So yesterday (3/12/12) was the International Day of Disabled People, we’re also still in Disability History Month (22 November – 22 December) and for the first time in my life I am going to be a part of it as an insider as opposed to just helping other people organise events for this month. I shared my previous blog post (‘My Vulnerability and Shame’) with some changes and additions for liberateyourself.co.uk and on NUS Connect; the reason being that I wanted to come out as a disabled person.
After having re-read it, it applies now in my life more than it has ever before. On Sunday, during the NUS Black Students’ Winter Conference I attended and led three of the liberation caucuses which were women, LGBT and disabled students. I’m not going to lie, I was totally in two minds about staying for the disabled students caucus because whilst I am open about my mental health issues, I have never been open in front of large groups of people before. I mean, yeah I write blog posts about it and attend and lead events but staying in a room with my peers and friends that also identified as disabled proved to be an important and indeed empowering stepping stone in acknowledging openly my mental health struggle in more circles.
This struggle has taken a slightly different route in that I now define as being disabled too. Before my own personal journey, I never thought about mental health issues as being something that fell under the label of disabled. I think that’s probably to do with my own perceptions of disability. I mean we obviously know that there are many forms of disabilities that are both visible and unseen but I suppose the difficulty for me was that I thought I was the sort of person that could overcome anything and I suppose defining as disabled has forced me to re-think the perceptions of not only how I see myself but also how I see vulnerability, shame, strength and courage. It was also forced to me acknowledge that there are going to be times in our lives where we ask for help and that is not a bad or a negative thing at all and that when we do ask for help, it is not a reflection of ourselves in terms of our weaknesses and competencies but rather that we realise we cannot do everything alone and that actually we are stronger when we work together and also when we as for help.
So now, I define in all four liberation categories: Black, LGBT, women and disabled. It is an interesting mix to say the least but a mix that I mostly love. I mean yeah, there are difficulties with them all sometimes in terms of multiple discrimination etc but defining in those ways offers me a unique perspective on life that I just would not have had otherwise. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that without those various aspects of my identity I simply would not be the person I am today.