Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Everyone Needs Emotional Safety

By now, everyone is familiar with the proposed subway, bus, and railroad fare hikes by the MTA. But did you know they are also planning to double Access-a-Ride paratransit fares too? This is crazy because most disabled people are below the poverty line, and are the most underemployed segment of the population. So, if this fare ike goes through, a round-trip of $4.00 will now be $8! This is a lot of money to some disabled and/or elderly people, and will force a lot of paratransit into isolation and house-boundedness because they won't be able to afford to go anywhere. But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is earnestly fighting this, alongside Senior Citizen and Disabled advocacy groups. Let's hope his efforts are successful. Stringer has been holding hearings and town hall meetings on the subject.
A fare hike on paratransit will be a hardship on clients, myself included.

Everybody needs a safe place to let off steam and vent, without being judged or preached to. And everybody needs a place where they can express disappointments and heartbreaks, and - yes- even anger, without friends and loved ones getting all sensitive thinking they recognize themselves, and either getting on the defensive, or getting all angry and preachy and coming back with scolds like "you know, there are people worse-off who don't complain" or other criticisms. Worse yet are the ones who preach "you should keep a gratitude journal" or "you should find something positive". Everybody, sick or healthy, has the right to some anger as long as it is vented in a healthy way. The definition of "depression" is "anger directed within" or anger "held in". Many people who suffer from depression are people who never seem to get angry. However, I am reminded once again that everybody has to find out where, and to whom it is "safe" to let out true feelings, and often it is only to people who have been through, or are going through, the same experience. Anyway, we know there are people worse off than we are, we do think about positive things, we are grateful for what we have, etc etc. I for one, don't sit around in a constant state of outrage. But I've decided to take some of the raw emotion and express it privately, in safer places. I have found out that a blog is not safe at all. And a difficult lesson I had to learn was: sometimes the very people who encourage with "You go girl!" and "we love your feistiness" are the very ones who turn on you later, saying "you're just too angry". I had a former neighbor who was also a close friend, end our association last month for this reason. Here was a person who was most supportive and encouraging. Now the friendship is over. I will never trust anyone again who tells me "You go, girl!". And of course I begin to wonder "is she just able to verbalize what everyone else is thinking?" She claimed in her comment that people weren't coming around anymore because of my "attitude". Maybe this ex-friend just spoke the truth, and once I got over the shock and hurt, I was actually grateful. I remembered that saying about the truth setting you free, etc etc. So true!

One thing I have learned is how unimportant it is to accumulate "things" that are no longer useful to me. Dust is an issue for my breathing, and the aides are not obligated to do more than light housework. I was shocked when one of the aides swept under my bed and behind my microwave and pulled out dust balls the size of animals! The aides are not supposed to do heavy cleaning, so I can't force them to do this. When they do, it's a bonus. So I think I will have to hire a cleaning person at least once a month to move furniture and do heavy cleaning, OR pay one of the aides extra to do a twice-monthly deeper cleaning. This week I also donated my remaining craft supplies and stereo/boom box that hasn't been used and has been collecting dust to the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled [BCID]. It felt great! I need to unload some books -- a very hard thing for me to do -- which are some of the worst dust-collectors! But, on the other hand, nobody can really appreciate the pain of getting rid of these things. It's like watching parts of me die, because it's an admission that I no longer need these things because of the things I will never do again. List go around in my head-- I will never again: go on a date, do crafts, go to a gym, travel, go to a concert or live theater, etc. These are things disabled people can do, but I can't do because of my circumstances of being alone. So every time I look at something at home and say "I haven't worn that, or used that in 4 years, and probably won't again", it's a part of my life dying.

I am kind of cocooning for the winter. I am afraid of getting a serious infection so I am taking care. I actually received an invite, through a disabled organization, to attend one of the inauguration parties. But without a hotel room and a ticket to the Inauguration, it really becomes impossible. Hopefully in May, I can go to Washington with ALSA? I really want to be involved in activism and make a difference.

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