People with Disabilities Need to Be Treated with Respect
This article is for information only and doesn’t call for any action.
We’ve moved far in the last twenty years. I can remember a time when I had just been out of psychiatric hospital for about a week and I had some old man preaching to me about how “I should have a feckin’ job.” I’ll also never forget the time when a taxi driver that was giving me a lift downtown began to tell me how schizophrenics have two people in them.
I remember challenging his views. I remember telling him that he had schizophrenia mixed up with multiple personality disorder. He told me I was wrong of course, even when I told him I had schizophrenia and I’ve always been Raymond. His silence was telling!
So here we are now in the age of greater acceptance. Disabilities are not only “tolerated”, but accepted. People try and understand each other rather than blindly judge.
Minorities finally have a say in government, and only a few years ago there was a black man sitting as the President of the United States. Yeah, we’re in the era with more acceptance and tolerance right about now and it feels really fantastic.
I feel we’ve gone a bit too far in some cases, though.
My friends, for example, those people were amazing during my period of recovery. They stood by me every second of the way, and there was a great deal of trying to understand the pain I was going through — but hell, did they let me get away with a lot of sh*t that I shouldn’t have. It was almost like I had an extended childhood.
People would excuse my actions because they didn’t know how to behave around me. I was let off the hook with almost everything. I remember one New Year’s night I stole some guys bed because I was tired and my friends blocked off the room.
Crazy, right? Poor guy. I once left a job out of the blue with no notice and my Manager was going to offer my job back because he thought I was having a “turn.” He was a decent man.
We look on social media and we read posts on what not to do with people with disabilities, what not to say, and how not to act, but no-one actually talks about what to do, what to say, and how to act around us. If it were me I’d just say act normal. No special measures — only special measures so that we can function properly as a human being, or in a human environment.
We’re focused on understanding and accepting others with disabilities but we haven’t touched much on respect, and I think that’s mainly because of the negative diatribe we have on social media about what not to do, and how not to act, which is perhaps fuelled by the various people that are still stuck in the 50’s. It doesn’t happen at all to me now, but there was a time a few years ago when I was told that I was “fuckt in the head” by an internet chum because of my past illnesses.
I learned a lot about respect when I started on my journey to recovery, and I first learned about “treating me the same as anyone else” when I plunged into my next career choice. I didn’t actually know what respect was. To me, respecting me as a person was “making allowances” for me, it was creating an environment around me that fostered my own happiness and safety with no regard to anyone else’s.
I was lucky in a sense because my new career was jumping head first into an area of self-empowerment and growth in a way that I had never experienced before. I was working in the charity sector helping others with mental health problems. It was a way to get help whilst simultaneously giving back. But respect I learned was a whole new domain for me — mainly because I hadn’t been shown any real respect in my entire life.
Respect isn’t just making allowances and giving compassion. Respect is setting clear boundaries also. It’s allowing yourself to say no to people when you feel they’ve overstepped.
It’s also allowing yourself to be heard when you feel someone is being disrespectful. It’s a healthy balance of acceptance and boundaries.
Could you imagine my confusion for the first time in my life I was told that my behavior wasn’t acceptable, yet still had my job intact the very next day? Could you imagine the level of complete utter mind-melt as things went back to “normal” after conflict arose because of my acting inappropriately? I was told off yes, I was put in my place, yes, but after that we just got on with our work.
No eternal passive aggressiveness from my colleagues or management; just… respect. And I needed that. I also think we need to learn that as a society.
We say that we need to treat people with respect but actually what we are really saying is that we need to treat some people better than others. We are giving one group more allowances than others. Not convinced?
Do you feel uncomfortable reprimanding someone with a severe mental health issue for their inappropriate behavior? You may argue that it is because of their illness that they act in the way that they do. But as someone that went from being diagnosed as a Paranoid Schizophrenic to being given a full clean bill of health, I can wholly say I began functioning better as an individual when people stopped bending over backward to make sure that I was “comfortable”.
I’ve had to learn some seriously tough lessons and face up to a few heavy truths, but I wouldn’t have learned them if I hadn’t been left alone to screw up in the way that I did. I would still be trapped in the cycle of making my own mistakes again and again.
I think as a society we haven’t quite grasped this yet, and I think it’s mainly because a lot of us don’t know how to respect others. This is because we were never fully shown respect by our parents, and yup, you guessed it, we never learned to fully respect ourselves. So now we have a nation(s) trapped in a toxic cycle of making allowances for others instead of giving them the respect of healthy boundaries.
In my eyes, this is dangerous because it can get to the point where one group of people automatically believes that they deserve a certain allowance in society on the basis of their problems when in essence that’s not the way it works at all. I am given respect (or it is taken away) based on how I act as a person. I don’t feel I should have a right to anything over another person without any effort. I like to work for what I have.
Personal accountability should be a thing on all fronts.
Be responsible and give yourself the respect you deserve.
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Originally Published on Raymond Speaks
January 7, 2019 at 08:14PM