Disability and mental health; these two concepts stimulate a huge amount of taboo within the Chinese culture. Growing up, these were rarely discussed and on the rare occasion that my parents or other adults did mention them, it was always with a negative undertone and conveyed the message that these individuals were somehow weaker and less deserving.
Pain Chronicles is a new monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way.
Rosie Jones and I have a few things in common. We’re both Northern. We’re both pricks. We both have gigantic tits. And we’re both disabled lesbians.
And when I saw her walk on to the set of The Russell Howard Show and said she couldn’t process those ideas, she could only fit one “different” thing in her life, and therefore she believed she wasn’t gay, I understood where she was coming from. Sort of.
Trigger Warnings: Discriminatory attitudes to disability, discussion of asylum treatment methods, discussion of mental health, historic offensive language describing seizures
Author’s note: Some of the language used is now considered to be offensive, similarly they mention historical treatments which are also considered offensive and awful now. The language used is quoting what is used in the video – and it is important to use these quotes fully.
It was ‘Epilepsy Awareness Day’ or ‘Purple Day’ on 26th March, where people wear purple to raise awareness about the realities of epilepsy. During the promotional build-up, UK-based charity ‘Epilepsy Action’ tweeted a video from 1957 highlighting historic attitudes to epilepsy. They asked, “Do you think attitudes have changed?” As I watched the video with horror and sadness at the stigma people lived with, my initial reaction was a resounding, YES.
Almost 25% of the British population are disabled, not every disabled person is required to shield, or may be mask exempt, but myself and millions of others are. So we should be entitled to exercise that right without fear of repercussions.
It’s the summer of 2012. I am still at university, using the very last of the term-length pool membership I’d bought. I swim 2 miles. That’s 128 lengths of a 25m pool. The walk back up to the main campus is hard, steep and my bag is heavy with my wet costume. I collapse onto my bed. My hands hurt, but four or five doctors can’t tell me why that is. My knees hurt, but after three doctors, I saw one specialist who said it should clear up by the time I’m 20, which I turned last month. I swallow a dihydrocodeine and sleep for 8 hours.
The NICE guidelines released on 7th April recommend analgesics not be used for primary chronic pain. What they do recommend is exercise, antidepressants, acupuncture, and psychological therapies. Paracetamol and ibuprofen, possibly some of the most widely taken drugs outside of penicillin, that usually cost about 20p for a box of 16, they also can’t recommend.
There wasn’t much time between when I realised I was asexual and when I was diagnosed as autistic – only around a year. Ironically, the first person I ever came out to was a therapist I only saw once, when I originally began to fall into the mental health crisis causing the realisation that I was autistic. It’s been six years since then, and I’m still asked – or alternatively told – whether the two are one and the same.
Every year, as April approaches, I always find myself feeling a bit off-colour. My mood dips, my anxiety spikes and I have a much shorter fuse than I usually do. For a long time, I never really understood why the month bothered me so much. Then, as March drew to a close, it hit me. Autism Awareness Day was coming. And I couldn’t be less enthusiastic for it if I tried.
In the time before Covid, being deaf in a hearing world was tricky, but manageable. Those of us living with hearing loss found ways to handle our interactions with hearing society, be that technology or interpreters. For the most part we vaulted our hurdles as naturally as walking. It meant adaptations and hard work but, in the main, we got along with the status quo.
But then the world changed with the arrival of Covid-19 and entirely new hurdles presented themselves; tall, mighty and unmovable. Our strategies had to adapt, and we were going to need help.
If you are unaware, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a behemoth of a franchise. It had humble beginnings on Logo TV, but over its 12 year lifespan it has grown into a multi Emmy winning, international power house of a show that is more mainstream now than anyone could have predicted in its early days. On the show, drag queens battle it out via challenges and lip syncs to earn the coveted crown.
The show is now an international hit, with versions popping up in The Netherlands, Thailand and Canada. Ru Paul’s Drag Race has become synonymous with drag. However, the show has repeatedly let down it’s disabled contestants and disabled audience with bad representation and ableism.
Trigger warnings: Suicide. Mental health disbelief. Mention of medication/addiction.
Talking about mental health is important. It’s the first step towards getting help. It helps reduce stigma. It can help you find people who can support your recovery.
But talking to the wrong people can be nothing short of disastrous. People who are dismissive. People who are laissez-faire in the extreme. People who – be they trained professionals, public figures, or strangers on the internet – give awful advice.