Author: Claire Gault
I didn’t recognize my ableism until I began meeting others who have mental illness, like myself—all people that didn’t fit my perception of “that kind” of person.
Through movies and television, I’ve grown to build a stereotype of what mental illness looks and feels like. And although I separated myself from that stereotype, unconscious limits began to weigh on my shoulders; I couldn’t be that successful, I couldn’t be that confident, I couldn’t have everything or anything that someone else without mental illness did. This mindset rang especially true shortly after my diagnosis, because I wasn’t aware of anyone at the time, either in the public arena or in my personal life, that shared my illness.
Then, slowly but surely, I began meeting other people with similar stories. A small part of me was shocked at their apparent kindness, resilience, and humor. Every time I discovered that someone (and there’s only a few) in my life was diagnosed with bipolar, I felt fleeting surprise. And I still do, to this day.
I hope that I can eventually take the news without feeling this surprise, because discovering that mental illness exists within someone shouldn’t come as a shock. Whenever I tell people, I understand and accept curiosity, but I have a small hope they don’t say something like, “really? You don’t seem like it.” Because normal people have mental illnesses. Fun, interesting, special people in our world are also neuro-divergent. That shouldn’t be a surprise.