Tuesday, May 1, 2018

When Setbacks Sideline Your Ambitions

Copyright Ayelet Keshet

There is an unfortunate tendency in modern society to postulate that only those who are hale and hardy and possessed of a certain type of beauty can excel in the world. While I am not yet the picture of success, I would like to work to disprove this, if I may be so bold as to say, ugly and bigoted assertion.
Those of us who are born with physical and/or psychological challenges tend to experience setbacks that people without these challenges find difficult to imagine. These setbacks go beyond the condition itself.
The vast majority of people who are homeless or living in poverty are not "lazy". 
They are people with (often invisible) conditions which render them unable to conform to society's rigid and Draconian standards.
It can be difficult if not impossible to maintain a positive approach to life when one feels as if one is being attacked at every turn, including when seeking help.
Those who are unable to pay for the help they need are decried as shiftless.
Those who fear seeking help because of previous bad experiences are decried as unmotivated to change.
Those who do not wish to take dangerous medications for their conditions are admonished as being uncooperative and deserving of whatever misfortune befalls them.
Those who feel hopeless are admonished to "think positive" and "try harder."
Let us focus for the moment on mental illness.
I am not the sort of person who believes that mental illness can be "cured." In fact, I cringe when people make such assertions.
As someone who has lived with mental illness my entire life, I believe that, while there is no "cure" for conditions such as mine, that useful coping skills can be taught to those living with psychiatric illness, and, such coping skills are more effective when learned at a young age.
Mental illness is not "one size fits all." Most people who have never dealt with mental illness, either in themselves or a person close to them, believe that there are pat answers, mostly involving medications. Some people do not respond well to medications. Such people tend to be admonished as "uncooperative."
Physical illnesses do not always respond well to medications either.
With both mental and physical conditions, the sufferer tends to be seen as broken, damaged, and having failed. People see them as deserving of their misery.
I will turn the focus to my own physical conditions, mostly endocrine issues.
I have always been admonished as being "lazy" and not "trying harder." My diabetes and thyroid issues are severe enough that I struggle with activity intolerance. I have to take frequent breaks or I start to become dizzy and confused. This is not conducive to the type of work I did for many years, caring for elderly and infirm patients. 
Rather than seeing that I had a problem of my own, I was admonished as being lazy, uncooperative, and stupid. I was fired rather than laid off, which would have allowed me to maintain a modicum of dignity.
I can no longer work "normal" jobs. I went from making $40,000 a year to making $12,000 a year. What little savings I had was quickly decimated.
I have two cats, both of whom need veterinary care that I can't afford. I live in a place which, evidently, contains toxins. Most of my cats have died prematurely, either due to cancers or organ failure. I realized this pattern only this year. I myself currently am awaiting screening for suspected endometrial cancer. Whatever is in this place may have contributed to the worsening of my own endocrine problems. I don't know, and I may never know.
"Just move" is not an option.
I'm not going to blow sunshine up anyone's ass. I'm not going to tell you that by having a "positive attitude" or by praying to (fill in the name of chosen deity) you will succeed and find happiness. I don't know if you will or not. I hope you do.
I'd like to tell you that it gets better, but in all honesty, I don't know if that's true.
I can only wish you luck, and I hope that something I share may help you along the way.



  1. If people bothered to make actual contact with those we encounter, we'd be so much better off.

    1. I'm not sure I'm particularly good at making actual contact with people at this point because my shields are constantly up. I just try my best not to be an asshole.


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