Discrimination Part 1: Intro

My little Family

My little Family

Disclaimer: the photos have nothing to do with this story, its just to lighten things up. Also this is a long two part post.

any way! For the longest time I have been working on this piece. It’s about discrimination against people with disabilities. I have struggled with writing this piece because there are so many aspects of discrimination I couldn’t narrow it down. But after the last few months I’ve had? I figured it out.

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But first I want to say this, I know that when people talk about bad things in their life, a natural response is, well it could be worse so stop complaining, or stop complaining and do something about it. If that is your response please note, I am not writing this for sympathy (I never write my blog posts for sympathy) I am writing this for educational purposes.

In today’s world discrimination is a word thrown around a lot. It is a huge issue. Many people associate it with gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. Obviously many people can be discriminated against for many things. One thing that isn’t a huge association with discrimination is disabilities. Especially invisible illnesses like mental illness. What’s funny is deep down we all know it happens but no one wants to talk about it. Why? Because we have so many laws and rights associated with treating disabled people the same as anyone else. And honestly, who ever wants to believe that someone can be discriminated against because of a cane, or a wheel chair or even medicine but then again no discrimination makes sense and you never want to believe it happens. But, like I said, we all know it does.

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I face discrimination a lot; I have for a few years now. Most people would think it started when I got Bella, but in reality it started one of the first times I had a panic attack in public on my own. I was asked to please leave the area because I was scaring people. But I will admit, since becoming open about my illness and having Bella, I have noticed it more blatantly.

With mental illness it is really common to be honest. When someone finds out you have an MI, with out realizing it they tend to think crazy. They’ve normalized terms like crazy, and schitzo, bipolar, psycho or OCD and use them to describe when someone is being dramatic. They have described them as attention seeking, or over reactors, or hypochondriacs. They make light of a serious illness and imply that it can be controlled. The truth is, it can’t be.

Henry is good for a smile and help with painting

Henry is good for a smile and help with painting

Many of you are probably wondering where this is coming from, as I don’t like to talk about this side of having a disability, but I feel the need to speak out because I am tired of feeling like I am not a real person. Over the years I have been asked to leave places because of Bella, or have been told I can not enter, I’ve been told to leave her home or take her home even though the Americans with disabilities act says this is illegal. I have been kicked out of places, or seated in the back of a restaurant where no one will see me. Bella isn’t the only way or reason I have felt discrimination, another is just through admitting I have an invisible illness. I’ve learned to let this slide and educate. I think they don’t know better so I just have to share my rights. These past few months though, I’ve changed my tune because a lot of these people DO know better. I mean we talk about all of the other people that are discriminated against so why can’t I says something?

they keep me entertained

they keep me entertained

One quick thing, I want to point out some sad facts. While there are laws against discriminating for a disability there is very little that can be done if it actually happens. Like did you know when it comes to service dogs and discrimination, if a police officer is called, there is actually very little that can be done. Most places reserve the right to refuse service. As long as they don’t say why, you can’t prove its because of your dog. Also, the reason police rarely can do anything during access issues is because the ADA law is a civil thing and must be resolved in the court, not by a police officer. That’s hard to face, because even though you think you are protected, really you aren’t. Keep in mind, most situations are handled outside of court with education but it does happen.

That is why, reading this and facing this problem head on with education is the key to success. Sometimes knowing it is happening can help situations in the future.

Bella has a new job

Bella has a new job

It probably started when I was frustrated for not getting jobs after people met Bella, Now I understand that she is not the reason for every rejection I have gotten, I mean sometimes people are just better then you which about 75% of time that’s what it is and I am okay with that. It forces me to work harder. But I have had to admit to myself that for some jobs I (about 15%) she has been the reason even without it being said. Actually, I have had people admit that they “just aren’t sure” about having a dog around. No matter how much I stress she wont be an issue they still are concerned. I went to my Service Dog chat rooms and people talked about similar issues and that it is best to wait to disclose your service dog or illnesses until after you get the job. Even if that means going to an interview with out them. Someone then brought up a recent study that was done in NY where fake cover letters exposed discrimination against disabled. (You can read the full story here http://nyti.ms/1N7hFeC ). I do want to re iterate, I am not saying Bella is why I have trouble finding jobs, I know that is not the only or even main reason, I just need to state that it is one of the reasons.

