Help Create a Crisis Line for PwD, by PwD

 

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Taking a break from the usual dark, personal content to tell you about an initiative that I’m working my butt off to make a reality: A crisis line, run by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities(PwD). It’s a wonder that a crisis line specifically for PwD doesn’t already exist. After all, we’ve got crisis lines for the LBGT+ community, and for people that are experiencing abuse, we’ve got teen helplines—we’ve even got one for helping kids with their homework. We recognize that certain circumstances warrant help from people who” get it” (ugh, homework), and yet we don’t have any phone support for those struggling with disability-related stuff.

It’s a puzzle as to why that is, when the suicide rate of PwD is 2.5 times higher than the average population in North America. (Depending on where you look— despite high risk, PwD are often overlooked in suicide prevention and analysis, which is another classic example of erasure. I digress.) Other deeply alarming facts, like how over 80% of women with disabilities will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, scream for the development of a disability-specific crisis line.

Aside from gut-wretching stats, there’s the simple, undeniable truth that living with a disability can be fucking difficult sometimes,. It’s hard when doctors don’t really know how to treat you, or assume your disability is the root of all your health problems, instead of examining you properly. It’s wearing to have to educate people often, on what your disability is and how it affects you. It’s tiring to fight against subtle or overt discrimination, against hate speech, against ignorance that has kept you isolated so many times in the past. It’s heartbreaking to grieve loss of ability, and to not have the ongoing support needed as you enter life as a newly-disabled person. And these are just a few of the struggles we so frequently face, as PwD.

If we can’t immediately remedy the ableism at the root of many of these troubles, the least we can do is provide emotional support for PwD, and that’s why I’m trying to start a crisis line for PwD. To give us a space to talk, to vent, with someone who knows what it’s like to live with disability. To have a number to dial when you’re looking for disability-related resources. To bridge the gap, create connection, break isolation.

So. If you’re reading this, and you’d like to help make a crisis line for PwD come to life, there are a few ways you could help:

  • if you’re a PwD who wants to tell me their thoughts on a crisis line, and how it can bet serve PwD
  • if you know anything about writing grants
  • If you know anything about crowd sourcing/fundraising
  • If you can tell me why having a crisis line for PwD is a shit idea
  • If you know of any excellent resources/social agencies, that serve PwD well if you know of an organization that might help fund a crisis line for PwD.

Finally, the rate of unemployment for PwD inON is nothing short of pitiful, with PwD at 51% unemployed, while those without disability have an unemployment rate of only 21%. Many organizations struggle to be accessible to those that may work best from home, or with accommodations in an office setting. The Partnership Council on Employment Opprtunities for People with Disabilities’ report states that businesses are reluctant to hire PwD because of concerns regarding “absenteeism, lower productivity and expensive accommodations.”

These ableist (and disproven, see further down on the linked page) beliefs clearly have an impact on the disabled population with respect to employment.It’s crucial that we work towards changing that reality, and in order to that it would be a priority to pay PwD support workers adequately. Hence, the crisis line would likely start off small, with paid workers, and grow as more funds become available.

All suggestions/thoughts are welcome—Don’t hesitate to email me at Kristen.williams10@gmail.com The more feedback, the better. Thanks, folks.

Dating A Hippie Who Isn’t Actually Very Hippie.

I just got out of this shitty relationship. Shitty because, when it was good, it was really good, and when it was bad I wanted to stick my head in an oven. The guy? Dude’s name is actually Tim Kitz–I won’t be complicit in the protection of abuser’s identities. Stay away from him, friends.

Anyway, Tim seems like a hippie in the hippiest of ways, with trademark unkept hair and a commune-like living style. The type that cleans out plastic cups so he can recycle them, and turns dinner conversation into a deconstruction of capitalist ideals.

On paper, Kitz seems fantastic.He knows all the relevant feminist-progressive ideals and when to slip them into casual conversation. He, like me, seems to have a huge hard-on for radicalism and equality, and enjoys analyzing the places where the two intertwine. He’s also super affectionate, and spends more time touching me than, well, not touching me when we’re together.

