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Surely A Disability Is A Disability Whether It Is Physical Or Poor Mental Health??? (Or - Why The Blue Badge Debate Has Missed Something Important)
Apparently people with "invisible" disabilities are going to be allowed to apply for Blue Badges so they get the same rights as those of us with "visible" disabilities when it comes to parking, etc.

There is only one minor problem with this as far as I can see (and I am using the word "see" for a very specific reason which I will explain in a minute).  It is very rare for physical disabilities and poor Mental Health not to be connected in some way.  After all, you cannot divorce the physical ability of someone from their brain and their Mental Health because they are both part of the same person.  There are even some physical illnesses which can actually manifest themselves as a sign of poor Mental Health (I am talking about not wanting to mix with people if you are having difficulty breathing, etc).

On the flip side to that - there are certain Mental Health conditions which definitely have physical symptoms attached to them.  Anxiety for one - an anxiety attack or a panic attack are both labelled as Mental Health issues but they both have very real physical symptoms.

There is another side to this which I find fascinating.  Remember I told you I was using the word "see" for a specific reason???

My friend, Julian Harrison, has got depression and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  He also wears glasses.

I have had Depression in the past.  I also wear glasses.

(I bet you are now wondering where the Hell I am going with this - and whether or not I should have run this past another friend of mine who happens to be a retired Clinical Psychologist???  Don't worry - Julian has already proved the theory I am going to share with you.)

The connection I want you to focus on is the fact that Julian and I both wear glasses.  Why???  Well, we have both been known to do something which most people find strange.  And (as illustrated by an episode of "Would I Lie To You?" when this was discussed - the reason most people would give for doing it is actually related to sight and not Mental Health.

What is this thing that Julian and I have both been known to do???  And what are our reasons for doing it???

Simple, if we are going to a strange place (in my case this is particularly when I have to go somewhere strange in the dark on my own) we will both do a dry run before we have to do the journey for real.

Julian will do it because of his OCD and I will do it because of my sight (I have useless night vision).  Failure to do this can actually make me panic so much about leaving the event or venue after whatever I am attending has finished that I will not enjoy the event.  (You try wandering around in the dark with multicoloured spots in front of your eyes, as well as being blinded by the headlights of passing traffic, and see how happy you feel.  It is much worse when you are trying to work out which bus you need to stop so you can get home.)

We have to be very careful about trying to treat Mental Health difficulties as totally separate from physical disabilities.  Especially when you realise that things like Depression can be a "side-effect" of certain physical disabilities (especially when the disability in question can result in someone being bullied about it - or worse - when the disability renders someone housebound with the associated risk of loneliness).

The thing I find most interesting is that there is not much discussion regarding the similarities between things like Depression and being seriously short-sighted.

Allow me to explain - when people are in a severe depressive episode they cut off all contact with people.  When I hit my "performing seal" limit (as in - I just want to go back to being myself without having to hide my difficulties) the first thing I will do it tidy myself into a corner and not speak to anyone.  Basically, I will go into "Mental Energy Conservation Mode".  When I hit that stage I would strongly advise you to leave me alone unless you really wish to be faced with an inconsolable blubbering wreck who probably hates herself more than she hates anyone else.

The thing I have never understood is why the Disabled (be it physical or those with poor Mental Health) are always forced by the "able-bodied" section of society to pretend we are something we are not (and - in most cases - will never be) or we are thought of as some kind of Superhero when we somehow manage to find a way to compete with the "able-bodied" on their terms.

The whole debate about Disabilities (visible and invisible) has been hijacked by the wrong people.  The "able-bodied" will never have a clue about what it is truly like to be me, for example (unless of course something happens to deprive them of the ability to see clearly any further than three centimetres from the end of their nose without glasses - and that is before you add the other "fun" challenges to the mix).  The "able-bodied" should - of course - join us in our fight for true recognition and representation (otherwise we are just shouting into a hurricane) but us people with true experience of poor Mental Health and physical disabilities should be encouraged to tell the stories of our experiences without the able-bodied telling us we are making it up or - worse - telling us that our experiences don't matter.

I would like to finish this by telling you why I admire the BBC Security Correspondent (or Security Editor), Frank Gardner.  For those of you who don't know who I am talking about - he is the journalist who got shot and ended up in a wheelchair as a result.  The reason I admire him is because he uses his journalistic experience (and Social Media) to highlight the treatment that wheelchair users are subjected to when they are attempting to leave an aircraft (among other situations).  He doesn't preach or play the "woe is me" card.  He just sayashEErs he sees it.  Having experienced both "worlds" he can shine a torch on issues so the "able-bodied" get a taste of how difficult life can be for the disabled in a way that the "able-bodied" can understand.

If only I could do the same about sight problems.
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