1. It’s okay not to be okay
I’ve learned that my emotions are valid. I have every right to feel the way I feel; whether it’s anxiety, frustration, anger or depression. They always fall on a large spectrum of feelings and every one of these feelings no matter how small is valid.; there’s no ‘wrong’ way to feel. Feeling numb or even desensitized doesn’t mean you’re broken or callous. You should not discount whatever it is you're feeling, and you definitely shouldn't feel guilty for it.
2. Making my mental health my first priority
Making the realization that I needed to make my mental health my first priority is a lesson that I wish I had learned earlier in life. It’s hard to understand why things are happening and taking action to make sure they don’t happen again. When I started to make my mental health my first priority, I started listening to my mind & my body more, which helped me start to recognize when I need to step back & take time for myself.
Once I started to learn that my depression relapses weren't going to stop (before I was diagnosed) I decided to make a change. I started to advocate for myself in ways that I had not done before. I tried new medication & I also asked to be tested for bipolar.
3. Find the best way to listen to yourself.
Everyone needs an outlet for getting their thoughts out and processing everything. As a writer, I’ve found journaling is the best outlet for me. Whether it’s for content on my blog or for personal reflection it helps to process what’s going on.
As I’ m writing this I’ m jamming out to Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’. I’m very passionate about music & the way the words have the ability to heal. For a long time (and still to this day) music has been spiritual to me. The artists have a way of connecting with you on a level that sometimes you don’t even recognize. I love jamming out, with the music so loud everything is canceled out (my sisters can attest to this) so I can drown out all of my thoughts; if only for a little while, I forget about overthinking and overanalyzing situations that I can’t control.
5. Stop comparing yourself with your idea of perfection.
With my anxiety and depression, I regularly overthink and overanalyze situations that have happened as well as plan out conversations and situations; when I have no control over either. I often compare myself to who I feel I *should* be and where I *should* be. I’ve learned that things often don’t go as you planned and comparing yourself with your idea of perfection because you thought your life would look differently at this moment is not a great mindset to be in.
6. Sometimes you have to be a friend to yourself — so be a damn good one.
I regularly have seasons of loneliness and I’m currently in one now.
I’ve started to realize that outside of my college/high school relationships (where I’m secure in) I don’t know who I would call if I wanted to go on a coffee date or just hang out. I’ve been back in Charlotte for about a year and a half and I haven’t made close friends.
I know with my college/high school friends, most of the time I’ll be initiating everything first. But I’m confident in that relationship because I know where I stand with them and actions speak louder than words.
But with these new connections/ friendships that I’m building, I’m learning that I don’t want to nor should I be the one who’s always initiating things first. I want people to be in my life because they want to be, not because I’m forcing them to be in it. Friendship needs to be reciprocated and I’m learning what I want that to look like.
I’m so passionate, I put my whole heart into everything I do. I’m also very authentic, I’m true to who I am and I don’t try to hide it.
I think some people might be afraid and turned off by that.
God has really been speaking to me about timing. Timing with jobs, friendships etc...
He wants me to make sure I’m letting the right people into my life, for the right reasons and that those individuals reciprocate my intentions. He doesn’t want me to fill this season and upcoming seasons with individuals who aren’t going to bring me joy and authenticity into said friendships.
My point is: you have to be a friend to yourself and learn to love yourself before friendships fall into place. Have alone time with yourself, listen to your mind and your body and be a damn good friend to yourself because sometimes that is all you have.
7. Drop "should" from your vocabulary.
This is a hard one to paint over after years of using it.
When I stopped using "should" in my vocabulary it worked wonders for my mental health and helped me stop comparing myself to my idea of perfection. My therapist has taught me to stop 'should-ing' on myself. When you use the word should it often represents unrealistic standards, set by yourself or others. It doesn't matter what you 'should' be doing or not doing, or how you 'should' feel. All that matters is how you are feeling because the way you feel is valid. Making it through the next minute, hour, or day because you’re honest about how you’re feeling, and you are taking steps to identify and not giving up on recovery.
8. Your anger is often a mask for hurt, fear, and sadness.
I’ve learned that I often try to push away my emotions. I stuff them deep down, and all that does is build up more and more inside you. Identifying my repressed anger has been a running theme in the last six months.