When push comes to shove though, he is not even close to being the things he portrays and purports to care about, and it’s become more and more evident that a lot of his radical thought and progressive beliefs in things like “listening and validating others” and “not being a manipulative fuckhead to women that you’re sleeping with.” are nothing more than lip-service that he spouts when it suits him. Yeah, remember that part about wanting to stick my head in the oven?

So anyways, both of us have known for weeks now that things between us should be over. On my end, things are done because he’s incredibly manipulative. On his end, I don’t fucking know. He says I don’t listen to him. On our Last Night Ever Getting Back Together, he just kept saying that–over and over, in between other shit about how I’m a liar and a hypocrite and a user–“You don’t listen to me.” Even though I’ve spent hours upon hours listening to his rants about how I’m actually awful. Even though he guilts me for doing the very things I should be doing– hanging up, kicking him out–I should’ve never listened.

Before he derailed every one of my concerns into being about how don’t listen to him, he made it about how I always give up too easy. He said I never have ever given him a chance, and that when I ended things (which, I tried to do on average once a week), I was just giving up again. During one of his worst railroad rants he told me I’m a quitter, among other things, for ten minutes straight. No exaggeration.

O

All said, I’m sure you see the toxicity here.  Label it what you like–I’ve tried to compartmentalize it under “bullshit that seeps in to my soul, even though I’d rather never think about again ever,” but it’s tough. It’s tough because the first few paragraphs of this post still remain true.And those hooks, they’re deep.

Even though every fight somehow became about him and his pain, he’s the only guy who’s walked around the city with me, holding my hand. He’s the only one who gives me space to talk to strangers who assume I can’t talk, or talk to him first. The only one who said, “Fuck you,” to a passerby that said he was a “good man,” for holding my hand.

They’re are countless reasons why people put up with abuse. As a disabled woman, I think one of my reasons in this scenario was the way I simultaneously felt totally seen, and not seen at all. I felt a lot of love, and then I felt the rug slip from underneath me. I felt like people had no choice but to confront their ableism when we were out together, and that felt a bit like crack. I loved feeling like a real person.

Maybe one day I’ll feel it again, without a price.

 

This is what it feels like

I don’t know about you, but my last few months have consisted of men’s bullshit, and my minimization of said bullshit, as a means of survival.

But today, today I say fuck your bullshit.

Fuck the time you laid in my bed, right after I clarified that none of the hanky-panky would be had, stuck your fingers inside of me and said, “I want this.”

Not, “I want you” Not, “I’m attracted to you,” and definitely not, “I want your consent,” just this, and your stubby fingers in my beautiful vagina.

Fuck the night leading up to the morning of your intrusive fingers, when I said I was too tired to sleep with you, and you kept kissing me anyhow. Fuck the fact that I said at least 3 times that I was sleeping, and kept my eyes shut as you penetrated me with your penis regardless.

Fuck the fact that when you left the next morning, after your fingers had been inside of me and your penis had gone soft twice, (to which you blamed the speed crash you were having, and not the fact that you were trying to fuck someone who wouldn’t even open her eyes for you) the last thing you said was “You could’ve been more playful, you know.”

Fuck the likelihood that many of you will read this and wonder why I said “I’m tired” and “I’m asleep” over and over, instead of “No.”

Fuck the reality that I wonder that too.

Fuck the fact that you still text me.

Fuck the fact that you don’t know what you did wrong.

Fuck the knowledge that I’m a statistic.

Fuck the way that knowing you for a year changed nothing.

Fuck the way that all my wisdom on consent, and violence, and self-care couldn’t change a goddamn thing.

Fuck the perception that I’m vulnerable, as a disabled person,and its tangible, undeniable, non-socially-constructed truth.

Fuck the fact that after you’d left, all I could do was lay there, with my face in your pillow and your smell lingering, thinking about how it was bound to happen to me sometime.

Fuck the truth that so many girls have been here, and can’t read this without crying.

Fuck the fear that this won’t be the last time I experience this.

Fuck the fact that this isn’t even what I wanted to write about.