I am going to save the main reason for the next post, so look out for it and plan to read about medical care.

 

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4 thoughts on “Discrimination Part 1: Intro

  1. Thank you for your blog. I started reading it after I saw the beautiful picture of your Belle on your wedding day. Ha ha…still on your being “famous”. I too have Panic/Anxiety disorder. No service animal but I know the discrimination it can cause and how we are viewed. My own police officer son is embarrassed to have me around because I interfere with his “status”. I worked for years with my disorder until I started having physical problems unrelated to my mental disorder. I take medication that controls it to a point. I am 56 and no longer work. The physical pain caused my anxiety to become uncontrollable since they both fed off each other and am now on disability. I worked many hours for free to make up for controlling the anxiety so my employers kept me around. I am off to read more on your blog but congratulations on your marriage and thank you for sharing the world that I know also. So many do not understand even when you try to tell them that it is not just being anxious. I have a difficult time explaining it but you do. I applaud you for this.

  2. I, too, found your blog after you wedding day photo went viral. First off, Bella is absolutely gorgeous! Secondly, I’m glad you posted this. Because you’re so right – mental illness carries such a stigma, and it’s something we have no more control over than someone with cancer or MS does.

    I’m a nursing student who is diagnosed with and medicated for anxiety and ADHD. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to just calm down and chill out. Yeah – I wish it was that easy.
    My first panic attack landed me in the ER after I called 911 because I thought I was having a stroke with my 3 year old in the backseat of my car. People without ADHD don’t understand the daily struggle of just trying to get mundane, everyday tasks done, because it requires so much focus just to clean the bathroom. ADHD wasn’t a “thing” when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, and it wasn’t until 6 years ago when my son was diagnosed that I got diagnosed and on meds. I’m 41 years old and, despite saying that I should have done nursing school 20 years ago, I know I would never have been able to. My meds allow me to sit down and focus to get all the work I need to get done, and somehow, I’m doing well. I did my Psych clinical last semester, and although I always made a point of telling my patients that I don’t know exactly what they’re going through, I was very honest about my own struggles, because I needed them to know they’re not alone and because I think there is no reason not to be open and honest about mental illness. In my own small way, I’m trying to bring some awareness to it.

    I’m so sorry you face discrimination because of your MI. It’s wrong, plain and simple. I wish I didn’t have ADHD or anxiety. Life would be a lot easier (and my poor house would be neater!), but it’s the hand I’ve been dealt. I wish my son didn’t have ADHD (and, I suspect, Asperger’s – we have an appointment to start the evaluation process soon), but he does, and I’m a firm believer in using whatever resources we have at our disposal to help us cope.

    We don’t have service dogs, but we do have 2 dogs – a 100 pound, 8 year old Yellow Lab named Amy, and 5 year old 90 pound Lab-Pit mix (LabraPibble) named Angus. They are crazy, noisy, a walking alarm system, built-in bed warmers, and I love them to pieces. It’s called fuzz therapy, and people who don’t have or like dogs just don’t understand how much good they bring into our lives.

    Keep doing what you’re doing to bring awareness. Hopefully, the discussion and awareness of MI will become more mainstream and less stigmatized in the future. Meanwhile, keep loving that sassy Labbie, and congratulations on your wedding! And I love that you’re wearing Chucks under your gown. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story, both to me and the people you help. I hope I can continue to do our community of sufferers proud. And please continue the strong fight.
      Best wishes,
      Valerie
      Ps thanks for liking my shoes they even say Mrs Parrott 🙂

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