Tag Archives: Psychology

Disability Discrimination: A Problem We Need to Talk About

15 Nov

This week, I gave a presentation on disability discrimination in one of my college classes. I had been doing research for the past few months, and I enjoyed bringing this problem to light since it is very personally relevent. Therefore, I knew I had to share it with the blogging community as well

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines an individual with disabilities as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that does not allow them to perform one or more major life activities, and disability discrimination is the act of not viewing individuals with disabilities as fully functioning members of society whose voices deserve to be heard.

Disability discrimination occurs most commonly in the workplace, and it stretches across many different disciplines as well, such as psychology, law, and education. Within the field of psychology, discrimination is harmful for individuals with disabilities because it may lead to feelings of isolation, anger, depression, or anxiety. Within the field of law, disability discrimination is the least discussed type of discrimination law. Furthermore, within the field of education, the presence of disability discrimination perpetuates the feelings of exclusion found in school systems. Disability exclusion also increases fear aimed towards individuals who are different.

(from The Today Show)

The problem of disability discrimination is serious, and it influences individuals with and without disabilities. There is not just one group at fault. Each one of us is responsible for the persistence of this problem, and it is a problem that deserves to be discussed in order for individuals with and without disabilities to feel comfortable in the world in which they live.

But the question is: What can we do?

  1. At an individual level, we should strive to understand that instead of disabilities being something that causes these kinds of individuals to be seen as less deserving of being heard, the differences should be seen as a contributing factor to create a unique society with more perspectives available.
  2. At a university level, disability awareness events could be very beneficial. By providing awareness to disabilities, college students and faculty may be able to better understand the struggle of living with a disability, visible or invisible, which they may not have otherwise been exposed.
  3. We should use person-first language: “individual with disability” rather than “disabled individual.”

Disability discrimination is a serious global and ethical issue within our society today. Since I have a physical disability of Cerebral Palsy, I can attest to the importance of inclusion. My experiences of exclusion made me stronger, but the times I felt included helped shape me into who I am today.

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Autmn in the Mountains

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A yearly dose of The Bell Jar.

22 Dec

For the past 4 years, ever since I was 16, I have read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar around this time of year. Though I never planned to re-read it every year around the holidays, that’s just how it turned out. In all honesty, The Bell Jar is probably one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but it is also one of the most accurate portrayals of madness, or descending into madness, from a literature standpoint that I have discovered as well. I guess you could say I love it because of its psychological aspects. However, despite how depressing the novel is, there is a reason Sylvia Plath is viewed as an acclaimed poet and writer. Her words, when put together, form sentences that allow you to feel something. Granted, the feelings her words bring to light aren’t necessarily happy ones, but in all honesty, Sylvia Plath wrote about life, her life. She didn’t sugarcoat it. She didn’t pretend she was happy when she wasn’t. She threw her readers right into the darkness and the loneliness of her life and her mind, and in a strange way, it’s beautiful.

Here are some quotes from The Bell Jar I thought I’d share:

  1. “Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”
  2. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
  3. “I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”
  4. “At this rate, I’d be lucky if I wrote a page a day. Then I knew what the problem was. I needed experience. How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?”
  5. “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”
  6. “Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.”
  7. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
  8. “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant loosing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
  9. “Secretly, in studies and attics and schoolrooms all over America, people must be writing.”
  10. “I had hoped, at my departure, I would feel sure and knowledgeable about everything that lay ahead — after all, I had been “analyzed.” Instead, all I could see were question marks.”
  11. “The sun, emerged from its gray shrouds of cloud, shone with a summer brilliance on the untouched slopes. Pausing in my work to overlook that pristine expanse, I felt the same profound thrill it gives me to see the trees and grassland waist-high under flood water—as if the usual order of the world had shifted slightly, and entered a new phase.”

Is there a specific book you make a point to read every year?

To all my mentors, past and present.

9 Dec

After reading Arianna’s post on role models, I was inspired to write my own post regarding the numerous mentors I have had throughout my life thus far. Despite the fact that the mentors who are in my life right now are currently the most important to me, I know the mentors of my past also helped me during times in my life when I needed guidance.

Though I do not doubt that my strength and my drive for independence were two very important factors that got me where I am today, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the many mentors I’ve had throughout my life provided me with a level of support that not only acted as a cushion when I was feeling low, but also propelled me forward and taught me to reach for all the possibilities that were awaiting me. Even though I am naturally one of those people who makes sure to tell the people I care about how much they mean to me on a regular basis, I also believe that you can never say “I appreciate you” too many times. It’s a simple three word phrase, but it has the ability to hold an amount of emotion I can’t even begin to describe.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

There is something really special about taking note of the people in your life who have shaped you. Though I definitely know that my parents fall into that category, I’m referring to those people who shaped me without being asked. Those people who, though it was never asked of them, established connections with me because they hoped to influence my life in a positive way. Even though the concept itself seems like a no-brainer, I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today with the mentors from my past and present. Each one of them has provided me with support, encouragement, love, advice, and best of all…their time. I don’t know what it is about establishing connections with people who want nothing more than to learn from you, while also hoping to positively influence you…but it has brought me more happiness than I can even begin to describe.

