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Eleanor Lisney: Disability and Sexuality workshops

Last night one of my new colleagues expressed surprise on  mention of my children – she said she had no idea I had children. She did not mean it to be malicious but the fact I have children prove surprising to most folks. I think, to be brutally honest, most people do not expect disabled people to be sexual beings let alone have offspring.

And for disabled women it is doubly problematic. Consider the stereotype of being a woman –as a caregiver, as a sex object, mother, housekeeper – you get the picture? Many of those roles are not seen to be within the capacity of disabled women. All the media, films of disability and sexuality are from the perspective of disabled men where they have their needs fulfilled by non-disabled women. Examples, Me Before You (even if he did not think it was enough to keep him living), The Sessions, there not many based on the needs of disabled women (excluding Children of a Lesser God).

There is not much space afforded to disabled women on sexuality and how to factor in disability in the search for companionship, romance, relationships and sex. The narratives are missing. I was made aware how much so when I joined the group of women who went to the first workshop (there are a series of four workshops) lead by Sisters of Frida steering group members, Lani Parker and Dyi Huijg, on Dis/ability and Sexuality. This workshop was titled Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way

As disabled women we have a wide range of experiences, positive and negative, around disability, sex and sexuality. Disabled women are sexy, sexual, passionate, loving, caring, desirable, hot, beautiful, strong and much more! Our experiences of sexuality are also affected by different kinds of oppressions such as ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism and age.

 

In this workshop we will explore what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others

 

I felt we really shared our experiences as disabled women intersected by faith, culture, and sexual orientation. We examined the differences with impairments, acquired and from a young age, we spoke about chronic illnesses, the barriers and effects of medication and age. Does sex alleviate pain, do we/should we have sex when we are in pain? We compared the attitudes of social workers, medical practitioners and partners – in and out of relationships, domestic abuse from families, society and community pressures.

 

I cannot wait for the next session. I hope more people will come to visit this wonderful space where we afford each other sisterhood and non-judgemental sharing.

workshops

Themes and dates of the workshops

Workshop 1: Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way (finished)

In this workshop we will explore what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others.

Date: Sat 30 July

Time: 12-4pm

 

Workshop 2: When It Doesn’t Feel Good and It Isn’t Right

In this workshop we will discuss negative experiences and difficulties we have around sex and sexuality, our boundaries, consent, privacy and ableism in relationships.

Date: Sat 27 Aug

Time: 12-4pm

 

Workshop 3: Disabled Desire: Sexy and Sensual Possibilities

In this workshop we will discuss positive experiences we have and want to have around sex and sexuality, pleasure, and what it means to desire and be desired.

Date: Sat 17 Sept

Time: 11.30-3pm

 

Workshop 4: Sex: Getting What You Want and Need

Here we will build on the other workshops, and discuss how to develop confidence and feel empowered to do and want sex differently, challenge internalised oppression and other obstacles, and talk about how to put our desires and needs into practice.

Date: Sat 22 Oct

Time: 12-4pm

this project was funded by

logos of RSA and New Unity

 

 

 

— ——

Eleanor Lisney

Eleanor Lisney is a founder member and coordinator of Sisters of Frida. She is an access advisor, an NUJ member on the New Media Industrial Council and the Equality Council. She is also on the British Council Disability Advisory Panel and the web team of the International Network of Women with Disabilities.

 

Videos from Disabled women’s voices in the Frontline

Here are the videos from the day Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline Saturday 9th July, 11am – 4.30pm 

Introduction by Annabel Crowley

Simone Aspis

Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper

transcript

 

Kirsten Hearn

transcript

Miss Jacqui

transcript coming soon

Pauline Latchem

transcript

Guests speakers – Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska

transcript

notes from discussion

Transcripts from Disabled Women’s voices from the Frontline

Sisters of Frida :Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline

transcripts

Jagoda and Jasmina Risteka

KirstenHearn

Simone Aspis

Becky Olaniyi

Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper

Pauline Latcham

 

Photos from the Disabled Women’s Voices

Photos from the Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline event taken by Wasi Daniju are now available for viewing. See the full set at her Flickr album.

Here are some of them. Videos coming soon.