 

#AbleismIs (Fuck Ableism)

#AbleismIs

What’s the best way to maintain inequality? Never name the fire that fuels it. The best way to hog power and control? Keep people in the dark about the ways they’re being mistreated; be it by individuals or institutions. Tell them it’s their fault. Redefine their reality. Tell them they’re losing they’re mind, that they did this to themselves, over and over until they take it for truth.

I’ve been asked to define ableism multiple times in the last few months. Each time, my stomach clenches with fear and retreat, as many different instances unfold themselves in my mind’s eye. I can’t. I think, almost instinctually. Putting the complexities of my daily life into tangible, understandable terms of oppression feels all-too-intense.

As intense as unacknowledged oppressions are, silence is worse. Silence is harmful. Silence manifests more ableism. I’m done with silence, and below is some of the ableism I experience. Add your experiences with ableism, so we can paint a fuller picture together, and hopefully dispel the power held by silence and ambiguity.

#AbleismIs a contradiction, a trap, that constantly invalidates people with disabilities and then tells them to get over their disabilities, be different, erase parts of themselves, look more ‘normal’

#AbleismIs the belief that disabilities are an excuse, born out of laziness or incompetency.

#Ableism says that disabled people are liars and/or criminals. Its baseline asserts that we could work but don’t, and if we are able to work, are scamming government funds and resources if we still have physical or monetary needs. #burdenofproof.

#Ableism locks disabled people up in institutions, presently, in many countries around the world. In Canada, the last known(abusive) institution was shut down in 2009.

#AbleismIs the assumption that everyone wants to be able-bodied,

#AbleismIs the belief that disabled people are less-than.

Systemically, #AbleismIs the structural oppression that legitimizes our poverty, unemployment, isolation, and general lack of well being. #Ableism justifies these inequalities by calling us inefficient, undeserving.

#Ableism glorifies our helpers as saints, while ignoring our names and stories.

#AbleismIs the reason why so many men still ask me if I can have sex.

#AbleismIs the reason those same men ask, “but how?”

#Ableism is this online dating text:

Screenshot 2015-11-10 16.54.55

Right. Because POF is where you find people to climb Mount Everest with.

#Ableism (internalized) tells me that I should not have other friends in wheelchairs, or with disabilities of any kind. It says that I’ve worked so hard to overcome my disability (eye roll), and thus shouldn’t have to associate with other PwDs.

#Ableism (internalized) whispers that I’m too good to date other PwD, because that’s all society expects of me and I better ‘do better’.

#Ableism (internalized) makes me a snob, isolates me from my own community.

#Ableism (internalized) makes me uncomfortable with disclosing my disability to those I’ll never see face-to-face, for fear they’ll start questioning my competency/legitimacy as a person, once discovering that I’m disabled.

#Ableism expects me to talk louder.

#Ableism wants me to learn in a standardized way.

#Ableism makes no time for mental health/sick days.

#AbleismIs the reason I didn’t know what ableism was until I was 24.

And maybe worst of all, #AbleismIs what’s made me think all these negatives are simply, “the cards I’ve been dealt.”

#AbleismIs never going to acknowledge that I was born with less spoons than ablebodied people, and #Ableism will never note that that does not make me less-than, but in fact gives me a greater filter against bullshit and time-wasting.

#AbleismIs the reason the rate of suicide for disabled people is estimated to be much higher than those of the “average” population.

#AbleismIs the reason those suicide stats are so well-hidden.

#AbleismIs the pity-smile from the passerbys at the grocery store.

#AbleismIs hiding my learning differences, because my physical differences are already too much to handle.

#Ableism causes closeted-living.

#Ableism teaches us that ablebodied people’s time is of more value than ours, that their lives matter more than ours, and that we should be grateful we are alive.

#AbleismIs ignoring or invalidating invisible disabilities.

#AbleismIs refusing to believe in the legitimacy of our disabilities.

#Ableism is, “You have brain damage? Well, you seem really smart.”

#AbleismIs the “R-word,” because when you use that word, you dissociate from the humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.

#Ableism says that I don’t understand how my body works.

#Ableism says my body is broken/deformed/tragic/something to gawk over.

#AbleismIs why I felt ugly as soon as I hit puberty.

