Hiding in Plain Sight

THE "OTHER" DISABILITIES

Lately BENT has been making an effort to enlarge its view of the readers it serves, with the help of those readers, of course. This has meant coverage of issues unfamiliar to a lot of us, like transexualism and autism, as well as issues that affect more of us than we've been willing to admit, like cognitive and psychological ones.

We offer the following brief accounts, which originated as posts to Disgaytalk, as a companion piece to Danny Kodmur's "Life Under the Spotlight: Disability and Depression."

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Hi, Everybody. The reason you have not heard from me for a week is that I was admitted to Desert Hospital, in Palm Springs, California, for a sudden severe depression. I entered the facility voluntarily, but under immediate recommendation of my group psychotherapist, following a regularly-scheduled group appointment. I had "decompensated," or broken down emotionally because an issue I shared with my group was simply too painful to let go of without "breaking."

I told the therapist that I was unfit to drive myself home, due to the feelings that had overwhelmed me. I entered the psych ward with no more than the clothing I was wearing. I had no phone numbers or addresses on me to make calls. Phone service was limited to a pay phone in the main hallway, shared by eighteen patients in the ward. I made three calls to local friends during my stay.

The patient population was a mixed bunch. Some were being treated for severe psychoses, while others were less affected by mental illness. My roommate had trouble with hallucinations, which included an obsession with the bathroom doorknob. The nurse was helpful. When I needed to use the toilet she moved him aside so I could "go!"

Overall, treatment wasn't very good. Regular staff was away on holiday break, and the weekend was even more poorly staffed. There were group sessions, but with a population so diverse it was difficult to share freely, since many of the patients had limited attention spans. The med I was prescribed was not helpful. It was "neutrons" (my own funny term), or Neurontin, to help allay the stress I was under. This was powerful medicine; I became dizzy and a bit incoherent under its influence.

I'm home now, scheduled for three weekly rehab group sessions. I'll see my personal therapist and psychiatrist weekly, too. There's a lot of work to be done, but I see a tiny bit of light at the end of the long, winding tunnel. I feel that the immediacy of attention that I needed came at the right time, and was more important for me than all other activities I had planned for last weekend. Nonetheless, I missed being with my friends on Thanksgiving, and attending the California Men's Gathering over the weekend. I see there was a lot of "chat" going on through this list, too! I appreciate your support while I move forward.

-Mohabee
Yucca Valley, CA

Despite struggling with depression and ADD, Mohabee takes life one day at a time. After a second back surgery, he is slowly finding health and strength through healing. Mohabee writes, paints, creates ceramic sculpture, leads hikes, and enjoys the Mojave Desert campground retreat called Starland, where he's the resident manager, a task that he's tackled for the past five years.

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Between stealth as a crip, attempts as a crip to get assistance, and downright lying about my crip status, I've run the gamut. I'm entangled at the moment in trying to sort out issues that contribute to my own continuing evolution. Relevant issues for me at this point are how we handle obvious physical disability, and the less obvious difficulties posed by 'mental disability."

As a teenager I did stupid things, including huffing aerosols to get high with friends, which resulted in minor brain damage, something I kept hidden until just recently. I was ashamed that psych evaluations showed me as "mildly mentally retarded," a diagnosis that in my case does not refer to intelligence, but means that I can be socially awkward, with difficulties in perceptual skills and interpersonal abilities.

These difficulties cause me to withdraw, with occasional jaunts into gross psychosis and delusional patterns. These remain treatable, but a danger nonetheless. I hid all this for a long time, avoiding situations where it might show, struggling all the while to be "normal." It still pains me to think that when I was a teen I was so desperate for acceptance that I participated in behavior that caused this kind of damage, complicating my life in ways that I have to deal with every day, in every situation, and will never find a cure for.

The society I found myself in was rarely understanding and I lacked the skills to explain my problems and seek help. Only since beginning to cope with my transsexual status have I been able to deal with these other issues. After some missteps along the way, I've learned never to be ashamed of who I am. Disability is disability; it doesn't mean you're less of a person, it means you struggle, nothing more. At least that's what it means for me.

After all the things I've said on this list over all the time I've been a part of it, this, oddly enough, the admission of a mental handicap, was the hardest thing to find the courage to reveal. My head was kinda full. I hope I made sense.

-Angel
Somewhere on the road back to California

Angel is a 45-year-old transgender poet and author living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His disabilities include advanced HIV Disease and Kaposi's Sarcoma, which affects mobility in his right leg. These days Angel walks with a cane. Sometimes he uses a wheelchair.

© 2003 BENT

 

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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/January 2003