 

 

Simone Aspis with outstretched arms

Simone Aspis

 

Kirsten Hearn

Kirsten Hearn

 

Michelle Daley with Jagoda and Jusmina Risteska 3 wheelchair users

Michelle Daley with Jagoda and Jasmina Risteska

 

 

Annabel Crowley

Annabel Crowley

 

 

Becky Olaniyi and Miss jacqui

Becky Olaniyi and Miss Jacqui

 

Black and white photo of 4 women

Q&A Panel on Brexit and other questions

 

Eleanor Lisney

Eleanor Lisney

 

Sophie partridge and Penny Pepper, both wheelchair users reading their poetry

Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper

 

participants - forefront 2 older women, one white and one Asian, smiling at each other

some of the participants

Pauline Latchem signing

Pauline Latchem

Many thanks to Rosa UK for enabling this event

rosa fund logo

Women representatives on the new CRPD Committee – where are they?

posted to Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP (UK), UN Enable, UN Women, International Disability Alliance,

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

23 rd June 2016

Dear Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP (UK) and other concerned parties,

We write as the only collective of women with disabilities in the UK to express our serious disappointment that the new composition of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is specifically a convention on and for disabled people, will have only one woman representative.

We are joined by our deep disappointment and concern by the International Network of Women with Disabilities (INWWD), European Network of Independent Living (ENIL), Women with Disabilities India Network, Pukenga Consultancy (NZ), Advocacy for Inclusion (Australia) and Women Enabled International in this letter.

Indeed, the CRPD Committee now stands as the treaty body with the fewest number of women members – one woman (out of 18 members) in 2017– a significant departure from its previous compositions of six women (out of 18 members) in 2014-2016; seven women (out of 18 members) in 2012-2014; eight women (out of eighteen members) in 2010-2012; and five women (out of 12 members) in 2008-2010.

Yet, article 34(4) of the CRPD sets out the requirement that States Parties elect members of the Committee with consideration being given to: equitable geographical distribution, representation of different legal systems, balanced gender representation and participation of experts with disabilities. This requirement for gender parity has clearly not been met. This failure to adhere to its own Convention seriously undermines the credibility of the new Committee.

In March, members of Sisters of Frida, the INWWD, and Women Enabled International participated at the UN CSW 60 at which themes under discussion and review included the empowerment of women and the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. There was a marked paucity of events covering disabled women although several side-events were held by and with disabled women expressing the issues forcibly and clearly.

Disabled women are among the most disadvantaged in the world, despite being the single largest minority of women, and this failure to attend to the issues facing disabled women cannot help in the fight against barriers imposed not just by the built environment and lack of accessibility to services, employment and education but also by social barriers: stigmatization, ostracization and the easy targeting of those who are particularly susceptible to discrimination, including the fact we are female. How will these concerns be heard and represented? The CRPD recognizes the intersecting forms of discrimination faced by women and girls in Article 6; we need women representatives in the committee in order to ensure the Committee engages and addresses this issue.

What will you do to redress this lack of gender equality so that it will not be the case for the next election? What is the work to be done to ensure the inclusion of women across all the conventions, and agreements to which the UK Government is party? This absence of women in decision-making is likely to lead to leaving many behind in the face of the cry underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5, that no-one should be left  behind.

How can we be of assistance?

We look forward to your reply,

Eleanor Lisney

Sisters of Frida

Other signatories include

Myra Kovary (Moderator, International Network of Women with Disabilities)

Jamie Bolling (CEO, European Network on Independent Living)

Prof. (Dr) Asha Hans (Women with Disabilities India Network)

Dr Huhanna Hickey (Pukenga Consultancy, NZ)

Christina Ryan (CEO, Advocacy for Inclusion, Australia)

Stephanie Ortoleva Esq (Founding President & Legal Director, Women Enabled International)

sisters of frida logo

advocacy inclusion logo

 

 

INWWD logo

 

 

 

 

enil logoWomen Enabled International

enil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disability & Sex/uality workshops

Disability & Sex/uality project         

Invitation

We are delighted to announce that we are now able to continue the Disability and Sex/uality project that we started in September 2015. This phase of the project will consist of four workshops, each with a different theme. These workshops are for self-identified disabled women who want to create a space to talk about disability, sex and sexuality. It would be ideal if you can attend all the workshops, but if you prefer, you can just come to the ones you want. We would love to see you there!

Please RSVP now for the Disability and Sex/uality meeting on 30 July 2016, 12-4pm, London. (sof.disabilitysexuality@gmail.com)

 

The project

The idea for this project came out of a screening of the documentary AccSex, which showed how a group of disabled women in India experience their sexuality. We at Sisters of Frida, a disabled women’s cooperative, felt the need to create a space where we can safely discuss our sexuality in a supportive and empowering environment.

