#Disablism: The Invisible ‘ism’. By Dawni #badd #mhuk #wrb #ukmh #disability @badd

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“Oiii, you, you mental fat c*nt” she shouted and I thought, ‘wow people swear in the street, how common’. Not because I never swear, just because I never swear in the streets. What surprisingly didn’t occur to me immediately as I walked away, smarting from the embarrassment, was that this person, my neighbour, a woman then in her late forties, thought it was acceptable to abuse me because of my mental health diagnosis.

I imagine you thinking what did she do to bring about such a vicious comment, and I would hope you would be shocked to learn that I’d merely confided in another neighbour, telling her that that I was recovering from depression, a symptom of my ‘bipolar’ illness. This evidently scandalous revelation found it’s way into the lounges, bedrooms and dining rooms of the street faster than scalded cat and suddenly I was topic of the year.

What followed my sharing a confidence lead to an unprecedented assault on my character, and which would shock my family to the core, forcing us to give up our first ever social housing property, vowing ‘never again’!

Prior the the outburst above I’d been active on the local Resident’s Association, my legal background and office skills proving useful when liaising with the local authority. Having three children of my own and living in an area filled with families, I’d helped campaign for a safe play area; had dangerous paving slabs replaced; arranged and paid for Halloween parties and Easter Egg hunts and encouraged the locals to organise fundraising events to continue providing community based activities on the Estate which did suffer from high unemployment levels and social problems.

My house was an open door for neighbourhood kids, and I’d regularly bake cakes or during winter have ‘chip shop night’ where I’d make homemade chips and wrap them in newspaper for them to eat whilst playing out. It wasn’t serendipity, there were problems in the area but as a family we were making the best of a bad deal, because it was a bad deal…we’d been made homeless, and forced to take very poor emergency accommodation, which the children and I found difficult to adjust to.

I thought I’d made friends, hence my sharing my juicy titbit about a brush with depression, therefor the speed at which the tide of friendliness turned against me was particularly shocking .

At the next Residents Association meeting the issue of my fitness to represent them as Secretary was raised, with many referring to ‘my problems’ in a hushed, but not sympathetic tone. Any agreed that I may be unfit because I may not understand what was going on, despite my history of having been apparently invaluable prior to my revelation. It was proposed that the local authority should be approached for clarification on the issue. I was hurt and humiliated, and furious.

People began to snub me in the school playground, and my children were asked whether their Mum was crazy.

The name calling became more common. When the local authority effectively backed my position as Secretary by stating my illness had nothing to do with my ability to undertake my duties some were furious. One chap openly came to my door to discuss it and said “we don’t want psychos around here, or near our kids.”

When I refused to lend the next door neighbour a tenner until “my dole comes through” he walked away and shouted “selfish nutter”.

I tried to defend my position on the Residents Association, not particularly because I wanted to be involved any more, but out of principal. I did, after all, have council backing and there were a few residents who were supportive, if not vocally, of me. It was my persistence which lead the the opening comment of this article, and became the reason I decided enough was enough, and threw the towel in.

We moved away not long after, and even now, as someone with such a public profile, I very rarely, and still with reluctance, reveal the true severity of my encounters with my illness to my neighbours.

An illness which people cannot see yet it can still mean those affected and trying to manage their symptoms face vile and cruel abuse. The British Public are outraged over instances of racism, ageism, sexism, but are quite content to quietly observe disablism and worse still, to applaud the policing of the most severely ill within their own society by a manipulative government and a demonising press.

Copyright: Dawn Willis 1 May 2012

4 thoughts on “#Disablism: The Invisible ‘ism’. By Dawni #badd #mhuk #wrb #ukmh #disability @badd

    Trina whittaker said:
    May 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Dear Superstar ….you are an amazing lady.
    Sadly it is an extremely harsh world we all live in. I often get strange comments and looks because I tell everyone what I do here in Braintree.
    I try to remember who gave me the odd look or comment so I then make it my business to talk to them again .
    We must all keep talking about it and not let them get away with their ignorance……Well done Superstar….we all love you xxx

    Well done to Lynn , Linden & Tracy too xxx

    Lynn Harrison said:
    May 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    What goes around comes around.. reminds me of a time when a former neighbour was angry with me and I overheard him say to another neighbour: ‘I’d have a word with her but she’d probably go and top herself’. My breakdowns were no secret. However, as an indirect consequence of my action to which my neighbour objected, one of their children was diagnosed with autism, which meant they did get support they had struggled without, but it also meant that their child was prescribed Risperidone, an antipsychotic drug which caused a life-threatening allergic reaction.
    Very shocked in the aftermath my neighbour came to me for advice, knowing that, as well as experiencing severe depression, I had also worked in mental health.
    I never mentioned that I had heard what he had said about me and gave him information and told him about organisations which could help. I did this again later when two of his older children were diagnosed with severe mental health conditions.
    I wouldn’t wish mental distress on anyone but people who display hurtful prejudice might bear in mind that it affects one in four and it is likely that a loved one of theirs could be on the receiving end in the future.

    Linden said:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Dawn you are an amazing, inspiring and wonderful individual. Thank you for sharing this
    I hope that times are changing. Recently I watched a very moving film called “Tim “written by Colleen McCullough,( The Thornbirds) . This is a beautiful film with a very young Mel Gibson, which demonstrates the best that people can be. With big hugs.

    Tracy Shave said:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    here here Dawn – well said. It’s about time we did something about Disablism. I remember being out with Robin when he was alive – in his wheelchair when a passer by called him a raspberry ripple. Another told him to “get up and not be lazy” – he was paralysed from the chest down! I think people just talk about me behind my back when it comes to nutterisms… but I have heard people (some who run support groups) have said that they wouldn’t work with me… it hurts. I’ve done so much and am more than capable!! Just goes to show that I may be “fit for work” but that’s very different from someone employing me.. Single parent, disabled child AND she’s mental? Hmmm…. Take care. x

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