The second blog in the new series of being disabled and having mental health issues.
Today's topic: being the only disabled person in the family and in friendship groups.
I think the title speaks for itself, don’t you agree?
I’m only friends with one other visually impaired person. And I know people online with visual impairments, but sometimes you need actual human contact to feel a connection. So ultimately, I am the only disabled person in my friendship group. And that creates some awkward and uncomfortable situations. For example, they arrange things I can’t or don’t feel able to do. Which is fine but I don’t like being left out, I don't think anyone does. I feel so out of the loop all of the time and there’s nothing I can do about it. They all drive, I can’t. They all can drink, whilst I’m on medication, I can’t. Time and time again I’m reminded I’m different. It often makes me feel like I don’t fit in, I don’t belong in that friendship group. It takes a while for those feelings to pass, sometimes they never do. As much as I try and explain, they don’t have a clue what it’s like navigating a world that wasn’t designed for me. I can’t suddenly agree to plans and hop on a bus, it creates too much anxiety and panic attacks happen. It’s just one of those things I can’t change or control, but I can change how I feel about it. I can’t help overthinking and imagining situations that might or might not happen if I agree to meet friends.
Of course, many of my friends have mental health issues and I like discussing anxiety and depression with them, as odd as that sounds. But sometimes it's nice to know there is someone who can relate and could offer support. It's comforting to sometimes talk your problems out and share concerns because more likely than not, they might be going through the same or similar stuff. But with being disabled, it’s a bit different for me. Much of my depression and anxiety is sight related, it’s a vicious cycle I often find myself in. But it does help to talk things out. I’m the only one in my close friendship group who attends therapy. On occasions, it makes me feel like I’m broken. Maybe I am but I am working so hard to get myself fixed and back of track. Or maybe this is just how i am.
My friend with the visual impairment is a year younger and does not have the same level of sight as me, my sight is significantly worse. We can chat, share common experiences and feelings but I don’t really know what it's like for her and she doesn’t know what it's like for me. Visual impairment is stretched across a massive spectrum, it affects each person differently. And being the only visually impaired person in the family is rough.
I’ve never been particularly close to my family. Even now there is only a few certain family members I actually speak to. I always felt the odd one out, it has become clearer as I got older that they have no idea what it's like to have a visual impairment. No idea. They simply don't care. Most of them are too wrapped up in their own little worlds. And that’s fine, each to their own. But with all my achievements, I can’t help feeling angry. I was the first one to go to uni, the first one to actually graduate and go on to study for a master’s degree. I’ve always tried to rise above and push myself. But it would be nice to have some recognition for all my hard work. And they don’t know how to deal with my mental health issues or my sexuailty. When I came out as gay, I was so frightened at what they were going to think, what they were going to say behind my back. Now, I don’t really care. There is always the awkward conversation about settling down, finding a partner and having kids. I don’t want those things. I don’t really want to get into a relationship, because frankly, people are horrible. I class myself as gay and ace, so basically asexual and aromatic. I have no interest in intimate relationships and dating. And that’s okay. If there was a nice girl who liked me then maybe. But for the time being, I’m okay on my own. I’m ninety percent sure I’m the only gay person in my family, it wasn’t a common conversation when I was growing up. Although weirdly, my mum knew I was gay before I did. I was dreading telling her, but she just turned around and said she knew. So that’s okay, and my brother is also fine with it. They’re supportive, as are my friends which I appreciate. But it’s got me thinking, I am the black sheep of the family. The misfit, the one that doesn’t conform to finding a bloke and spitting kids out at an alarming rate. And I find it strange.
I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who care, understand and sympathise. But no one can really know what it's like. I look at my friends who have all settled down, got engaged and got mortgages. Normal nine to five jobs. They’re hitting milestones I will probably never meet. Part of me hates that and part of me is alright with it. We all have different paths in life. Mine has taken the most difficult path. I can get frustrated with comparing myself to others, I don’t really know why I do it. But it happens on occasions and it reminds me that I am so much more different to my family and friends. I said before I feel like a burden, particularly when I need something reading out because I can’t see it or if my mental health has plummeted and I need extra support. I suppose that’s just something that comes with disability and mental health. Constant reminders that I’m different.
It’s what makes us unique. I have a story to tell, different to my friends and family. I like to educate people on my disability and mental health. It means that they are more likely to understand when things take a turn for the worst. I don’t know who will stick around when I lose my eyesight altogether. I’m not sure if people will know how to cope, I’ll be so much more dependant and need support. I often feel like time is ticking away, I’ve said before I have no idea when my eyesight will go. And no one can understand what it feels like. Being visually impaired and have anxiety and depression can be so isolating and sometimes, I just have to sit with it. Acknowledge those issues are there otherwise they can be all consuming and that is a rabbit hole for disaster.
If you’re reading this and you are disabled, or have anxiety or depression, I just want you to know that you are not alone. I know how hard it can be, I’ve been there so many times in the past and have to fight to get myself back on track. But there will be someone who cares, someone will understand. Maybe not completely, maybe not immediately, but there will be support there when times are hard. Being the odd one out, being the different one, sometimes it can be a good thing. It makes you one of a kind, someone who fights against all the odds and proves people wrong. It’s us, we are the kind of people whose stories need to be told. I always read blog posts from people who are disabled and have mental health issues, and I feel for them. Sometimes people may never understand and that’s okay, you don’t need to bother with them. The people who help you, those who go the extra mile and try and understand are the ones who will stand by you.
If you know someone with a disability, someone who has anxiety or depression or any other mental health issues, reach out to them. Kindness doesn’t cost anything. Listen to what they are telling you, do your own research and tell them about what you’ve read up on. My friends and family often forget about my visual impairment because I’m so adapted to using the limited sight I have. To look at me, you’d never know anything was wrong. It’s when you have my Guide Dog, people notice. Everyone’s experiences of going through life is different. But there can be common factors that can bring us together. Being the odd one out is okay and don’t let your thoughts or anyone else tell you otherwise.
I’ll leave you with these quotes.
Everything has its wonders, even darkness, and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content – Helen Keller.
Don't let the muggles get you down- Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive, wormhole refractors. You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold - The Tenth Doctor, Fear Her, Doctor Who.
All this hard work, everything you’re juggling right now, it’s leading to great things. Don’t quit before the miracle happens - Schneider, One Day at a Time.
Until the next one.