As disabled women we have a wide range of experiences, positive and negative, around disability, sex and sexuality. Disabled women are sexy, sexual, passionate, loving, caring, desirable, hot, beautiful, strong and much more! Our experiences of sexuality are also affected by different kinds of oppressions such as ableism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism and age.

 

Themes and dates of the workshops

Workshop 1: Crip Sex, Because We Want It Our Way

In this workshop we will explore what sex means for us as disabled women, non-normative sex, positive self-image, exploring sex alone and sex with others.

Date: Sat 30 July

Time: 12-4pm

 

Workshop 2: When It Doesn’t Feel Good and It Isn’t Right

In this workshop we will discuss negative experiences and difficulties we have around sex and sexuality, our boundaries, consent, privacy and ableism in relationships.

Date: Sat 27 Aug

Time: 12-4pm

 

Workshop 3: Disabled Desire: Sexy and Sensual Possibilities

In this workshop we will discuss positive experiences we have and want to have around sex and sexuality, pleasure, and what it means to desire and be desired.

Date: Sat 17 Sept

Time: 11.30-3pm (note the different time!)

 

Workshop 4: Sex: Getting What You Want and Need

Here we will build on the other workshops, and discuss how to develop confidence and feel empowered to do and want sex differently, challenge internalised oppression and other obstacles, and talk about how to put our desires and needs into practice.

Date: Sat 22 Oct

Time: 12-4pm

 

Registration

The topics we will discuss can be sensitive. For this reason, please contact us directly to register and discuss participation as this will be a closed meeting: sof.disabilitysexuality@gmail.com. Note that places are limited, please get in touch as soon as possible. Deadline for registration for the first workshop (30 July) is 15 July.

 

Accessibility and needs

The venue is large and wheelchair accessible. There is an accessible toilet, but without a hoist. There is a kitchen people can use for quiet-time. Please get in touch as soon as possible if you need BSL or if you have other access needs. If you have any concerns or queries about the nature of what might be discussed in the workshop and how it could relate to your experiences, please get in touch. Please note that this is a peer-support group, so we cannot offer professional support.

 

Other details

Where: New Unity Islington

Address: 277A Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 2TZ

Contact: sof.disabilitysexuality@gmail.com

Deadline for registration: 15 July 2016

Accessibility: please get in touch to discuss your needs as soon as possible

Funded and supported by

new unity logo

Event: Disabled Women’s Voices from the Frontline Saturday 9th July, 11am – 4.30pm

Flyer for Voices event

 

A Sisters of Frida Event

Please register at Eventbrite

­­­Venue: Blackfriars Settlement

1 Rushworth Street London, SE1 0RB

Date:               Saturday 9 July 2016

Time:              11.00am to 4.30pm

Lunch provided! BSL interpreters provided but please let us know your Access and dietary requirements by 20th June, please!

Disabled women spoke of the barriers in participating in events where organisers seem to think inclusion means that we get access to the event/ if we get access to the event. We need to increase skills, provide capacity so that disabled women will be credible to challenge intersectional inequality.

So come to hear disabled women who are great public speakers/performers

 

SPEAKERS

kirsten hearn KIRSTEN HEARN is a long time blind lesbian feminist activist. Snarling at the patriarchy and agitating for   inclusion since 1980,; she is founder member of Sisters Against Disablement; Women’s tape over; Feminist audio Books, and an active member of  a raft of other disability, women’s and LGBT rights campaigns.

She seeks to cast all she does in a feminist light, believing that women’s struggle speaks to the experiences of all other marginalised groups.  Liberation for one group must not come at the sacrifice of another discriminated against group’s rights,. As best she can, she has applied these principles through singing, songs, writing and performance.

She has been a board member of Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police Authority; EHRC Disability Committee; the chair of Inclusion London and the vice chair of the Consortium of LGBT CVOs. Currently she bends her energies for change as a Haringey Labour Councillor; An Independent Member of the Parole Board; and as a member of the board of Stay Safe East, a pioneering disabled people’s organisation dedicated to campaigning against DV and hate crimes experienced by disabled people. She also speaks a lot.

simone aspisSIMONE ASPIS is a disabled woman with over 20 years experience of successful campaigning for disabled peoples’ rights.   Her first taste of campaigning was leading People First’s campaign to secure civil rights and direct payments for people with learning difficulties in the Disability Discrimination and Direct Payments legislation.   Thereafter she has taken up campaigns roles with Disabled Peoples Direct Action NetworkI Decide Coalition, Disabled Peoples Equal Rights To Life, United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council and Alliance for Inclusive Education working on many issues covering inclusive education, independent living and supported decision making, welfare reform and bioethics. She is a former Green Party’s Disabled Peoples Spokesperson and have stood as Parliamentary Perspective Candidate and Greater London  Authority’s elections

Becky Olaniyi

BECKY OLANIYI is  interested in acting, writing, psychology and neuroscience, but her main goal in doing this is to try to help young disabled women acknowledge and understand themselves as individuals, rather than simply being ‘that disabled girl’, as well as helping people in general to understand that disabled people are whole individuals whose limitations exist on a spectrum and are very different from one another because despite sharing one characteristic, we are all unique, with our own lives, perspectives and experiences.