I’m not an angry person but identifying my repressed anger led to my diagnosis. Also, being able to identify that my anger was and is primarily focused on the oppression I have faced and the circumstances that I’ve been dealt and how I navigate through life. Being able to sit in whatever emotions I’m feeling — and identify the fact that yes, I’m angry and its okay — helped me actually deal with coming to terms with oppression I have faced and the circumstances that I’ve been dealt.
9. You need to build up your own support group.
I’ve learned that I don’t have to do this alone and to not be ashamed of my situation.
I’m still building up my support system in the Charlotte area and being authentic and true to myself as well as being honest about my situation helps. Finding individuals who I can learn on, trust and to be able to have honest conversations around mental health are very important to me when looking for a support group.
I’m not alone in this and people want to hear my story.
10. Ask "what if it works out?" instead of "what if it doesn't?
It's in our nature to want to worry about the worst-case scenario when you're thinking about the future or heading into a new experience, but I've learned to stop that negative thinking in its tracks by wondering about the best-case scenario instead, which is just as possible. I try to give my brain the chance to ruminate on a successful outcome; which is refreshing and empowering. With my anxiety and depression, I regularly overthink and overanalyze situations that have happened as well as plan out conversations and situations; when I have no control over either. My therapist taught me to think about best-case scenarios as much as worst-case ones, especially when it comes to this season of unemployment.
11. Don't just say "I hope" — make a strategy.
Sometimes having hope isn’t enough, there needs to be a strategy in place.
Shifting the focus away from you wanting something to you getting it really helps your mindset. You allow yourself to believe that you will achieve your dreams, rather than it being an idea in your head.
Making goals and checking them off takes you one step closer to your dreams.
12. Self-care looks different for everyone, but try to figure out what things make you feel better and take the time to do them.
I’ve started to call myself the self-care queen recently. This year I realized that I needed to make my mental health my first priority; really implementing that philosophy in the last 6 months. When I started to make my mental health my first priority, I started listening to my mind & my body more, which helped me start to recognize when I need to step back & take time for myself.
My favorite self - care methods are:
Binge watching Netflix
Listening to music
Having quiet & alone to reflect & process
These are the self - care practices that work best for me --- If you need a place to start, make a list of things you enjoy & things that you help you recharge. Come back to that list when you’re in need of some ‘me time’.
13. You're allowed to say "no" and set boundaries in your life.
My therapist taught me that saying no and setting boundaries is a form of self-care. I am allowed to tell people no and do not have to give a reason for it. Also, I didn't have to feel guilty for not wanting to do it. Setting boundaries and saying no allows me to take care of myself and listen to what my body needs.
I am very open about my sexuality and the fact that I’m bisexual+. I’ve found that being true to myself and being authentic in my intersecting identities not only helps with my mental health but it brings the people in your life who meant to be in it. I can’t tell you how long I’ve held onto internalized biphobia for.
I think some part of me always knew that I was queer; but, because of our heteronormative culture, I denied being my authentic self. I didn’t know how to navigate the things I was feeling, and I openly talked to a therapist about them because I was so conflicted.
I embraced my identity in college and then began drowning in the idea that I can’t be genuinely queer in a straight relationship and I still struggle with this. For a long time, I thought self-acceptance of my bisexuality was enough. No one asked me for a label, and I experienced very little overt discrimination. As I’ve become more grounded in my sexuality, I’ve realized that self-acceptance isn’t enough.
I came out very soon after I figured out I was bisexual. Coming out is a process but being authentic in your identity helps.
Thanks to the increasing profile of bisexual celebrities, such as Keiynan Lonsdale and Stephanie Beatriz, bisexuality has become far more visible in the mainstream media. As a result, an increasing number of people feel comfortable coming out as LGBTQ+ (or as merely neither straight nor gay). But acceptance of bisexuality has been slow, both in mainstream society and the LGBTQ+ communities, despite evidence suggesting that more individuals identify as bisexual than lesbian or gay.