In simple terms, I thrive off of connections with other people. In some situations, those connections don’t lead to a positive result, but in the best circumstances, I have gained not only a friend, but someone who I am able to appreciate and learn from. I believe that my need and love of having general connections with others is very much related to my desire to work in the helping profession as a counselor. Since I have had mentors within my own life who have impacted me in ways I never could have imagined, I want the chance to impact others in the same way. I want to know that in some small way, I helped someone. Whether it’s helping them to realize that they are worthy of the love that others are showing them or helping them to see that the traumatic event from their childhood doesn’t define the person they are today, I want to be there through it all. I want the chance to help them discover who they truly are, even if that means uncovering things about themselves they’ve kept hidden for so long for fear of being ridiculed.

Therefore, to all my mentors, past and present (Mike, Tucky, Chuck, Dr. Cox, Mr. Richard, Miss Mary, Miss Marie, Mrs. Trish, Dr. Cahill and Mrs. Walker)…I appreciate each and every one of you. You each have helped me to realize something different, but equally important, about myself, which has helped me to continue to discover who I truly am. You’ve each supported me when I’ve been down, and have continued to support me through my successes. You’ve shown me what it means to be selfless because I know that none of you felt obligated to be a positive influence my life. You chose to fill that role on your own accord, which means more to me than you will ever know. In all actuality, there are not enough words in the English language to express how much I appreciate each and every one of you. If it means saying “I appreciate you” every day for as long as I live, then that’s exactly what I will do.

Photo Friday: Missing Ireland.

23 Nov

I’m spending my Friday following Thanksgiving not shopping, but in my house with coffee and The Weepies on Pandora writing a research paper on mysticism and mental illness. Though music by The Weepies does make the process somewhat bearable, I still wish I was somewhere else. But not just anywhere else…..specifically, Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

TED Talk: What’s so funny about mental illness?

4 Nov

I just watched a TED Talk by comedian Ruby Wax called “What’s so funny about mental illness?” in which she explains that it’s time that we put an end to the stigma of mental illness. Since I completely agree with what she said and I am passionate about the field of psychology, I just had to share this video with all of you. Let me know what you think of it! I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

What’s so funny about mental illness?

How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?-Ruby Wax

People who say they’re perfectly fine are more insane than the rest of us.-Ruby Wax

Social rejection through the eyes of a CP adult.

3 Oct

I walked into my Community Psychology class this morning to see the following prompt written on the board:

Journal about a time when you experienced disapproval or rejection from peers. What happened? What kind of thoughts and feelings did you have?

When I was in middle school, I took a required Physical Education class every year. In my middle school PE classes, we played “slaughterball,” which was our definition of dodgeball. I think “slaughterball” is a more accurate description of the game though. Every week in PE, I was chosen last for slaughterball. Even though being chosen to play was better than not being chosen at all, being chosen last was one of the worst feelings I ever experienced during my middle school years. When someone who sprained their ankle the day before and was on crutches was chosen over me, it pretty much felt like getting punched in the stomach.

Even though I know that many middle schoolers go through the experience of being chosen last for a game or sport, it didn’t feel the same. Though I know that other kids who were chosen last may have experienced the same feelings of hurt, frustration, and not being good enough, I know that I was chosen last simply because I didn’t have the level of physical ability that my other classmates did. I can’t even count the number of times I came home from school crying because, once again, I had been chosen last. I think it was even harder for me due to the fact that I couldn’t change the fact that I had CP, while the person who had sprained their ankle would be healed and ready to run around with the other kids in a matter of weeks. There never was a 6-week period for me to “recover” from my Cerebral Palsy. At the same time, it’s not something that I suffer from. It is just something that I have. No amount of exercises or talk therapy can change the fact that I am a 20 year-old girl who has Cerebral Palsy.

I’m incredibly familiar with social rejection. I’m way more familiar with it than I want to be. From being chosen last in slaughterball to getting pelted last in slaughterball because the other kids knew that I couldn’t move fast enough to avoid the ball coming at me, I’ve felt it all. I know what it feels like to be stared at, not just by kids but by adults as well, due to the fact that I walk funny. I know the feeling of sitting in my high school auditorium  watching a mini-play in which the main character had Cerebral Palsy…letting the tears come…and wanting so badly to just get up and walk out of the auditorium, but knowing that doing so would cause me to draw even more attention to myself. I know the feeling of having people avoid me due to the fact that I make them uncomfortable or they are just unsure how to act around me. I know what it feels like when someone is dying to ask me what is wrong with me but can’t seem to even say it because they are too afraid of bringing it up and hurting my feelings. Worst of all, I know what it feels like to have someone imitate the way I walk and then using the bullshit excuse of “I’ve been told to observe people for a class.” No, I’m not kidding. That happened.