 

PERFORMERS

miss jacquiMISS JACQUI came from a extremely creative family; She is fascinated by many different types of artforms. Theatre and music has always been a huge part of Miss Jacqui’s life.
Miss Jacqui’s love for theatre started a little later than most, and it was only when her mother signed Jacqui up to an inclusive drama group when she was 13 to get her out of her introverted shell; and she never looked back. Miss Jacqui’s love for music developed from recording the radio onto cassettes when she was really young, to wanting to know everything about how it all worked.
Miss Jacqui’s love for Spoken Word/Poetry only came to light in October 2011, when she joined ‘Poets Platform’ led by Kat Francois.Miss Jacqui honestly believe that creativity is a universal language.
Miss Jacqui is a Spoken Word Artist, Mix Engineer, Facilitator, and An Artist Manager.

sophieSOPHIE PARTRIDGE is a creative practitioner living in London, who trained with Graeae Theatre Co. She has worked extensively since her training, including her performance as Coral in the award winning Graeae play Peeling. Other stage performance includes work with the David Glass Ensemble, TIE in Nottingham, Theatre Resource in Essex and Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh. Her Media work also includes photo modelling, corporate video and radio.  She is also a campaigner for the right of all Disabled People to live truly independently!

and –

 

Penny PepperPENNY PEPPER wrote the taboo-breaking book Desires Reborn in 2012 and in 2013 she won a Creative Futures Literary Award. In September 2014 her one-woman spoken word show, Lost in Spaces, premiered to strong reviews at Soho Theatre, and toured the Midlands in 2015. Recently she launched the Quality Writing for All Campaign for The Literary Consultancy at The Free Word Centre to great reviews. As a performance poet, she has performed across the UK,including London, Edinburgh and further afield in New York.

 

AnnabelANNABEL CROWLEY will chair the day. Annabel grew up as a young carer, and started working in the field of disability at the age of 17. She has supported disabled students in FE and HE, and is currently employed by the Disability Service at University of the Arts London. Annabel has also worked in the charity sector, including several years coordinating a user-led, community-based social activities programme at Hammersmith and Fulham Mencap. With experience in designing and delivering training, advocacy work, project management and youth participation.

paulineGuest appearance!

PAULINE LATCHAM is a practicing Counsellor and relationship therapist. Pauline’s background is in community volunteering, particularly youth and mental health work, domestic violence and disability advocacy and activism. She was great speaking at the Wow Festival Chore Wars session as a Deaf woman for Sisters of Frida.

 

Funded by

rosa fund logo

Rosa May Billinghurst, disabled woman suffragette

Many thanks to Dr. Sheila Hanlon for permission to repost this blog.

Rosa May Billinghurst: Suffragette on Three Wheels

woman seated on tricycle surrounded by coppers

 

Rosa May Billinghurst (1873-1953) was born and raised in Lewisham, London. As a child, she contracted an illness which left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her condition did not, however, deter her from joining the WSPU in 1907 or becoming one of its best known militants.

In her youth, Billinghurst and her sister Alice volunteered to work with poor children in the Deptford slums, local workhouse inmates, and prostitutes. Exposure to these injustices may have contributed to her interest in women’s suffrage and inspired her to join the Women’s Liberal Association. When a branch of the WSPU opened in Lewisham, she quickly switched allegiances to this new group, whose political agenda was a better match to her own ideas than the the Liberal platform was.

Lewisham banner

Lewisham banner

Billinghurst was a dedicated WSPU member. She organised events and meetings, took part in demonstrations, was a regular in processions, and served as secretary of the Greenwich branch. Without the use of her legs, she relied on an invalid tricycle for the mobility she needed to be a full participant in the suffrage action. Her invalid tricycle was, for the time, a high tech wheelchair modeled on a tricycle and propelled by hand controls.