Bisexuality can be defined as simply as being attracted to more than one gender. However, society is most comfortable with binary categorizations when it comes to sexuality and gender, and it is often rigidly policed. This gives rise to misconceptions about bisexual authenticity, which threatens our visibility and excludes us from the LGBTQ+ community and western society. The most common harmful stereotypes are of indecision, confusion, and immorality, but the list is long and often supported by the media.
Invalidation and disapproval complicate the coming out process for individuals who identify as bisexual. Because of this, individuals who identify as bisexual personally may choose to remain in the closet or be mislabelled.
This leads to some severe mental health outcomes; the LGBTQ+ population is four times more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the community, it’s even higher for individuals who identify as bisexual. Over 40% of individuals that identify as bisexual have considered suicide.
There are many myths associated with bisexuality, and significant misconceptions go hand-in-hand with stigma and invisibility. In Western society, bisexuality and pansexuality are blanket terms for people who are not attracted exclusively attracted to one gender, and many people think bisexuality is when you are invited to men and women.
This reveals a very cis-sexist approach to breaking down bisexuality and doesn’t take into account the gender spectrum. Within bisexuality, there is no inherent binarism; bisexuality doesn’t refer just to refer to the two genders we are familiar with: men and women.. Yes, this could mean you are attracted to a man and a woman, though it could also mean you are invited to folks identifying as non-binary, genderqueer and trans. By saying bisexuality is an attraction to cishet men and women, you are making bisexuality trans exclusive. For someone identifying as bisexual and queer, I am not exclusively attracted to cishet men and women. I’m still navigating and becoming more grounded in my sexuality. I openly say I’m bisexual, but I realize I identify more as pansexual; that is why I use queer often when I’m usually talking about my sexuality.
I think a lot of this has to with my internalized biphobia because of western societies heteronormativity. I’ve found that people understand bisexuality more and it is accepted more. I know I’m writing about biphobia, so is it accepted more than the other LGBTQ+ identities? I don’t think it is.
Individuals who identify as bisexual have to continually validate their sexuality to people who don’t identify as bisexual. Individuals who identify as bisexual who are in straight relationships are still bisexual. Just because we haven’t kissed a man or a woman doesn’t mean we aren’t bisexual. Bisexuality’s constant invalidation stems down to the stigmas and myths that are associated with it.
Some examples of bisexuality’s stigmas and myths are:
I experience biphobia on a regular basis. Recently, someone thought I was only friends with someone because I was attracted to them.
Here are some ways you can fight biphobia:
Individuals who identify as bisexual+ are more likely to have to validate their sexuality when there is not enough social support for them after they come out to family and friends, or when they stay closeted for an extended period. While Western culture needs to tackle biphobia, The LGBTQ+ community also needs to take a look at the way they approach the word “bisexual” and actively educate those in their communities on bisexuality, in the hopes that society will recognize bisexuality as something other than a plot device to fill diversity quotas.
2017 was a big year for the bisexual community. It was a year when a large number of celebrities and musicians came out as bisexual, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow star and musician Keiynan Lonsdale, Riverdale actress and Stranger Things favorite Shannon Purser, and 90’s Pop sensation Aaron Carter are just a few of them. But, mainstream media coverage of bisexuality still has a long way to go. Individuals who identify as bisexual are often left out of television plot lines.
For decades, TV had no idea what to do with anyone whose sexuality fell outside the gay-straight dichotomy. Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw thought bisexual women must be straight women stuck in their experimental phase, and bisexual men must be sexually confused men who are on a “layover on the way to Gaytown.” 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon said that ‘there's no such thing as bisexual, that's just something invented in the 90s so they could sell more hair products.’ The disrespect and lack of representation are even more astonishing when you remember that more people identify as bisexual-plus — a spectrum that includes bisexuality, pansexuality, queerness, and everything in between — than those who identify as lesbian or gay combined.
From Sara Lance (Legends of Tomorrow) to Grace Choi (Black Lightning), Petra Solano (Jane the Virgin) to Rosa Diaz (Brooklyn 99), more and more TV characters are being more open about their attractions to people of multiple genders. Narratives of bisexual characters are very different; some just stating it casually and some doing it in a meaningful celebratory fashion (there is nothing wrong with either of these).
