Today I emailed a friend of mine (who is queer and mentally ill), Subject "~closeting," telling her about how a casual friend and I were having a conversation on Facebook Wall about making plans to get together, and she suggested next week and I thought, "I don't know when my therapy appointment next week is," and I opted to move the conversation to private message rather than continuing it on our Facebook Walls. (Yes, some of that was about a desire to streamline the conversation, but that was only part of it.)
The friend I'd emailed said: "I have been really impressed that you posted about therapy both on FB and LJ."
I was so thrown by this. I mean, I have posted barely anything about the substance of the therapy I've had (all ~10 sessions in ~4 months), so it's not like I'm revealing much at all by publicly disclosing this information.
But if anyone were to ask me about my being in therapy, my honest answer would be something along the lines of, "Well, I'm experiencing a lot of grief and transition." This isn't anything that's going to make anyone think me less employable. This isn't anything that's going to make anyone uncomfortable to be around me.
People would in fact be sympathetic. I woudn't be perceived as "broken" or "less than" or "other."
There would in fact be a sense that I don't "need" to be in therapy -- that it's sort of a luxury item, like going to a spa or something, a nice thing to do to take care of oneself.
I would be perceived as still being a healthy, whole, high-functioning person at base.
But I wouldn't be perceived as someone who "isn't really sick" and is cheating the system. (This is connected to race, class, etc. privilege that I have.)
My "luxury item" doesn't preclude me doing my job. Would people's stance change if I had a condition (mental health or otherwise) that required specialist care far away and so I had to miss a lot of work?
Possibly a better title for this post would be, "we live in a culture of perfectionism."
Last Friday, Scott and I were talking about how chronic conditions are stigmatized, whereas temporary injuries aren't. But even so, I think there's a sense (at least in white, middle-class, culture) in which even when you're only temporarily "broken" you're not supposed to ask for "too much" in the way of "special accommodations." And that's one of the ways in which dis/abism affects all of us. If resources aren't provided for "those people" and then you become one of "those people," whether temporarily or permanently (and yes, I'm thinking of physical disability now, but you can make the parallel for mental health, too), you suffer too.
There's other stuff I want to talk about, too -- particularly about the "joking," dismissive, and pejorative things people say about people with mental illness (and with physical disabilities -- especially invisible ones) -- but that's a whole nother post.
Blogging Against Disablism Day 2010 was this past Saturday (May 1, as it is every year), and I had some posts in mind which I never made, so this is in some ways this my post for that day (even though there is a sense in which every day should be Blogging Against Disablism Day).
10 months ago