#AbleismIs why I eventually decided “Fuck that, I’m pretty.”

#Ableism assumes that institutions know my priorities, and what’s best for me.

#AbleismIs responsible for the medicalization and dehumanization of my body.

#Ableism still regularly tells me I’m stupid, not good enough, and should just take what I can get out of life.

#Ableism hurts.

That’s all I have right now. My goal is to make a comprehensive list depicting what ableism looks like for all sorts of people, so contribute if you feel comfortable. Tell me, what does ableism mean to you?

Additions to #AbleismIs From Other PwD:

Jennifer Clayton says: “Ableism is…doctors telling me to find another doctor because they don’t treat people with “multiple problems.”

Ableism treats me like a dumb child, and is surprised I’ve had any accomplishments.

Ableism thinks I should be cured by now, or dead.

Ableism thinks I should apologize.

Ableism can suck it!”

Andrew Morrison-Gurza says: “#ableismis CP Warriors. Why are we fighting our disabilities and not embracing them? “
Point of reference:
 TIFFANY GRACE
Andrew also says: “‪#‎AbleismIS‬: Not knowing how to take things slow or create boundaries, because as PwD, we are rarely given the opportunity to experience consistency.”                                                                                                                                                                               Anne Killpack says: “#ableismis feeling like I have to be polite about not getting basic civil rights others get.

 #ableismis when a sign says dogs are welcome at the cafe that doesn’t let wheelchairs in.”

 Katie Calahan says: “[#ableismis ] When someone aggressively “insists” on “helping” me after I’ve politely refused their un-needed assistance several times! [#ableismis ]When my disabled friends tell me about the things they “can never have.” [Can-never-haves include],  “I’ll never get married” “I’ll never have a family” “I want to (career goal), but I’ll never be able to do that.”                                                                                                                                                                      
Odat Dbd says,: “[#ableismis ]the assumption that just because I don’t “look sick” I must be faking it. Naw man. I’m faking being well.”
Frank says:[#ableismis ] We are disabled not due to lack of our willpower, but, because society refuses to enable us. How can I compete fairly in a job market where 90% of the buildings where I COULD work, are not physically accessible to me?
Cheryl Green says: #AbleismIs the teacher complaining to me that it’s not fair I didn’t tell her I had a disability before enrolling in her class.
#AbleismIs The teachers telling me and the one other disabled student the accommodations they made for us without asking which ones we wanted or needed. And getting defensive when we told them the accommodations they chose for us felt unfair and awkward.
#AbleismIs asking me to wait for the whole rest of the class to get applause at the presentation, and then I can join them at the end.
#AbleismIs My mom reassuring me, “Well, at least you still have your intelligence” and not being able to explain what that meant when I asked her.
Send me your examples of ableism, at williamskristen519@ymail.com. Let me know if you’d like to remain anonymous.
                                                                                                                                                Recently, a group of black women with disabilities released a blog post called, “Black Women on Wheels: 6 Things You Need to Know,” The piece flies flat in the face of ableism, discusses the weight and shape of disability, and how it interacts with race and overall identity. It’s worth checking out if your looking for a little empowerment in light of all this ableism.

Rachel Dolezal Take-Aways

rachel-dolezal

Let’s be blunt: The Rachel Dolezal situation confused almost everyone.Questions around privilege, deceit, trans-race, and victimization began popping up everywhere, and many queries still go unanswered. Though the conversations around Rachel’s “true” identity and motives are far from over, I have a few take-aways:

1. Trans identities go beyond gender. Duh, right? Some people are born feeling like they’re in the wrong bodies when it comes to gender. Some feel like they should be disabled, but have been born with full physical abilities. Some people simply identify more strongly with something that doesn’t align with their reality. In the words of Laverne Cox’s character from OITNB “Me and reality haven’t really gotten along.” And…So? In the words of my little sister, “Kids should be able to feel however they want to feel.”

2. The outcry against Rachel Dolezal is mostly due to her deceit. Maybe it’s still unrealized, but people seem to be more upset about the fact that Rachel lied about her heritage than the fact that she identifies as black. “Passing” as black is seen as manipulative.

