When I was depressed I lost friends. Not because they stopped liking me, but because they didn’t know what to do or say. I made them uncomfortable and people don’t like feeling uncomfortable. But why didn’t they know what to say? They knew what depression was and they were all very aware of what triggered it. I know some of them just didn’t want to deal with it, but others disappeared slowly. These were the friends who wanted to be there for me, but didn’t know how to be. There is a growing trend in our society to judge people for the words they use. It’s hard to express your opinion or even think out loud without being labeled something- fat shamer, anti-Semitic, heartless, or just plain bitch. Where did the discussion go? How can we learn and grow and be there for each other if we’re all afraid to open our mouths lest we accidentally insult someone?
I know what it fees like to be discriminated against at work based on a disability. I have heard the thinly veiled excuses and the felt the drastic shift in attitude towards me. I didn’t press the matter, but I probably could have had I wanted to. In my case it was regarding a temporary issue, which made me even more frustrated. I wasn’t quite as productive while I was ill as I would have been at 100%, but I was fully trained and still carrying a considerable work load. It wasn’t only morally wrong to pick on me, but financially stupid as well. It’s human nature to want to contribute and feel valuable, and everyone who is capable should be allowed to work and support themselves. But, when we take emotions and ideals out of the equation, what are we left with and how should we navigate through it?
Despite having relatively high self esteem, being involved in school activities, and having a decent group of friends, in my teens I went through a string of toxic relationships. I seemed to have a knack for picking out this type of friend or boyfriend; they did not make me a better person. When these relationships ended my self esteem would plummet, perhaps leading me to the next one. I can’t really explain why they started, why I kept the cycle going, or why they ended, but I have learned how to identify those who will bring me down instead of up, before I invest too much time and energy into the relationship. There was one relationship in particular where it took me a long time to figure out that their presence was bad for me, and an even longer time to remove them. Years later, I find myself in a position where I have to make the decision- let them back in or keep the door shut?
While reading my alumni magazine for the University of Guelph I came across Project Revision. The project, which is led by Carla Rice, a professor in U of G’s Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, “uses arts-based methods to dismantle stereotypical understandings of disability and difference that can create barriers to healthcare, education, and inclusion in society.”