Bisexual characters are now central in television plot lines and have recurring roles in television shows rather than peripheral or one-off characters brought in for ‘special episodes.’ Bisexual characters have increasingly become part of the fabric of their respective shows, being more than a one a one-dimensional character to show the audience and being used as plot devices. But, things still aren’t perfect. TV even depicts some bisexual women as promiscuous, and they are more likely to end up dead than is statistically reasonable. Bisexual men, on the other hand, barely exist on screen.
But even in just the past couple of years, TV has made tremendous strides toward correcting the lack of meaningful bisexual+ representation. More shows are finding casual ways to reveal that their characters might not be gay or straight — and, more importantly, sticking to it.
The road to bisexual+ representation was not easy. When a character didn’t identify as heterosexual, it usually ended one of two ways: Experimenting with the same gender and figuring out that they were straight or they would come out as gay. Letting them exist somewhere in between the Kinsey scale was rarely a viable option.
Bisexual+ representation in the media also plays into the stigma that unless a character explicitly identifies as bisexual, society assumes someone is straight or gay based on their current partner — something that individuals who identify as bisexuals in real life face on a daily basis.
More shows are making a point of being explicit about their characters’ nuanced sexualities. Telling characters narratives in which they recognize their sexuality, voice it explicitly, and have to deal with the kinds of consequences bisexual+ people face in real life matters, not only to people who identify as bisexual+ but these moments are groundbreaking for bisexual+ representation. Bisexual+ characters, like Rosa Diaz, have to stand their ground and insist that it doesn’t matter who she ends up with; she’s bisexual, and that will always be true no matter who she is with.
Bisexual+ men are getting some more notice on screen — but TV still has a long way to go in granting them equal consideration. Bisexual+ men are considered a ‘myth’ and the media has done very little to combat that thought. Currently, Legends of Tomorrow is finally letting an onscreen Constantine explore his bisexuality when previously shows, and movies with Constantine have straightened him out.
There is still a long way to go for bisexual+ representation on TV. But the path forward is brighter than it’s ever been. After decades of relative drought, TV is now awash in queer characters. The more representation we get, the more room there is for authenticity and growth in bisexual+ characters; this is what individuals who identify as bisexual+ deserved. Even though TV is awash in queer characters, the absence of bisexuals in the media, particularly bisexual men, is an issue that’s less commonly discussed and acknowledged.
Perhaps this difficulty in nailing down bisexuality is why it’s often portrayed so poorly in mainstream media. One day, I hope to see bisexual+ characters represented in the media where the characters are authentic in their sexuality and are not used as plot devices.
When you’re job hunting, does it leave you discouraged? You’ve been applying to job after job, but the results are always the same: rejections or no response. I recently got rejected from 2 jobs that I thought I was qualified for at an organization that I was passionate about.
Only 15% of individuals with intellectual disabilities have jobs. There are many challenges to getting hired or even landing an interview when you have a disability. But why is that? There is still a lot of discomfort and uncertainty among individuals with disabilities. I graduated from the College of Charleston in May 2016, and I was in the REACH Program, a four year fully inclusive program for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. This program prepared me for many things, but one thing it didn’t prepare me for was how hard the job hunt was going to be as an individual with a disability.
After graduating, I did an AmeriCorps Term at Trident United Way in North Charleston, South Carolina with their Financial Stability Project. I served individuals at or below the poverty line access financial assistance. At my service site, Metanoia, I served in the Housing Department with Tony Joyner. I assisted Tony with Metanoia’s housing programs and helped him with the Financial Literacy and Homebuyer Education classes.
I’ve been searching for jobs since my term ended and It is a long and exhausting process. I’ve applied to a lot of jobs this year: but once you hit the submit button it is out of your hands. It is up to the employer if they want to reach out for an interview or if they want to reach out to tell you whether or not you got the job.
Here are my five tips for surviving unemployment, job hunting and everything in between!
1. Send, send, send!
Make sure you’re looking for jobs on a regular basis. Rejection is a common theme when you're applying to jobs. Have a Plan B ( or C, D, or E)! It’s not going to work out the way you want it too.
2. Self- Care
Job hunting can leave you discouraged. It is a long and exhausting process that seems never-ending. Take time for yourself, even if it means distancing yourself from your friends for a while. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest making a list of what helps you relax!