Billinghurst was a regular participant in the WSPU’s public processions. She attracted public attention by appearing dressed in white and wheeling along with her machine decked out in coloured WSPU ribbons and “Votes for Women” banners. Billinghurst rose to prominence as a recognizable public figure and became known as “the cripple suffragette.”

In addition to being a regular fixture at peaceful protests, Billinghurst was drawn to militant action and demonstrations. In 1910, she participated in Black Friday, leading the police to try to subdue her by knocking her out of her tricycle, pushing it down a side street, removing the valves from the tyres, and restraining her arms. Never easily deterred, she was back a few days later for the next protest, only this time she came prepared to use her tricycle as a battering ram to get through police lines.

The image above, taken by an unknown photographer in 1908, shows Billinghurst in a crowd surrounded by police. She may be under arrest or at a demonstration supporting fellow suffragettes who were incarcerated. She was arrested herself several times, including an incident in November 1911 when she was charged with obstructing police in Parliament Square. These charges were likely justified. Recalling her impressions of Billinghurst, one veteran of the suffrage movement wrote, “I remember hearing startling stories of her running battles with the police. Her crutches were lodged on each side of her self propelling invalid chair, and when a meeting was broken up or an arrest being made, she would charge the aggressors at a rate of knots that carried all before her.”

Billinghurst at a protest

Billinghurst at a protest

Billinghurst’ efforts earned her several prison terms. In March 1912, she took part in the WSPU window smashing campaign, for which she received one month’s hard labour. Doctor Alice Ker who was in jail at the time wrote to her daughters in April that year that “Miss Billinghurst, the tricycle lady, is going out on the 11th and will take this (letter). She is quite lame, wears irons on her legs and walks with crutches when she is out of her tricycle.”

Billinghurst received another eight month sentence for her role in the December 1912 attacks on pillar boxes. This time she took part in the hunger strikes. She was released early following brutal force feeding sessions that left her in poor health and with broken teeth. She wrote and protested force feeding once she was released, publishing graphic accounts of her experience in suffrage journals and inspired Keir Hardie and George Lansbury to raise the atrocities of force feeding in parliament.

In the years after the suffrage era, Billinghurst remained committed to the cause, joining the Suffragette Fellowship and supporting Christabel Pankhurst’s election campaign forThe Women’s Party in 1918.

Rosa May Billinghurst is an inspiring example of a suffragette who overcame disability to become an active participant in the battle for women’s emancipation. Her story reminds us that suffrage was a cause that mattered to women of all types, across class, race, ability, nationality and other divides.

 

Sources:

Image: “The Papers of Rosa May Billinghurst,” The Women’s Library, Ref 7RMB

“Billinghurst Letters” and “Alice Ker Letters,” The Women’s Library, Autograph Collection, Vol XXIX, 9/29, 1912-1913

Fran Abrams, Freedom’s Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes, (London: Profile Books, 2003)

Iris Dove, Yours in the Cause: Suffragettes in Lewisham, Greenwhich and Woolwhich,1988.

 ——————————————–

Dr Sheila hanlon with a penny farthing cycleDr. Sheila Hanlon is a social and cultural historian specialising in the politics and every day experience of women’s cycling. She holds a PhD from York University, Toronto and is a former Research Fellow at The Women’s Library.

Freyja Haraldsdóttir: 22 random things that make me tired as a disabled woman

Many thanks to Freyja Haraldsdóttir for allowing us to reblog this post. We met her in Leeds at the Screening AccSex meeting at the Center for Disability Studies, Leed Iniversity. So many of us could respond to the feelings she expresses here – 

I am tired of often needing to value other people’s needs more than my own.

I am tired of being anxious about small events because of the fear of being marginalized and silenced.

I am tired of people over and over again assuming my opinions on sexism and ableism are just an emotional reaction instead of opinions based on diverse knowledge and deep experience of both.

I am tired of feeling like a bad feminist when I can’t show matters of privileged women support who don’t acknowledge or understand my reality.

I am tired of people finding it okay when Hollywood presents disabled people better of dead.

I am tired of everyone but myself having more authority to decide on my abilities and strength.

I tired of my body being objectified as desexualized, weak and emotionless.

I am tired of people I love excusing ableist people.

I am tired of needing to pick out a president candidate or other people for powerful positions who I don’t identify with and will therefore have big problems understanding my reality.

I am tired of ableism being normalized on a higher level in my country then sexism and racism (not that that isn’t normalized enough).

I am tired of people not understanding multiple oppression and that I can not pick out identities like clothes to wear everyday. I am always both a woman and disabled. Not either or.

