With the theme of disability, a lot of people will think (and rightly so) of people with physical disabilities where they’re physically unable to do things. There’s quite a stigma and some stereotyping around it, like with the disability badge; it’s the person in the wheelchair. I think sometimes other disabilities can get swept under the rug. Personally, I’m referring to mental illness which I have suffered with. It was really hard for me coming to terms with the fact that it wasn’t all in my head. It took a lot of time for it to click that it was okay to see myself as disabled because the actual definition of disability is an impairment that means you’re not always fully capable of doing things. I struggled with anxiety and depression really badly for over a year. I found that I couldn’t function properly, I kept feeling so guilty and hating myself because I couldn’t deal with things the way other people did. My mind kept spinning out of control over things that other people wouldn’t have two thoughts about. It wasn’t until somebody said to me that if people who can’t walk ask for help, you should be able to ask for help as well.
Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there and people forget that. It’s so easy to pretend that things in your head aren’t really affecting you because it’s not physical and you can’t see it, so many people will struggle with it, but people won’t know and won’t care as much. People always say that it’s all in your head and it’s really not. For me, I don’t want to say that mental illness is more important - I’m not saying that I don’t think that - I’m just saying that it’s not regarded as much of a problem as physical disabilities. Unless you’ve struggled with it, I really found that it’s so hard to explain to people how it feels and why you’re feeling that way. It just doesn’t make sense and unless you’ve actually experienced it, it doesn’t make sense. It’s only people who have experienced other mental illness - not just anxiety and depression, there are so many other mental illnesses – and it’s the people who have gone through it who can really understand it. I didn’t understand it until I went through it and then I would talk to other people who were going through it. One of my housemates suffers really badly with depression and I can now relate to it and totally understand where she’s coming from.
I just think it’s important to remember that there are other things that disable you from living life to the fullest, like mental illness. Some people are lucky in that they can overcome it. I think I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to deal with it and control it, but some people obviously can’t, and it will affect them just as badly as a physical disability.