I had a fairly good childhood. I was bullied a bit in elementary school, but as far as bullying goes it was pretty mild. In high school I became sort of a floater. I wasn’t really popular. I didn’t get invited to the “cool” parties and the in- crowd didn’t spend much time noticing I was alive. However, I wasn’t really unpopular or “weird” either. I mean I was weird, totally weird, but bullying wasn’t a huge issue in my school and I wasn’t that kind of weird. I had groups of friends from a few different cliques, but I never really felt like I fit in 100% to any of them. Although I was generally liked, I felt a bit like an outsider a lot of the time. This feeling intensified as I struggled with depression and grief. When I developed asthma I inched a bit further outside of that “normal” range. I thought I understood what it meant to be the one that didn’t fit in. That was until I moved to Mexico. Now fitting in has taken on a whole new meaning.
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?
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?
We find that society is uncomfortable with disability and they’re also uncomfortable with sex… So when you tie the two together, nobody wants to go near it.
To be honest, I’d never really given the topic much thought; I try not to concern myself with other people’s sex lives. But, as I read through this article in the Toronto Star, I realized that I would have some assumptions if I took the time to think about it. The article looks at the relationship between Tim, a man with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and Natalie, an able bodied woman. The article was detailed and well written, but the thing that stood out the most for me was learning that Tim had been excluded from sex-ed classes in high school because it was assumed he didn’t need them.