I am tired of not being able to trust that my independence is longterm because in Iceland personal assistance is still a trial project. My freedom is on trial.

I am tired of being afraid of sharing what I find hard because then I automatically become victimized.

I am tired of sometimes not being able to sleep from worries about the influence of marginalization on my future.

I am tired of people constantly asking ‘how is it going?’ in stead of ‘how are you feeling?’.

I am tired of not being allowed to be angry because it makes others uncomfortable.

I am tired of not being allowed to show difficult emotions without being stigmatized as negative and unhappy when I am most definitely not.

I am tired of not having space to talk about physical pain without my life being stigmatized as not worth living.

I am tired of many people not caring about everything mentioned above.

I am tired of not being allowed to be tired.

I am tired of being tired of being tired.

I am so tired.

There is also this great speech she gave at 100 years of Women’s Civil Rights. International Conference Celebrating the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage in Iceland, October 22.-23. 2015. (speech transcript)

Sam Ambreen: We are, none of us, beyond hope

Thank you to Sam Ambreen for allowing us to repost her blog. The article referred to in xoJane has been removed and replaced with an apology.  You can read the original at webarchive. Sam is giving an important message here, especially for disabled women, with mental health issues and internalised lack of self worth.

crazy

I didn’t read the xojane article doing the rounds, I found myself reeling from the headline as I tried to process what the author, Amanda Lauren, was saying. “My former friend’s death was a blessing – some people are so sick, they are beyond help”.

It kind of speaks for itself, the author believes there are people who are a lost cause and they should die because it will make it easier for everyone else. She feels justified in saying this, reassured enough to publish her thoughts on a global platform. I am perturbed by people who make these controversial statements, unconcerned by how they might be perceived, either possessing the hide of a rhinoceros or else feel that public opinion will sway their way (another painful reminder of the growing inhumanity we’ve normalised against anyone considered ‘other’).

I have CPTSD, a condition I am stuck with for the rest of my life because it is as the name suggests, complex. I didn’t ask to be repeatedly put in harm’s way, with no chance of escape, it’s just the life I was born into. I have explored in great detail the reasons I broke down, so that I can understand it was not my fault (when you’re mental you’re convinced you deserve it) and so that I could hope for a better future, one where I can have a fulfilling life, where I won’t be immediately at risk of a violent death.

My efforts to at least appear normal for the sake of ordinary people exhaust me, as anyone who suffers from a condition which impacts on their day to day dealings will tell you; how to not only stay alive, but to live well, to be fun and interesting and relevant. There can be no stone left unturned, no door chained and bolted in the recesses of my fragile mind, triggers must be neutralised as they arise. I frequently say things that make other people uncomfortable. I don’t do it intentionally, it’s just my experience of the world is so far removed from the norm, I come across somewhat intense and affected. When people try to cover things up, or downplay the truth, I consider that to be gaslighting because it messes with my sense of reality. When I told the truth as a child I was disbelieved and punished.

My childhood was violent, my teens isolated, my 20s split entirely from reality. Amanda Lauren would probably say my life wasn’t worth living. I believed that too, until just a year or two ago, when I suddenly remembered who I was before I became unhinged, a state I found myself in through no fault of my own. I remembered the things I was good at, the hopes I had as a pre teen, for university and beyond. This brought with it confidence and self esteem, qualities I’d mislaid following my failings as an adult in a cishet white supremacist patriarchy. When I think back to the lowest period of my life, the monotony of anhedonia and how utterly convinced I was that my time on this earth was rapidly coming to an end it frightens me to think people like Amanda believe in the legitimacy of their own bigotry.

I never thought I’d have the confidence to write my own blog, or weather a twitter storm. I didn’t dare dream of friends and lovers who hear me, even when there are no words. Even when I was a bordering on psychotic, withdrawing from SSRIs, they kept me supplied with valium and kitten pics. That’s what friends do, Amanda, they love you despite your flaws. They understand there is nothing inherently wrong with you, that you’re a product of an unjust society and that to feel depressed or disconnected from the world is a sign you’re actually (most likely) a decent sort. I don’t reject the mental ones, I welcome them with open arms, as they have me. I want to offer Amanda’s ex friend my condolences and wish for her to rest in peace. I am sorry you were stuck with people who didn’t deserve you.

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” Be wary of those who pretend they haven’t a care in the world, more so the ones who genuinely don’t.

———-

Sam Ambreen Sam Ambreen is a blogger at Left At the Rights.
She also tweets as @HamHambreen