3. In a more trans-comfy society, maybe such deceits wouldn’t happen. On the whole, we’re still not OK with people who claim to deal with oppressions because of their trans identities. Those of us that are born into a certain minority feel a sort of possession over the issues we face, and sometimes feel like those who identify with– but were not born into the marginalized group to which we belong– are stomping all over our sweat and tears and stealing our resources/culture.

It is this sense of ownership that might add to someone’s motive to lie about their roots. If we were more accepting of how people identify, and less focused on the burden of proof  and possession of our own spaces, maybe things like being trans-racial wouldn’t show up as these big, bomb-shell surprises. Possession and ownership in the right doses can empower, but in the wrong doses–those that ask for legitimacy and proof–can exclude.

4. Oppression Olympics happen, especially in activism. Sometimes, layers of oppression can serve as currency in social justice circles, giving us clout–and many times, rightfully so. The more oppressions you deal with, the more people you can relate to, and the deeper the understanding you can bring to your work. The downside to this is that sometimes people start to compete for their “right to fight in the fight,” and lose sight of the collective goal.

Short from being in Dolezal’s head, we can’t really say whether or not Rachel purposely used her ability to pass as black to gain power within her field of work, or if she wanted to be black so badly that she didn’t dare admit to being born white–or both. Maybe in a few days they’ll be an explanation, but regardless, I think we need to at least talk about the ways in which oppression olympics contribute to issues like Rachel’s.

5. Rachel’s lies are not “the norm” for women. Articles have been showing up about the extent of Dolezal’s lies. This makes me heed a warning to the internet: Rachel’s story is not typical.

Some news stories are framing her situation as another case of a woman who lied and exaggerated (re: victimization) for personal gain, and I’ve seen many comments that enforce the distrust of women, based on Rachel’s deceit. What I’m saying is, our society has a general distrust of women, a default to see them as dishonest and cunning and batshit crazy. I caution against this–especially against using Rachel’s story as backing for this belief. Rachel lied, probably a lot, as she claimed to be black for (at least?) 6 yrs straight–but her lying does not prove or enforce anything about the truthiness of women generally. Be mindful of that trope when you’re guilty-pleasure reading more details on her case later.

A Letter to Survivors of Sexual Assault

In honour of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here’s a letter to those that have experienced sexual assault. It is all the things I wish I could say to you over a hot cup of coffee in a quiet, undiscovered (but somehow accessible?) coffee shop.

I believe you. Every last word. You are not “crazy.” What happened to you is.

It’s not your fault Ever. If you’re a survivor of multiple assaults, not one of them has been your fault. I’m sorry that this has happened to you, no one deserves to go through that, and nothing you did could warrant sexual violence.

You are strong. So fucking strong. Even if you don’t feel strong. The fact that you are reading this, (er uh, sharing with me over fake coffee) makes you strong. Being sexually violated can be devastating, and completely debilitating. Just living through it makes you strong by default.

Your healing process is 100% yours. There is no proper timeframe for recovering from abuse. There is no limit to grief. If you are having trouble doing the things you used to do–are feeling depressed, angry, unfocused, cloudy, confused or indifferent, know that you are healing. You are refuelling. You are resilient–you’re a fucking butterfly-in-the-making, cocooning from violence, preparing to come out beautiful when ready. You will heal as you know best–how you do that (and who you allow to be part of your healing) is entirely up to you. My guess is that any way you do it, you’re doing what you need to to get by.

Flashbacks and anxiety are common. This is a frequent reality for people that have experienced violence. It’s your mind and body’s way of processing your assault(s), of helping you cope. You are not alone, many survivors have flashbacks, anxiety, and/or night-terrors related to their assault. Some techniques that might help you through these feelings include grounding, breathing exercises and calling a crisis line for support.

*This upcoming point is about power-and-control dynamics as they relate to violence. Some people who have experienced violence might find this overwhelming. If so, scroll down a point.*

Sexual assault isn’t about sex, it’s about power. You might feel confused about what’s happened–especially if you’ve been assaulted by a family member, boyfriend (or girlfriend) or spouse. And rightfully so–why would someone who loves you force themselves on you? Were they just extremely horny?

