All the fuss around the paralympics, which I have only been half watching as I have no interest in sport of any persuasion, has made me think about he representation of invisible disability. Reading Latentexistence’s  excellent post entitled ‘why the paralympics tell us nothing about most sick or disabled people’ has also spurred things on too.

The Paralympics – The Help Effect?

I also feel a bit nauseous from the whole ‘ohh aren’t disabled people wonderful!’ shtick from people who think that everything is now fine for people with disabilities and long term illness because a few exceptionally talented people are exceptionally talented at what is, to my non sporty mind, just a really fancy and expensive school sports day. Most of us however remain as boringly average and unremarkable as the vast majority of people without disabilities. People with disabilities can be mediocre too! Personally it’s possibly the one thing I do excel at.  As if the Atos logo everywhere didn’t make me want to projectile vomit enough now we have hordes of people who have no idea what it’s like to live with a disability or chronic health issues go all patronising by telling us we’re ‘inspirational’. I dunno, it seems a lot of the Paralympic hype is a lot of able bodied folk feeling better about themselves as they ‘just see the sport not the disability’ or whatever and having a big love in at being all non discriminatory and wonderful and telling people with disabilities that things will be great from now on ‘cos they’ve realised some people with disabilities can run fast and they’re totally like ‘normal’ people too. Call it ‘the Help effect‘ if you will. White people solved racism now able bodied people are solving ableism/disablism!

Scrounging Scum Redux

Meanwhile, the press is still full of the usual guff about ‘scroungers’ and benefits, ATOS still exist and are being their usual inhuman selves endangering peoples lives and livelihoods, the tories still exist, disability hate crime still exists,  bazillions of mediocre non athletic people with disabilities who’d just like to get on with life without having to fight for every tiny scrap of everything we get and not be either sainted for being some sort of ‘inspiration’ for just doing what we have to do and/or being an evil scrounger for doing what we have to do. Many of us are told we don’t have ‘real’ disabilities because we ‘look fine’. We even have the ‘overcoming depression to be an amazing winner ‘ trope in the media reaction to Victorian Pendleton’s admission of her past problems. The fact she was helped by a therapist swiftly provided for her by British Cycling is skimmed over whilst the rest of us grow cobwebs waiting for anything even resembling therapy on the NHS. Amazing recoveries and achieving against the odds are not the norm, framing these extraordinary achievements as ‘proof’ that many people with disabilities could really do everything if they just tried harder and we’re just lazy or seeing ourselves as ‘victims’ if we want any help to enable us to even attempt to live a half decent life, this rhetoric is disingenuous and dangerous, as skwalker1964 points out.

A return to normal telly

Also, I don’t like sport, some of it’s occasionally mildly interesting, but really I have no interest at all whether it be Olympic or Paralympic sport.  I resent the fact I should somehow view these people as ‘inspirational wonders’, yes they are brilliant and have done a brilliant job winning things but it’s still sport, something I have no interest in either taking part in or watching so it just doesn’t really inspire me much. I viewed being able to get out of PE lessons when I started to get ill as one of the few (if the only) plus side to the whole thing. Quite frankly I’m glad we have normal telly back now. Normal telly that has ooo fuck all people with disabilities shown in a positive light unless they have some big amazing triumph over adversity story arc and become some sort of human lump of amazeballs and climb Everest whilst solving global hunger and becoming the first person to find the secrets of the universe by racing round CERN in a wheelchair and colliding with a Higgs . Or are a dangerous nutter going on a rampage. gah. But hey some people with disabilities can swim/run/wheel/throw things/hit things/whatever really well so it’s all fine!

 

Edit: I have closed comments for the time being ad I have said all I can on the issues raised, which have been very triggering for me. I’m not willing to sacrifice my health for the blog. I shall hopefully post a follow up when I feel stronger but right now I need some time out.

