alienation

Special Needs

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. ~ Wikipedia

I made the mistake of reading comments on an Instagram post in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were mostly positive. But, there was one naysayer who stood out for his initial lack of vitriol. He was just mildly snarky. But, it was like he had committed some heinous sin, instead of posting a disagreement rooted in ignorance.

He was immediately under attack. Mostly the responses remained as snarky comebacks. However, one of them made me cringe.

It sounds like your boss is good at hiring people with special needs.

I couldn’t scroll past without addressing it.

Back in the day, the insult used was, “retard,” frequently accompanied by a physically mocking action. Much like 45’s mocking actions regarding a reporter who experiences a physical disability.

Another one is, “riding the short bus.”

However you frame it, it’s showing a prejudice toward people with disabilities, especially intellectual ones.

How about how mental health challenges are referred to?

What are you, crazy?

Man, that was INSANE!

She’s so bipolar.

That one’s not right in the head.

Or the fact that so many movies and TV shows portray mental health patients as dangerous killers and all the shootings being reported as someone with mental illness, before an evaluation can be done?

The stigma and prejudices against people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities is real and insidious. Just as we need to recognize, call out, and address racism, in all its forms, sexism, genderism, and sizism, we need to call out ableism.

It isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human rights.

For more on my perspective on ableism, go here.

Becoming comfortable with me

I have no idea when it began, but I have never been comfortable being me. I have never liked me, even as a kid, I think that has been true. I say, “I think,” because I don’t really have very many memories, just a lot of impressions, a few images, and knowledge about the facts and sequence of certain events.

Anyway, I have always felt apart and alienated from everyone whom I have encountered. This will probably surprise many people who have known me over the years. Others would nod their heads and think, “Yeah? Okay, tell me something I didn’t know.”

Even as young as five or six years old I felt there was something wrong with me, that I didn’t fit with my own mother or other kids my age. One memory that resurfaced for me sometime in the past year or two was from that time.

My mom wasn’t really what could be considered domestic but she was creative and somewhat crafty. She had a sewing machine and she went through a period where she made hand-made Kitchen Witch dolls from dried and shellacked apples for heads and stuffed nylon stockings for bodies.

This was not an activity that interested me much at all. I don’t recall being interested in much of anything other than reading books. I didn’t really have much contact with other kids. When I did get around them they played physical games I couldn’t keep up with or didn’t understand.

So, I didn’t connect well with my mom and couldn’t connect with other kids. Even at five and six years of age I felt disconnected and somehow less than those around me.

My mom had this friend, who was also a single mom. I think she and her son either lived with her sister or they both lived in apartments in the same building we were living in at the time. I think Billy was a few months younger than I, but seemed older to me. Who knows, it may have been the other way around.

He had blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin, and a smattering of freckles across the equator of his face. He was everything I wasn’t: athletic, outgoing, engaging, and if not popular, he at least knew how to relate to the other kids in the complex. I may have had a crush on him. I definitely envied him and admired him. I might even have wanted to trade lives with him.

I remember one day my mom was trying to teach me about making her dolls and Billy was there too. What I actually remember is me watching the two of them connecting and interacting with each other comfortably and with smiles, laughter, and interest. I held myself off to the side, feeling sulky, excluded, and hurt even as I knew I wasn’t joining in because I wasn’t interested.

I felt that he was better than me and just knew that my mom would prefer him as her son over having me as her daughter.

I was also very upset that neither one of them seemed to notice or pay attention to how excluded I felt. I decided that I didn’t matter to them and they didn’t care about me. So, I told myself to not care about them.

This was the pattern of the remainder of my childhood and most of my early adolescence. In late adolescence and into adulthood I would latch onto relationships (platonic and romantic) and get overly attached way too fast only to push the people away and just let them go.

I’ve always measured myself against others and found myself lacking: someone else was always better, smarter, more talented, athletic, capable, or better off than me. Alternately, I also wasn’t bad enough: someone was always suffering more, in deeper crisis, or more damaged than me.

I’m not sure when this started transitioning for me, possibly before I began this blog, but I don’t think so. I think it’s quite a recent development that has been in progress for the past few months. The realization occurred to me today that I’m starting to become comfortable being me.

God has been working on opening my eyes to the truth that the fact that He loves me means I have never been and never will be less than another human being, regardless of any status or distinction we humans utilize to categorize one another.

I had a rare opportunity to talk through some of the things that have happened recently with my son. It was amazing and restorative. He reminded me of God’s love for me and provision in our lives and reassured me of his own love for me.

At a church service the next day, I heard variations of some of the same thoughts and themes my son had expressed in the sermon.

What it boils down to for me is that there have always been these loud, staticky, interfering, internal voices drowning out the whispering voice of God’s love and acceptance. I need to learn to focus on the one and tune out the others.

Afterward, during the soup and sandwich potluck, I discovered I was engaging in conversation with a woman I’ve always admired and wanted a friendship with as though we were friends, on the same level, as equals and not me being less than her. We even talked about that for a minute. It was quite liberating to have that realization. What a gift from God.