A friend and I were having a brief discussion about people with disabilities and how we are portrayed by the media. You’ve all heard the stories: Despite their disability, so and so did ________. However, how often do hear about the people who are severely disabled to the point that they can’t do ________? (And please don’t mistake me for being bitter, because I’m not. I’ve been there, when “despite having fibromyalgia, I made it to college.”)
This sends the message that you’re okay to be around if your disabilty still means you can be somewhat-able, if you can still inspire people, but not if it crosses that line into unrelenting sickness that stops you from life. Personally, being from the psychology field, I feel that this just too scary a concept for people to acknowledge. And as my friend mentioned, it’s as if “people don’t know how to place value on somebody who can’t work.” You’re somehow not near as much a hero as those who “don’t let it stop them,” even if you suddenly have no choice but to be stopped. We don’t make good news stories. However, I affirm that I am no less of a survivor and a warrior, just because I am too ill to bring in the dollars for the news stations.
And pity is out of the question. Please don’t pity me, because chances are I have more strength than most people you’ll meet, due to what I’ve been through, and that’s just a fact. Don’t value me based on whether I can lift the gallon of milk that day, or how many classes I can still take “in spite of being sick”; value me because I’ve accumulated the knowledge of a wise eldery woman without living the 80 years, and because I’m a good person.
And concerning an article printed in U.S. News & World Report:
“It is a primary example of what I have been calling the myth of the ‘superkid,’ who walks between raindrops, confronts any challenge and emerges unscarred and unscathed, never experiences a moment’s pain,” says Washington, D.C., psychologist Sybil Wolin…
“The notion we try to put forth is that resilience embodies a paradox,” she says. “We’re talking about the capacity to rebound from experience, mixed with all the damage and problems that adversity can cause. It’s not an either/or thing. And this ‘media resilience’ does kids who are struggling no good, does professionals no good in understanding them, has downright dangerous policy implications, and frankly, gives resilience…a bad name.“
I get so tired of watching movies or reading books (Tuesdays with Morrie, however incredible it may be, immediately springs to mind) where the characters who are going through these awful situations–whether it illness, abuse, family tragedy, or traumatic experience–are made to appear completely unharmed and “resilient” to the point of pure fantasy. It usually goes something like, “Every day of his life was misery, but he never complained about it,” or, “Despite the memory of her past, she put it all aside and went forth without hesitation.”
NO ONE DOES THAT.
It really bothers me, and I’m glad there are articles out there about this very fact! Yes, he may be resilient and strong and continue to value life despite his situation but of course he complained! Yes, she may not let her past hold her back and chooses to move forward but of course her past was on her mind every step of the way, and of course she hesitated!
Resilience is not some fantastical application of optimism to the point where you cannot see anything else. Resilience is seeing everything very, very clearly and yet moving on in spite of that!
“The greatest human achievement is not success, but facing an unchangeable fate with great courage.” (Viktor Frankl: psychiatrist, author, and holocaust survivor.)
♥ a rainbow at night