There are some things that live in our hearts and mind like a boulder – immovable.
When I was a social worker working with children and families, our office had to take a mandatory training. I believe the training was about sensitivity to differences. It was a training to see how we reacted and saw people with disabilities.
At one point the trainer said, “If you had to choose a disability, not being able to walk, not being able to see, or being mentally ill, which one would you choose and why?”
When it was my turn I explained that I would choose not being able to walk first, because although it would require learning to do things all over again, and many things taking much more time, I would still be me, and I thought I could find the strength to deal with the challenges.
Then I said, “Next, I would choose losing my eye sight although I think that would be extremely hard, because I would lose my way around the world and have to learn it all over again. I rely heavily upon my eyes, but again, I would still be me.”
My last choice for a disability was a mental illness. This is the disability that scared me the most, because it is the one where I would lose a sense of me in the world. I figured the other challenges that presented themselves with the other disabilities still allowed me to fully be myself in the world, only I would have to learn new ways to get around and do the things I take for granted. It would be a struggle, but to not have a reliable mind, that would be unimaginable.
Less than a year after I attended that training, I was diagnosed with a severe mental illness. I could no longer trust my mind. My mind could and did betray me. I got the one disability that I thought would be the hardest to live with.
I don’t know if using a wheel chair or prosthetic legs, or not being able to see your surroundings and navigate based on eye sight, is any more or less challenging than a mental illness.
The point of the training was that we have biases; we think some disabilities are worse than others.
What does it say about me, that I thought my own disability was the worst possible option on the list?
If I could go back and take the training again, would I answer the questions differently? I honestly don’t know. Having a mind that turns against me and tries to kill me, not being able to understand anything that is happening around me, being fueled by hallucinations and voices is a really tough burden to carry.
Don’t get me wrong, you know I feel fortunate compared to many people who have the exact same illness as I do. But would I choose something different for my life if I could?
I would like my mind to be rock solid and I can’t rely or count on that. My mind is fragile and so much of my mind is how I define me. Not being able to count on myself a hundred percent of the time is a disappointment and causes heartbreak.
I can walk and I can see, but I can’t say with certainty that I will always be there for someone. That fact, shatters that immovable boulder and I am left trying to take buckets of sand and make them one big rock again. I can’t do it.
There are parts of this disability that aren’t challenges, they are simply impossible and you can’t overcome the impossible, you have to let it go and let it be.