It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How I Used my Independent Study to Break Out of my Shell

For those of you who are visiting my blog for the first time, or have not read some of my earlier posts from January, I completed an independent study from April to November of 07 where I planned a disability awareness workshop. This post is in direct relation to that.


I learned quite a lot from the experience of my independent study. One of the things that I have learned was how to really stand up for myself. My department head can be very scary. That is a bona fide fact. It took a lot of courage and conviction to go into her office last year. I don’t know very many people my age that could do it. After that, I had to face a room full of authority figures and muster up the strength to be in charge of them for once, as opposed to them being in charge of me. Overall, it took a lot of passion and a strong sense of principles to be able to coordinate an event that seems daunting to people twice my age. After showing so much chutzpah throughout it all, how could I then go back to shying away from difficult situations again? While I’ve always known how to stand up for myself, to advocate for myself, I used to just pretend to do it. I would sort of do it in unimportant instances while I would let someone else fight my real battles because it was easier that way. Not anymore.

My main goal throughout whole process of my independent study was never explicitly stated anywhere on the contract that I made for it. It is a subset of “To develop the skills associated with planning and implementing an educational workshop for pre-professional students.” My main goal was (to quote my advisor) to learn how to become less “explosive” when interacting with other people. That was something that was unbelievably difficult a year ago. It probably took just as much energy to focus on not being explosive as it would have to continue to be explosive. Unfortunately, I think I became explosive because, for whatever reason, I never developed great expressive language skills. Being explosive was a good fallback. My expressive language skills are still very far from where they need to be, but they are so much better. If given the choice, I would still prefer not to confront someone about a highly personal or highly professional issue in person. It takes too much processing for me to get thoughts to come cohesively out of my head, but I have at least been able to perfect how to do this in writing. When I express myself through writing I am not right in front of the person and I have the extra time that I need to process my thoughts instead of having to think on my feet.

Where I have been most impressed with myself is how I handled all of the recent meetings I've had to have with faculty members in my department. I wasn’t defensive, and I wasn’t blaming other people or coming up with excuses. For once, I really did start to become open to what everyone had to say. That isn’t me. Everyone else is supposed to be wrong. Instead, I walked out of those meetings in utter shock. Somehow all of these “I statements” kept flying out of my mouth and that wasn’t anything I was purposely intending to do. It just happened, and it worked. To quote my last blog carnival post, "what seems so odd to me is that people think more highly of me now that I am actively seeking/accepting help then before when I was just as actively pushing it away. Logic says that it should be a sign of weakness.” It is often hard for me to interact with other people because I don’t know how to do feelings. I usually either do explosive or funny. Since I don’t do explosive so much anymore, I’ve started focusing all my energy on not doing funny. There are even less situations where funny is appropriate.

What has been most helpful to me (besides my medication, which might turn out to be a god send) was not the planning of the workshop in and of itself, but that planning it necessitated working very closely with several faculty members from my department. The Family Studies department is very cohesive in both its ideology and structure and I believe that this provided me with the appropriate framework that I needed, which proved to be an invaluable asset. Instead of continuing to model the same people I had, who, now that I look back on things, also do not express themselves effectively, I think I inadvertently began to model the way that faculty were interacting with me. Hopefully I can replicate this within other environments.

Sometime in January I posted a list of 10 questions and answers, the last of which was, well, not really a question. It was “If I could tell my 11 year old self something… I would tell her that life isn’t going to get easier from here; it’s going to get harder, MUCH HARDER. So she should start practicing asking for help now, so that when she REALLY needs help she’ll know how to take it.” When I originally wrote that it was in direct reference to family issues and to trying to somehow make it through college alive, but it might be more applicable to apply it to the workshop.

I’ve spent my entire life having to prove myself to other people. For starters, the doctor who diagnosed me with having CP told my mom I was going to be retarded. This kind of stuff builds up, and I’m not sure that I’ve even completely proven myself to myself at this point. So what do I do? I go completely against what other people expect of someone with CP and do absolutely everything myself (an undisputed direct result of ableism). Even when I can’t; even when I shouldn’t. It is another default that I go to without question. This behavior is so ingrained in me at this point that it may be impossible to separate it out from who I am as a person.

Then what happens is that I’m very obviously drowning and either I am still in complete denial that I am in need of help or I fully realize that I need help, but at this point I have no idea how to get it. I can’t get help because I’m not even able to figure out what I need help with, in what way some other person could be of assistance to me. I have two problems. The first is that I can’t even work through situations in my head to be able to deduce which one thing is causing a problem. The second is my lack of expressive language skills.

I’ve spent so much of my life having to focus on becoming independent and it backfired. I spent all nighters working on the disability dictionary, and I exhausted myself running around like crazy so that I then fell asleep with the lights on, and I would freak out and have near panic attacks unnecessarily, because I have this overwhelming need to do everything myself. As I said before, it seems strange to me that people think more of me when I seek/accept help then when I don’t.

What else have I learned about myself? I’ve learned that I have real talent. Most of the time I haven’t thought very highly of myself. I have good reason not to. I will have taken six classes over again in order to graduate, and that’s not even counting all the classes freshman year I didn’t get grades for because it was decided that it was best for me to cut my losses and leave. When my parents were divorcing my mom went to court and convinced a judge that I was too disabled to work because I had no employable skills. She got me legally declared an adult dependent child because SSI is not as much money as child support is. I fully understand why she did it and I’d tell her to do it again— I’m an expensive person—but I never thought I believed any of it. It was just a ploy to screw my dad out of as much money as possible. But I think to some degree, even after the workshop, I really believe it. Basically what I’m saying is that on the one hand I’ve come really far towards having my life completely together, but on the other hand I’m still stuck in some of the same spots that I was in when I started. On some level a small part of me believes I really am incapable of holding a job. This doesn’t add up. I can no longer deny that I have somewhat incredible skills. How many people twice my age could have pulled off what I pulled off with so little resources? What I haven’t figured out yet is how to reliably harness those skills into any sort of a predictable outcome. My life has been like a game of Russian roulette. Sometimes I get lucky, and sometimes I don’t. I need to make sure that changes.


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