themselves, who post about how outraged and indignant they are that someone could even hint at the idea that disabled life isn't worth living.

i think people should be a little more cautious in their outrage and indignation with this. i think that in a lot of ways, other disabled people are sometimes even worse than healthy people at criticizing and silencing other disabled people. i think there's a really, really bad habit in our community of being offended when someone else from within feels they would rather be dead than live with their disability the rest of their lives. just like most other marginalized groups, we are very good at eating our own. sometimes we go so hard with the "im proud to be a tubie/wheelchair-er/survivor/warrior/whatever" stuff that we can make other people who are those things feel completely invisible because they don't feel that way and are being told they should. we silence them by saying, "youre not doing anything for the cause with all your talk about disability sucking. sit down."

i didn't see it before, but it rapidly became very clear to me when i tried out various support groups/forums for the surprise colostomy i had found myself left with. i didn't stay in any of them for long, because i very quickly realized that if anyone else legitimately felt the way i did about it--that i would rather be dead than live with it--they weren't speaking up. in fact, it was taken as a personal offense that i would even dare think of such a thing, and i was instructed unanimously to seek psychological help, though the tone of this 'advice' ranged from sympathetic to downright nasty, including one person who encouraged me to go ahead and die because people like me are the reason there's a stigma around ostomies and everyone else would be better off without my voice being heard.

and while i understand academically at least, why people might get their feathers ruffled, i dont understand it on a personal level. it is not one and the same thing to say "i personally do not feel that MY life is worth the price tag i have to pay for it" and "everyone else in my situation isn't worth the price tag either". people react as though it is a given that if you dont feel your own life is worth living because of Reason X, theirs isnt either. it doesn't seem to come up very often that while you may share a reason, you don't share a life. and thanks to the popularity of the pain olympics, we can't point out that our lives are different, because its throwing down the gauntlet for everyone to tell the best sob story that ends in triumph over adversity.

i have never felt so alone in my life as i have since december. there is *nowhere* for me to turn where i can feel accepted and validated. my feelings about the bag have not changed, i merely stopped talking about them because all it has brought me has been grief and guilt and arguments. it turns out a couple of choruses of "im unhappy and i dont want to be here" is even more taxing to the soul than "99 bottles of beer on the wall". of course there are people who have been very supportive of my feelings, but they aren't dealing with my situation, and there are people in my situation who are not supportive of my feelings, and there has been no overlap between the groups. even the people ive spoken to or post-lurked on who also hate their ostomy still have other factors and seem to feel the reward is worth the cost. i dont. i never have, and i never will. the one person i love more than anything is why i stay--because i love her, and almost losing me nearly killed her as well, and i care about her well-being too much to voluntarily do that to her again. but i am not grateful to be here.

and that doesn't mean i dont want to live, it means i dont want to live like this. i don't want to care for this thing, i don't want to live with the godawful side effects and constant misery and pain. i don't want to have it on my body. and frankly, it upsets me that anyone could tell me that it makes me ungrateful, it makes me selfish, it makes me a blight on the disabled community because my god what kind of message am i sending. i didn't think of myself as a messenger, but i am constantly told otherwise. id better change my tune or stop singing, because the disabled community at large is more important than me. i am not the greater good, and if i won't sing in harmony with the rest of the chorus, i need to sit down.

a huge factor in play here is also that i wasnt given a choice in the matter. i hear a lot that im not alone in that, that nobody would choose to have an ostomy, but im not saying i didnt have a choice because the alternative was death--that's just having a choice you don't like. i didn't get to decide to live or die, that choice was made for me. i never consented to having it done. i had no idea that it had been done. it had never even been something that was ever brought up by any of my doctors in any of my appointments my entire life. it was never considered or discussed, and while i have a lot of fears regarding things that could go medically wrong with me, i never feared this.

