physically or mentally impaired, injured, or incapacitated.
As some of y’all may know, I have contributed in the past to Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Home & Life (I also was slated to have a guest post on the now defunct Offbeat Families, but the website shut down and went archival before my post had a chance to be published). Confused and slightly frightened around the subject of seriously describing myself (because, ahem, you couldn’t tell from the “About Me” on this blog that I don’t take describing myself seriously), I defaulted to a quote that I’ve used since high school to describe myself:
“Aurora is a lesbian Nazi hooker from outer space who was forced into a Weight Watchers program, and she will love you forever if you get that movie reference. But seriously, though, she is gay and she does love Star Wars, so it’s kind of accurate, right?”
The quote (from “lesbian… program”) is from the Weird Al Yankovic film “UHF”. It was made in 1989 and pre-dates the era of political correctness. I loved the slightly irreverent humor, and most of all I loved how it poked fun sensationalist media and the over-use/inappropriate use of the word “Nazi” (remember when Megan Fox got kicked out of the Transformers franchise for referring to Spielberg as a “Nazi”?). Once one of my Offbeat Bride posts became more popular, however, people took issue with my biography, and while I initially defended it (here and here), I ultimately chose to change the bio entirely to avoid offending people.
This left me with two problems, the first being that I am very overly sensitive and have concerns about people who will harangue and judge me over the old biography when I meant no ill will (I have convinced myself that I should commit suicide over what Internet Strangers have said before, so this is kind of a problem with me). The second problem is that I was at a loss to describe myself in a more sincere manner. So I came up with this:
“Aurora is a disabled queer vegan who enjoys doing crazy things with her hair and expanding her theological horizons. She is a housewife who lives in the suburbs with her fiancee and their Chihuahua-Husky mix. In her spare time she cooks, journals, creates art, and sings in the shower. She blogs about her life and various mental health concerns at mydnyht.wordpress.com.”
Are you noticing the second problem? Hint: it has to do with the title of this post and its foreword.
I described myself as disabled.
Which begs the question: what the fuck even constitutes a disability, and can bipolar disorder be considered one?
I kind of hinted that I was looking for an answer to this question in my post “Housewife-in-Training”. At this point in my life, my bipolar disorder and my generalized anxiety disorder certainly impact me enough to be considered a disability – after all, I can’t work, I sometimes have difficulty functioning in social situations, and I struggled a lot in school (I did well in elementary school; by the time middle school hit I was getting good grades but struggling with attendance and time management, and I flunked out of college because I never submitted medical withdrawal paperwork before I left). I mean, hell, I receive disability payments from the government, so they seem to think it counts. But somehow, identifying as disabled when my disability is “invisible” seems… disingenuous. Particularly to people who have very obvious mental or physical disabilities. Even moreso when you look at people like Catherine Zeta Jones or Demi Lovato, who despite hospitalizations have successful careers and are in the public eye, looking “normal”.
I feel like I need to backtrack for a moment. Around the time I was a senior in high school and a freshman in college, I developed this concept of “bipolar pride”, if you will. It was often my first identifier when I was introducing myself to people, and I even created an image to post on my MySpace profile. This backfired when I joined an online chatroom and had to post an introduction in the new members forum. I stated that there are two things you should know about me: that I have bipolar disorder, and that I want nine children. People immediately jumped on me, stating that I was a nutcase and that I would be a terrible mother and that they felt bad for any kids I would have. I had someone even go so far as to state that I would be an excellent candidate for Jack Kevorkian (remember me feeling suicidal over Internet Strangers? Yea, this was one of those times). Chalk it up to youthful inexperience in life, but I figured since my bipolar disorder was something I couldn’t get rid of (only cope with), I might as well put it out there.
There’s something… almost comforting, if you will, about admitting to being disabled. Even the term is less poisonous than “bipolar” because, often, when people think of a disability, they focus on something physical and ignore the stigma that comes with mental health concerns. It’s less embarrassing to say “I’m disabled” than it is to say “I have bipolar disorder”. At the same time, there’s something crushing about the process of describing oneself as disabled. I’m fighting back tears right now and making some passionflower tea to deal with my anxiety because I am having trouble writing this down. I don’t know if it’s right for me to describe myself as disabled, but at the same time, I don’t know how else to convey to people that… there’s something wrong with me. I know that’s a horrible way to phrase it, but when I look back on all the mistakes I’ve made when I was on the wrong meds, or on the wrong doses of meds, or not on meds at all, all I can think is that there is something very seriously wrong with me. If I need pills to function properly, doesn’t that count as a disability? I always used to compare bipolar disorder to diabetes; perhaps it’s more apt, in this case, to say that my medication functions much the same way that a wheelchair functions for a paralyzed person.
Overall, I feel that this is an open-ended blog post. Despite the fact that I declared myself “disabled” on the Offbeat Empire, I probably won’t use the term in my everyday, non-cyber life (“but you don’t look disabled” would get really old, really fast). And honestly, I feel that I have the right to describe myself as disabled much in the same way that I feel I have the right to describe myself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse – which is to say, I’m not completely sure I’m allowed to choose those terms to describe myself. That being said, when it comes to my internet-centric activism, the term (I think?) works well, allowing me to identify as someone who is affected by ableism in an able-minded society and advocate for other people in similar situations.
differently-abled but still awesome.