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

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It's the April blog carnival and I wasn't planning on writing a piece for it until I read Emma's. This month's theme is BALANCE. Emma talks about her very visual disability (full time chair user) and trying to figure out when people are reacting to her disability/chair, and when it isn't a factor. I can really relate to Emma because our primary disability is the same. I worry about that all the time.

But I've been reading a lot about bipolar in the workplace, which is a totally different ballgame then CP. I should hopefully have a summer internship and this is something that's causing a gigantic problem in my head. I've spent my entire life with a visual/physical disability and the last quarter as a powerchair user. However, although I've spent 40% of my life with a psychiatric disability, I've only known about it for one tenth of my life—2.5 years. A very short time.

When you have a physical disability, in my opinion, it is easiest, the least stressful, to learn to be transparent. Your disability is transparent, I mean how do you hide a 240ish pound wheelchair? Behind a tree? So you might as well be transparent as well. Ask me if I can have sex, I'll answer you as best I can. It was like a huge weight was lifted off of me when I finally got to this point. But I had 20+ years.

On the flipside, bipolar is not a transparent disability at all. So does one need to learn to be transparent with this disability as well? The answer is not as obvious, and it's hurting my head. Conventional wisdom says not to, but being that I've been dealing with my physical disability 10X as long, keeping quiet just doesn't seem to compute. In a comment to a post on the subject, this guy said that he doesn't know which of his co-workers have diabetes or fertility problems, and I went, “well gee, that makes sense.” So you'd think I'd have my answer.

I could go into my internship and look at my supervisor and say, “I've got this thing with my eyes [that's invisible, but CP related] and I can't do this. I'm just, I'm having a lot of trouble with it,” and hopefully I'll have an understanding supervisor and we can come up with something that will work. Hopefully I won't have a supervisor who thinks can't = won't (that happens a lot). But I can't go to my supervisor and say, “I'm having nightmares about you because I'm bipolar and delusional.” As odd as this may sound, I want to, but I know it's inappropriate, probably some kind of boundary issue. Especially because I'll be laughing when I say it.

I want to because I'm finding that the more I say these things out loud (blogging / emailing / texting supporters, not the same) the more I realize how ridiculous I sound. I want to because I want to be transparent with both of my disabilities, because I would tell my coworkers if I had diabetes. But if I do, I'll probably alienate the entire office. I don't mind being labeled the crazy lady, but who wants to be labeled the crazy lady? I sure don't.

What could happen if I tell my supervisor something less crazy? What if I tell her I'm adjusting my meds or that my work history hasn't been stellar because it depends so much on what kind of episode I'm in or in between? My default setting isn't working anymore and it's a painfully hard adjustment. Probably as hard as it was to learn how to live with CP, which was hard for a long time. But I don't have 20 years, I have ONE MONTH. I worry that I won't find the balance of how to deal with my psychiatric disability in time, or at all, and that things will go as disastrous as they have in the past (that was for different reasons). I want to deal with both of my disabilities in the exact same way, but I can't. I have to find a balance.


Never That Easy said...

I think you raise a lot of great questions here: it's not just visible/invisible disabilities that you have to balance, but it's also society's attitudes towards mental vs physical disabilities (as if there were some sort of clear distinction).

I think about this a lot, when it comes to depression, and how I'm almost never embarrassed to disclose what my physical disability is, but when I was suffering from depression (related to my chronic illness), I hated even writing it down on the doctor's forms. Having to admit that I was depressed was humiliating, even though ... well: Even though. Even though it never should have been.

I don't have any answers for you, unfortunately, but I did want to say that I can relate.

Terri said...

These things really are hard. I can understand wanting a recipe or rule of thumb. I am not sure there is one that will work across the board. I imagine over a few years you will develop some internal 'guidelines' that help you a bit. By the same token though, I don't think you need to be afraid of this new situation--you will individualize your approach (just like you do for the kids you work with...) and you will use the skills you have to address things bit by bit...

Great post!

Pink Doberman said...

I really liked your post! I can relate, although at times my disabilities are all invisible, and only sometimes visible.. I ponder the same questions, and struggle as well.

Cheryl said...

Pink Doberman

Thank you for commenting! I always appreciate comments from new readers!

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