3.Establish a Routine
Don’t just sit around the house all day. Change scenery, go to a coffee shop. I know I’m always more productive when I’m out of the house, and I don’t have any distractions. If you’re a Binge Watcher (yes, you), multitask and apply to jobs while you're watching.
4. Stay engaged
A lot is going on in the political climate today, make sure to stay current with what’s going on. There are a lot of ways to stay informed: twitter, blogs, news outlets. Volunteering is a great way to help your community and stay informed about what's going on in your community (and what could affect you directly).
5. See people, meet people
The job hunt can often feel very isolating. I feel like all my friends are in different places in their lives and I have such a long way to go. Making time to see my friends and being honest about my situation has helped. My friends have helped me through this process. Meet new people and get out of your comfort zone. You never know who will have a significant lead on a great job. Knowing the right people and networking is key to getting a job today. Put your name out there, that way people know you are looking for a job.
Let's be honest: dating is tough. The process of meeting someone, getting to know them, and connecting and building a relationship is enough to leave someone disheartened. When you have a disability this process along with the societal pressure to be at a particular stage in your life can be overwhelming. The social constraints of being an individual with a disability while dating are obstacles that sometimes have no outcome. It can all be worth it if you’re able to find someone who accepts every piece of you — and that happens more often than you might think.
First, a disclaimer: I’m no dating expert. I’ve never been in a relationship, and I have never been kissed, and like everyone else out there, I’m figuring out things as I go along. I’m a sex-positive person; I respect and understand the hookup culture, sex work, not having sex before marriage, etc.… It is a personal choice.
Stigmas around disability is a natural part of life for an individual with a disability; we encounter it every day, and dating is no different. This has been the biggest obstacle for me. It is very discouraging to know that stigma around disability is still prevalent in our society. I’ve become best friends with rejection; my own and others. Am I good enough? Will anyone ever love me? How could anyone love me? I’m very open about having a disability, and I embrace it, but it’s tough to navigate that self-confidence in a society that still sees having a disability as a weakness. Individuals with disabilities have been factored out as potential romantic partners because of societies perception of disability. Media Representation ignores the fact that individuals with disabilities have the same emotional needs and desires as able-bodied individuals. Not every individual with a disability is asexual as society paints us to be.
I can’t speak for the people who have rejected me as to why they didn’t want to date me; maybe it was timing, or perhaps it was because they didn’t see me as a potential partner. But, I always ask myself the same question: is it my disability?
Also, I’m just putting this out there: the idea of friendships changing after you tell someone you like them is bullshit. There should be a level of maturity and a space to talk about these feelings where it doesn’t change the context of the friendship.
I’ve always desired to have a partner; someone who loves me unconditionally because of who I am and what I’ve been through. And God wouldn’t put these desires in my heart for the pain and heartbreak, right?
Dating with a disability is possible, but it’s not easy either.
My best advice: put yourself in uncomfortable places, put yourself out there, be honest and vulnerable and hopefully these will lead you to the right partner.
What is normal? I don’t think normal exists because I’ve been living with a disability my whole life. I don’t think normal exists but the reason why society believes normal exists because as a society we’re held to such high standards, and since the high standards exist we believe those high standards are reasonable.
When I was a couple of weeks old, I had a blood clot on the left side of my brain. The blood clot led to me having a stroke. The stroke resulted in me being hemiplegic and having cerebral palsy. I grew up with a family that taught me to embrace my disability but also wanted me to know that the world will not give you special treatment because you are ‘special.’ My family was honest, and I was held to the same expectations as my two sisters, Meghan and Maggie. Even though I didn’t at the time, I am grateful for their honesty and the expectations I was held too.
In elementary school, my peers didn’t care that I had a disability. At that age, you are so happy when you do make friends, and societal perceptions on things like disability aren’t ingrained. I didn’t fully understand what having a disability meant.
As I grew older, navigating my disability became more of an obstacle. I didn’t understand why I had a disability. Making friends was harder, especially in high school when I wanted everyone to like me, and I wanted to be friends with everyone. Talk about validation right? I learned a lot from that. The most important being: don’t double text. There is a reason they haven’t texted back, even if it has the read✓ at 2:30 pm and it’s now 10:00 pm.