but i didn't find any allies even among others who woke up one day to find themselves suddenly with this bag they weren't prepared for. they were all happy to be alive, too. they all said i needed to "get some help" and assured me that how i felt would change, and i'd learn to appreciate the bag and discover that i could still have a super awesome life. i would adapt and find a new path and be grateful to still be alive. i know it was well-intentioned, but it didn't bring me up. it felt like i was just sinking deeper into the quicksand and everyone else was standing around the pit talking about how they swam out of it and i would be able to do it as well, instead of reaching out to help me. maybe they all really were just coping that well with their stuff and something is wrong with me. or maybe they're not coping that well at all and they're afraid if they tried to help, theyd realize they were still in the pit all along.

cause the thing is, when the bulk of the disabled community screams as one voice about how proud they are to be disabled and what a warrior they are and how strong their will to live is.. the ones who arent screaming find themselves on the outside of the community. like theres something wrong with them because theyre not proud of their struggle or because they can't overcome their disability and it looks like everyone else has, and everyone else is handling it better than they are. so as a group we agree to present a united front by pretending we're standing on the edge of the pit even if in reality we're up to our eyeballs.

when healthy people shut you out, it sucks, but hey, we already knew we weren't part of that world anyway and we can just go meme about it and laugh with our fellow spoonies. there's a solidarity in being a marginalized group. but when its other disabled people shutting you out, you find yourself *very* alone in the world. at least the ring around the pit is talking to you while you sink so you're not drowning by yourself.

 i wish more people would consider the implications of how what they're saying makes some of their fellow spoonies feel. because to me, as i scroll through dozens of posts about not just this movie, but just in general about ableism, about pride, about struggle and the inevitable triumph, overcoming, fighting, and warriors, what i hear is a cacaphony of voices all telling me that my feelings are offensive and stupid and they dont matter because there's a larger picture. there's something*wrong* with me because i can't put on a smile and a tshirt that says "proud to be an ostomate" and stop making people uncomfortable by being honest.

it reminds me  of how i felt when i figured out that i was gay, and i was constantly on guard against letting anyone know that. the real me was locked away inside, because i had to protect her even though i was ashamed of her and wished she'd just stop being awful and go away. and all these years later, ive found myself back in the closet again, lying to everyone and swallowing my truths so that i wont be rejected for feelings i can not change or control. its fucking lonely. and while obviously im *glad* that most people find a way to overcome their illnesses, adaptive devices, and cyborg parts, or at least make peace with them, that simply isnt true of everyone. it feels awful enough to spend every minute of every day wishing for an end to this perpetual physical misery without also feeling like you're a terrible, selfish, broken person for not being able to cope with it better.

we need to make it okay to not cope. we need to make a safe space for people to say, "im not coping" without being told theres something psychologically wrong with them and they need to be medicated. we need to listen to each other and really, truly care what the other person is saying. we need to recognize that its OKAY to not feel like a warrior, that its OKAY to not be comfortable in your own skin, and that its OKAY if its not for reasons listed in the DSM. we need to make it OKAY for people to talk about death, and to want it to happen on their own terms. we need to make it okay to not be okay, and we need to stop making the situation worse by telling people who aren't okay that they need to shut up and stop making disabled people look bad. if we want healthy people to stop looking at us as poster children, i think a good start would be not looking at each other that way.

i don't want to be expected to live up to anyone's standard of disability or illness--healthy or otherwise.

im not a tubie. im not an ostomate. im not a spoonie or a GPer or a mito warrior. im not sick. im not disabled. i am not a spokesperson or representative of any of these communities. im just me. im just a girl with a lot of medical problems and no fight left in me. im just a girl who isn't coping but does a really good job pretending that she is. im just a girl being held prisoner in a body that won't work. i will never, ever be able to have the life that i want, and i do not want the life i have. i dont want to pay the price tag thats attached to this beating heart--but im doing it anyway. im just a broken girl who's still *here* and wants that to just be enough.

im just me, and i am not okay.

okay?