You could say I have felt more than my share of social rejection. Sadly, the majority of the social rejection that I have felt stems from the simple fact that I have a visible physical disability, so I naturally become an easy target for teasing and social rejection. However, don’t think that I am saying that all the other kids who have experienced social rejection but don’t have CP are any less important. That’s not what I’m saying at all. However, I think it’s important to understand that due to my CP, I became an easier target for teasing and social rejection, so in my eyes, it hurt worse simply because I was being teased about something that I couldn’t change. Despite the fact that I have gotten stronger due to experiencing so much teasing and social rejection, it wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. Even now, if I get funny looks due to the way I walk, it hurts. It makes me want to cry or scream. It takes me right back to how I felt in middle school when I was chosen last for slaughterball because of the simple reason of having a physical disability. Being triggered to those moments of rejection in my childhood only takes a moment. I’ve always known that. However, the prompt in this morning’s Community Psych class made me remember just how easy it is for me to feel exactly how I did in middle school. It only takes a moment, a trigger, or even the two simple words of “social rejection”….until I’m back in the gym of my small town private school getting pelted with a red rubber ball because I wasn’t able to move quickly enough.

The books that saved me.

2 Oct

Due to Cassie’s most recent post, Dear Fear and Judgement:, I’ve been inspired to discuss the books that have changed my life. I’ve been reading for as long as I have had the ability to hold a book in one hand and a flashlight in the other. After all, all of us who love books know that even when darkness falls, we don’t necessarily put down the books that have grabbed us so strongly out of our reality. Sometimes the arrival of darkness forces us to grab a flashlight, get under the covers and escape into a world that seems just as real as the world in which we are living.

Pippi Longstocking is one of the first books I remember reading from cover to cover countless times. I don’t know if it was the independence Pippi portrayed due to being a nine year-old girl who lived without the constraints of adults or her red hair that she always wore in pigtails that caused me to be so drawn to her. Either way, I remember a particular summer in which Pippi went everywhere that I did. Even when I went on a week-long trip to Edisto beach with my family, Pippi came along for the trip. Though I didn’t take the book with me everywhere, it sat patiently on my nightstand every day, waiting for night to come so that the pages could be turned once more, causing Pippi’s world and my own to collide through something as simple as words.

 

Even though Halfway to the Sky was introduced to me much later than Pippi Longstocking, it was yet another book that became very well-worn in a relatively quick amount of time. Halfway to the Sky tells the story of Dani, a 13-year-old girl who runs away from home in order to escape the recent death of her brother and the break-up of her parents’ marriage. However, Dani doesn’t run just anywhere. She runs to a place that she believes her parents will never find her to do something amazing: hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Even now, I know why I loved this book so much. It involved hiking, which I did a lot of with my family growing up, and it involved the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is a place that I haven’t been able to fully appreciate until coming to live in Asheville last fall. However, Halfway to the Sky created the strong connection I’ve had to the mountains for so long. Even though I have been coming to the mountains ever since I was little, I definitely think that Halfway to the Sky is one of the main reasons that I have felt the desire to fully experience the mountains. There are days that I find myself driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway looking at the overlooks or hiking up to Max Patch Summit, which is an hour above Asheville, just to simply feel the mountain air in my lungs, and ultimately, feel alive.

 

It may seem strange that I’ve included The Bell Jar in the books that have saved me due to the fact that it is a very dark and depressing novel. However, I believe that it saved me in the sense of helping me realize that we all have our own inner struggles that we are battling, and therefore we shouldn’t be quick to judge others because we don’t know what they have to face on a daily basis. Also, since The Bell Jar is essentially the autobiography of Sylvia Plath’s plunge into madness, I think this book may have been one of the first examples of my desire to be a counselor. Even though I may not have realized how much I wanted to be a counselor during the time that I was reading The Bell Jar, I know that if I were to read it again now, it would most likely affect me in a completely different way due to my new-found passion for psychology and counseling.

 

John Green’s newest book, The Fault In Our Stars, came out in January of this year, so it is probably the most recent book that has deeply affected me. It is the story of Hazel, a 16 year-old cancer patient, who is forced to attend a support group where she meets and falls in love with 17 year-old Augustus Waters. Even though it would be easiest to say that this book saved me because the writing is simply amazing, that only scratches the surface of how this book has impacted my life. Through reading The Fault In Our Stars, I have learned what it means to love. However, more than that, I have begun to realize that a huge part of allowing yourself to be loved by someone else is by placing yourself in a vulnerable position. The concept of vulnerability has scared me my entire life because in my mind, it places you in a prime position to be emotionally hurt. However, over the past few months, I’ve realized that the road to love involves being vulnerable. It’s scary, but it’s the only way to truly let someone love you fully. The concept of vulnerability also applies to writing as well because the truest and most raw pieces of writing are those in which the writer is completely 100% vulnerable.

Even though these books may not have necessarily saved me, they each have helped me realize something new about myself that has helped me get closer to who I truly am. For as long as I can remember, books have been the one place where I can go to escape. However, I never realized that they’d end up helping me find myself. Yes, I’m the girl who reads all the time, the girl who always has a book with her no matter where she is, the girl who would rather curl up in bed with a book instead of going to a party. Words have taught me about love, strength, hope, pain, and adversity. However, they have also been the way that I have expressed all of those emotions as well, giving me a way to be as authentic as possible. They are something so simple. And yet, for me, words have always been enough.