I recently discovered a term that accurately describes a major hindrance in my battle against depression and anxiety. It’s called “Internalized Abelism,” and it is the idea that those with mental and physical disabilities end up working against themselves for access and utilization of the best treatment plans. Even admitting that these conditions exist inside the self is a difficult process.
I first started experiencing symptoms of depression at around age 9, symptoms of endometriosis with puberty around age 11, and don’t remember a time without anxiety. I still struggle with balancing my medications and describing my condition effectively to my doctors. I started to be diagnosed by various doctors around age 13. I more or less refused hospitalization for any of these conditions until around 24 years of age. 15 odd years and I still get surprised by symptoms, have difficulty coping with pain or intense emotions, and desire external validation constantly. Between specialists, therapists, prescriptions, and my own inner demons, I still often feel unable to cope.
The idea of stability is a distant dream and holding a regular job feels like an insurmountable task. I can write essays and mostly make it to my regular appointments, but regularly washing dishes seems insurmountable. Stocking shelves is a corporal punishment, redundancy is unto self harm. I take deep, spiritual joy in the sensual arts- food, massages, clean clothes, decorating home, laughing with friends. I try to hold onto these pleasures but they are so fleeting and the negative emotions cling so much stronger.
Part of my personal struggle is knowing something logically but not emotionally embracing it. I know I am not lazy, but my performance slacks in jobs where I am not challenged and invested. I know I can be physically attractive, but without someone to validate me I sometimes fail to see my own worth. I know my strengths, but they FEEL outweighed by my weaknesses. I think I am awesome, but am racked with physical pain and fear it is more ego than fact. I want to sleep and never wake up and had to learn that I would not want my family to suffer more by my death/ permanent absence.
I have certain family members who mind, body and soul believe in mind over matter and that you create the world you want to live with. A part of recognized that I was surrounded by this mindset my whole life, and I could not help but absorb some of it into my psyche. “If I am just strong enough, if I just power through, if I think differently, if I try this new pill- it will all be over and I will be able to live a normal life.” As if any one of us has ever lead a normal life in the first place.
It is hard to accept a harmful situation, especially one where your physical body and mind is involved. But to able to accept that it cannot be completely fixed, only bandaged for improvement, seems impossible. I don’t want to accept that there isn’t a happily ever after. Building a life I want to live is hard, and so is balancing the mundane and the ecstatic. Sometimes I just want to run away from myself and everything I know so I can redefine my life and the struggles of my mind. Escapism, denial, overexerting myself, and then the eventual blame is a harsh cycle to rake yourself through over and over. It isn’t intentional, but I sure notice when I end up doing it.
The toll my mental illness has on others is my worst guilt. The helplessness others express when I am in my worst state makes me want to hide and pretend everything is fine when I am feeling torn apart inside. I don’t want to inflict myself on others yet they insist not having me around would be more painful. It is an emotional paradox for everyone. I wish I knew what help to ask for when I needed it.
I am not impulsive, I just internalize and overthink far too much. I have had fantasies of sustaining myself on the streets, becoming a sex worker, becoming a Buddhist monk, being an artist on a communal farm, traveling across the country doing small jobs for food and shelter, and selling anything of value and buying a one way plane ticket to anywhere. I have the imagination and intelligence and have lead a life full of different adventures that make me into a well rounded person.
I blame myself for not taking full advantage of what I know to be my strengths. I hate knowing something but am too afraid to act on it. I hate knowing that the pain will pass but that it will also inevitably return. I want to act out but have the faculties to weight the pros and cons so instead act paralyzed. It is a constant battle between my mental illness and beating myself up for not acting like I don’t have one.
The point of this article is that I don’t know what I need or what will help. That asking for help and working towards self-improvement is not a cure. That just because you know better doesn’t mean it matches with your actions. I love myself and my loved ones and the beauty of the diversity of the world. But it is an ongoing struggle. Finding the right bandage to grow into and take things one step at a time. Remember you are not alone in your struggle, and that your uniqueness can be a strength.