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It hit me the other day  in the midst of a pre ATOS panic that what this government is embarking on and the way it goes about it is tantamount to psychological warfare. Everything about the process of claiming benefits, and especially the rhetoric of austerity and the ‘scrounger’ fallacy trotted out in every government speech about ‘reducing the benefits bill’ and all that, is designed to make you feel like shit, to have you questioning your self worth. It’s designed to make you feel like less of a person, designed to make it as clear as possible that you have to jump through every hoop to gain your pittance as you are at the mercy of their whims. It encourages people to express their prejudices by informing on you, the benefits fraud hotline has an estimated 94% rate of ‘malicious’ calls, something which is exacerbated by the government and media portrayal of those on benefits, often using grossly flawed statistics and misrepresentations if not downright lies presented as ‘fact’ and justification.

Today I saw this Image on twitter:

 

All thus austerity rhetoric? It DOES have a negative effect on your mental health, especially if you already have a mental health problem and pretty much hate yourself on a regular basis anyway and could do without the extra help, and are forced through a system which is clearly not designed for such issues. The rise of hatred against the disabled and those who are deemed to be ‘faking it’ ie not fitting the image of a disabled or long term ill person as imposed on us by those without disability, usually as some form of angelic ‘super crip’,  it all hurts, really, really hurts.

I feel it is no coincidence that the worst bout of depression, anxiety and self loathing I have suffered for a good few months has peaked around the time of my ATOS assessment. No matter how hard you try, all this shit gets to you. Barely a day goes by where I turn on the tv, read a paper, go on line or interact with the outside world in some way that I don’t hear at least one story about benefit reform, cuts and unemployment, stories which are more often than not dripping with hatred and scorn for those of us who ‘live of the state and don’t give anything back’ blaming us for everything. This stuff gets to me, how can it not? This isn’t about some abstract benefits claiming bogeyman this is about real people and I am one of those people so of course I take it personally, it’s about me.

I have been fucked over far more times by the system than it has ever helped me; yet I am demonised and forced to jump through belittling and dehumanising hoops to get a fucking pittance because it is politically convenient to paint people like me as taking everything and not giving anything back.

Every time I hear someone going on about ‘scroungers’   – it hurts
Every time I hear rhetoric about ‘benefit culture’  and getting ‘something for nothing’ – it hurts
Every time I hear more news about punitive benefit reform which has the ever present underlying tones of ‘you don’t deserve it’ – it hurts
Every time it hurts, it REALLY FUCKING HURTS.

Yes I have never ‘worked’. I am not lazy, I just happened to get ill when I was 11 and my parents generally frowned upon child labour. I spent longer than usual getting an education as I was cheated out of any post 16 educational support by the system meaning I was no longer eligible for support for help with education, such as a home tutor. By 16 I had 2 GCSES so it took me a good few years of catching up to reach University.

I am not a ‘drain’ on resources, I ‘work’ for free for local charities, I work for free in museums and galleries, allowing them to function as due to spending cuts they now rely on volunteers as they are making paid staff redundant, I am told it is good for me to volunteer yet my volunteer work is never seen as ‘real’ work so I am perpetually trapped in the cycle of ‘no experience’.

I have been offered noting but insubstantial and ineffective help to deal with my depression via the NHS etc, thus trapping me in the ‘too ill to work full time’ trap for longer and leaving me even more unemployable.

The way society treats people with mental illness means I am not at the top of the pile for any job, it means I have huge fucking gaps to explain on my CV. Any support I have tried to access for help with this has either been useless (or useful in theory but fails to account for the inherent shittiness of the real world) or non existent.

I am not a ‘special case’ and I will not hear people saying ‘but this isn’t about people like you it’s about the people who take the piss’.I am the same as millions of people out there being demonised, insulted and having our livelihoods threatened, squeezed and removed when we have done nothing wrong.

The fraud rate for disability benefits is LESS THAN 1%. More money is lost through the incompetence of governments and the DWP than is lost through fraud. People are not living a life of luxury at the expense of the ‘hard working people’. The media and the government lie and distort facts. 

How can we blame people who are having to rely on charity handouts for food, to demonise them as scroungers and cheats and the cause of all our financial woes.  How dare we call them selfish and the ‘something for nothing’ generation when we have people like Bob Diamond on fat bonuses and Emma Harrison profiting for forcing people into unpaid servitude?

The failures of the system have been far more instrumental in landing me in the unemployment/long term illness wasteland than anything I have ever done, yet this system is punishing me, and others like me, for failures and mistakes that are nothing to do with us.

 

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