Meghan and Maggie are able-bodied, and it was hard navigating my relationship with them growing up (and still today). Not only because there were many things that I couldn’t do that they could (and a severe case of FOMO), I didn’t feel that close to either of them.
I hated having a disability; I didn’t understand why this happened to me. Looking back, I think a lot of that had to do with societal perceptions on disability. Ableism is still very prevalent, and I’m acutely aware of it. All my life I’ve had things said to like: “You’ll Never Be Able to _______!” , “You’re So Inspirational!” and “You Don’t Look Disabled…”. People who have known me for my entire life have forgotten that I have a disability and have disregarded my whole experience as a disabled person. This plays into the idea of disability erasure; the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of disability in history, academia, the news media, and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, disability erasure can include denying that disability exists (Urban Dictionary). I’m using Urban Dictionary’s definition of bisexual erasure because I couldn’t find an explanation for disability erasure (which is a form of disability erasure).
Along with Ableism, Inspirational Porn exists. Inspirational Porn is a term used to describe a common tendency in which able-bodied people condescend to those with disabilities by suggesting they are brave or unique just for living (HuffPost). I’ve been going to Zumba for a while now, and I love it. But, almost every time I go, I have someone come up to me after and say “You Are So Inspirational!” or “You Did An Incredible Job!”. I am not your inspiration nor do I want your pity. I’m living my life the best way I know how and I don’t need your approval on how ‘well’ I’m doing.
I didn’t fully embrace my disability until I got to college. I’ve been put in boxes my entire life, and when I got to college, I became more comfortable in my identity as disabled as well as other identities that I had denied because of societal expectations. It was through the REACH Program that I was able to become more outgoing, join organizations like the Bonner Leader Program and write for HER CAMPUS.
Disability is just a word. Yes, it comes with stigmas and setbacks, but it would be great for there to be more education on disability rights and awareness. We have a long way to go as a society regarding disability, but we’ve come a long way even in the last 50 years.
Everything changes after college. I don’t think people know how much it changes, I know I didn’t.
Friends move to different cities and when the ‘adulting’ starts, it is hard to maintain that connection because you and your friends might be in two different places (physically and metaphorically). My college friends are still very much a constant in my life. I believe the distance has made my friendships stronger because we have to be more intentional about wanting to be in each other’s lives.
Making friends after college is a lot harder than I expected. Something I have become more aware of over the years is how I carry myself in the beginning of a friendship. When you’re making new connections and building these relationships, you can’t come on too strong. I was the girl who wanted everyone to like me and who wanted everyone to be friends with me. I was the girl who double-texted after five minutes of not getting a response. Yes, that was me.
If you know me today, you know I don’t give a fuck who likes me. I know that everyone is not going to like and I’m not going to please everyone.
Here are my 5 Tips to creating lasting friendships post-grad:
1. Don’t Rush Things
Making connections and building friendships is hard post- grad. But, making friends takes time. You can’t rush or even force someone to be friends with you. Trust the process, the people who are meant to be in your life will come at the right time.
2. Be Yourself
There is one thing that I have learned as I have become more rooted in my intersecting identities: Stay true to yourself. If you are true to yourself and are authentic in everything you do, everything else will follow. The individuals you are trying to become friends with will notice if you are putting on a facade.
3. Reconnect with your roots
Did you lose touch with one of your best friends halfway through college? This is the time to reconnect, take a chance and reach out!
4. Be Intentional
Keep in touch with the individuals you are making connections with. It doesn’t have to be every day. When you are having a conversation with them be vulnerable. Take it day by day, make the most of the time you have with them.
5.Don’t Overthink it
Have you been sitting on that text for hours trying to decide if it Is the right thing to say? Send it! The person you’re sending it to won’t think twice about that emoji or how formal your texting is.
I hope these tips help with finding lifelong friendships post-grad!
Hey lovelies! I’m Mary, a 25-year-old writer. I love a sunny day on the beach and jamming out to music. I created Dishability to engage in conversations around my struggle with Depression/Anxiety and Bipolar 2 as well as being a Queer, Disabled Woman.