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Coming out as Disabled: Rahul Singh

Wednesday 03-12-2014 - 15:56

If there were oppression Olympics, I would probably win

This is a guest article by Rahul Singh – International Students’ Place on the Disabled Students’ Committee.

Trigger warning: this piece discusses mental health conditions and self-harm.

"So you’re just pretty messed up then?" "You’re not normal?" Well, yes I am pretty messed up because I firmly believe you are either Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. You can’t be both, nor can you be in-between! I’m also the furthest from normal, and if there were oppression Olympics, I would probably win (and beat Maysoon Zayid in the process).

Strangely enough though, none of these questions were posed to me without the intention of finding out the extent of my disability, but I always managed to change the topic. Why? Because I was uncomfortable, I was scared what people would say... Because I was embarrassed about being disabled.

Something I still don’t quite understand, even to date, is the notion of normality, because you see; with my disability, my experiences that I’ve had to date haven’t been anything out the ordinary for me. Things that don’t happen to some for me, I find strange.  But how can one define normality when everything in life is circumstantial? So if everyone would agree with this concept of circumstantial normality, why is it that there is still so much hatred in society against disabled people? In society’s privileged, narrow mindedness why have we allowed disability to be regarded as satanic, disgusting and something to be treated differently about? why have we created additional segregation for people who face struggles every day?

After a year of being in and out of hospital, numerous anti-psychotic medications and many doctors, I was finally diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder after an onset of severe mood swings and depression which led to self mutilation; scars which I still walk around with today. But scars, like tattoos are strange things, you, yourself, barely notice them on a day-to-day basis- but they’re always there. When you look at them, they remind you of a struggle you’ve been through and something you’ve overcome. My scars remind me that there have been so many that have been in the same place but haven’t made it out the other end, it reminds that we as a society have so much more to do before we can adequately support people in terms of welfare and even greater deal more to do before we can eradicate this disgusting stigmatism surrounding disability.

Stevie Wonder once said, "Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision" Isn’t that just a beautiful thought; that regardless of your disability there is always ability to achieve your dreams if you have the valor to pursue them. The fundamental principle here, I think, is that we have power; that everyone has the power to overcome situations, and I think with such an important time fast approaching, we need to be harnessing our power as a movement and directing it at the future we want to see and the Britain we want to live in. If I only ever have one request for the student movement it is most definitely this- please never feel disempowered by political leadership within government, never waste your vote (both by not voting or voting for a loony party) or choose not to vote because you don’t know enough or don’t like any political party. The internet is a great thing, make the decision to inform yourself because there is a significant difference between biting into a pear and biting into a ripe pear: while they look the same, one has more to offer and is easier to digest. The General Election is something we bang on about, but it really is the only way that we can make sure we get the government, which puts the rights of disabled people as a priority. Register to vote and make a difference because while it is cheesy and hard to see, voting does change lives.

Being honest, writing this was one of the scariest things I think I have ever done because I knew who would be reading this. An empowered body of students who have done so much that I take inspiration from, everyone in every FE and HE institution & Apprenticeship programs have done so much to fight for disabled students from making campuses more accessible to postponing cuts to the DSA lifeline.  Through the student movement, I’ve learnt not to let my disability define me, but rather the experiences that I’ve been through define me. I’ve found through activists within the movement that I would rather spend my life fighting for something than do nothing because I cant change anything I haven’t faced.

People will always tell you that you can’t achieve something and you won’t go far but you can’t let someone else’s expectations of your life define you because limitations only go so far and nothing is impossible with determination and the right attitude. The only real barrier that I know would be the hardest to ever overcome is to get society to release themselves from the trap of being chained within their own narrow mindedness, for me I think that is the real debility.

So today, as I write this, I’m proud to say… I’m Rahul Singh, and I AM disabled… and absolutely shitti*g myself for my exams in a week. 

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