Coming out as Disabled: Charlotte Butler

Wednesday 03-12-2014 - 16:43

So, today being International Day of Disabled People this is my ‘coming out as disabled’ blog. I really couldn’t think of a better starting point.

This is a guest article by Charlotte Butler, a disability rights activist at Canterbury College.  

If someone asked if I am disabled I would confidently answer ‘yes I am’ and probably give them a strange glare for asking; however two years ago it was completely different.

In 2010, I had already spent two years in and out of psychiatric hospitals and had received multiple mental health diagnoses. Despite this I still didn’t accept that I was disabled, for (at the time) my understanding on what disability was had been shaped by society’s attitudes and behaviours. Society had taught me to believe that being disabled was bad and something to be ashamed of, unfortunately I believed that right up until my final discharge from hospital on the 3 April 2012- which just happened to be the day I applied to college.

On the form, I had to write a couple of paragraphs on why I wanted to study Health and Social Care at college, and that’s when it hit. I wanted to help others, which is all I have ever wanted to do, I wanted to make a difference.

I also wanted to stick two fingers up at society and all those who told me I’ll never make something of myself.

I have been very fortunate that my college have been so supportive, in my first few weeks they had even assessed me as having Dyslexia and Synesthesia- which explained a lot about my ability to write, spell, recognise sounds in words and recall sentences. As well as it explained why I saw things differently.

In March, I was diagnosed with Intracranial Hypertension AKA Pseudotumor Cerebri (a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in my skull due to it not being absorbed into my bloodstream), it is often relieved for a while with lumbar punctures. Due to this there are other complications, my brain is slowly being pushed into the bottom of my skull, I am always tired, and I sometimes lose the sensations in my legs which then mean that I am unable to walk. I have a constant headache which causes horrible vomiting. Not to mention all the pills, injections and IVs I have to have on a daily basis.

Both my mental and physical conditions have such a negative effect on my day-to-day activities, not just the way the conditions themselves do, but the way others have made assumptions about me and my disability.

I was told that I would not pass any exams - well, I received my first ever GCSE in English this year and achieved a B grade.

I was told that I would not be able to continue on at college (including the students’ union) - well, I am and I’m doing better than ever.

I was told that I was ‘different’ - well, so what? We are all different and that is a wonderful thing.

Disability is not spoken about enough. Too many people are quick to judge and look the other way. It’s OK, not to be OK. We should be able to talk about disabilities without the fear of being judged.

The barriers that society has built should not be overcome. They must be destroyed and demolished so that a more positive future can rise from the ashes. Every conversation removes another barrier. It is not for us to change who we are, it is society that needs to change.



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