There is a prevalent belief that sexual assault is one person being sexually aroused by another person and then forcing themselves on that person. This is inaccurate: One person is sexually aroused by power, and  then forces themselves on that person. Ergo, the person that has been assaulted has nothing to do with the assault,because it was not about them, or their sex appeal, it was about the assaulter’s plight for power.

So, your partner, or family member that has sexually assaulted you did not do so because it is how they express love. They did not do so because you were “looking all beautiful and batted your eyes” at them, or because they just “lost control” because they were so turned on. In fact the opposite is true: They did so because they found a way to gain control over you.  This is not your fault. You did nothing to deserve this, nor are you the reason it happened. It happened because that person decided to force themselves on you, because they wanted power.

If you want it, there is support for people that have experienced violence Everyone deals with trauma differently, so you are the best judge of whether or not you want (or are ready/ in a safe enough place for) support.Support comes in different forms, from online forums or phone conversations, to individual counselling, advocacy, or group sessions. I’m in the Ottawa area, so all of my resources are specific to this region, but if you are ready, you can reach out, wherever you are. Calling your local community centre and specifying the type of help you want is a great place to start.  If that seems overwhelming, you can try to put down what you’ve experienced on paper, or record yourself if that’s easier, or make art.

If you feel like talking, here’s a list of crisis lines in Ottawa: https://carleton.ca/health/emergencies-and-crisis/emergency-numbers/ ( and here is a list if you prefer to speak in French, or other languages).

And lastly, I wish you kindness and positive people in your journey of healing. I wish you hope. I wish you well-being. That’s what you deserve. ❤

Women’s Day: Re-Inventing Strength

When we think of strong women, we conjure this image of a bossy, independent, sasha-fierce-type who runs (and owns) the world.

sasha fierce. jpeg

She may look like a modern-day suffragette, she may have Tina Fey’s biting wit, she may hold her head high in the truest imitation of Ms. Carter. She’s smart, smooth and articulate, and you know she don’t take no mansplaining from nobody.

tinafayboss

She is feared and admired in equal parts. She is power and love and nurturing on her terms and her terms only.

amybossy

She is also incredibly exclusionary, unrealistic, and….well, sometimes harmful.

oliviapope

Because even Kerry Washington can’t be Olivia Pope (who, by the way, talks a lot about how she’s a saviour right before a night of wine, popcorn and staring pointlessly at The President.)Because many of us in the real world are much more Ke$ha pre-rehab than 1970’s Angela Davis (love her!). Because we’ve limited ourselves with our idea of strength—the strength isn’t just about the boss-bitch personality traits. The strength is also the struggle.

Keeping this in mind, I suggest a redefining of strength. Rather than seeing strength as the no-bullshit-boss-bitch, I ask that we broaden our view of strength to include all  women. After all, it is this dichotomy of strong and weak, that keeps us clamouring for power, judging each other, deciding who is deserving of admiration and who is isn’t. Why reinforce that? Let’s evolve beyond the binary.

Let’s see strength in the girl who expresses her emotions, while also seeing the strength in the woman who shuts down and enters a day dream when asked to talk about her experiences. Strength in the one who is angry. Strength in the one who is soft spoken. Strength too in the woman who bows her head in silence as she is screamed at by the man she loves. Strength in the person who has experienced childhood violence and goes on to raise kids of her own. Strength to the ones who have had their agency stolen from them, their voices taken, their dignity traded, and still find a way to exist. Strength in the woman who has to convince others she is feminine/sexual/beautiful/important/valid on a regular basis. Strength in the girl continuously scrutinized for her sexual orientation, ability level, skin colour, who still tries to create understanding. Strength in the single mother working tirelessly to feed her children.Strength within the person who uses and misuses substances, as a means of survival. Strength in those who contemplate or attempt suicide. All of these experiences have merit. All of these realities hold the strength of women’s truth.

So, on International Women’s Day, I ask you to revamp your strong women meme, to re-categorize your bossy-bitch admiration. Adjust it, to include the different shapes of strength.

fuckingrad

Fhuk yes.