Persons with Disabilities (pt 2), by Cathy Grant   “ This week has been particularly bad for me. So many problems at home, so much abuse, so much anger. It’s like a black hole without end. And those caretakers shutting me down all the time, blaming me or making me feel bad or ungrateful. Whenever I point out a problem affecting me, for example, that I need a new wheelchair, they will defend themselves saying that it is not their responsibility. But I am not asking them to solve my problems, I just need to talk about it, talk with them, with anybody. Thank God that there is the telephone which allows me to talk to people. How good it feels whenever the phone rings.”

“I have been abused ever since I can remember. My alcoholic mother and my alcoholic father abused me until they abandoned me completely. I moved from institution to institution, within this large machinery of the system, with its doctors and nurses, and bureaucrats and social workers, caretakers and welfare workers. All paternalistic or indifferent, aggressive or careless. Worst of all, I do not even know what I do need, if anything. I just know of this pain that never leaves me. I cannot take it anymore; I never could take it and so often I wanted a medication just to sleep, sleep forever and never wake up again into this nightmare that is my life. Nobody seems to really care, nobody loves, nobody has a heart, nobody has time for feelings, and that is why this society is in the mess it is.”

People talked long after Cathy left. She was expected to be home at 10 pm. How to deal with her situation, how to help her, how to accommodate her needs and support her? At the same time all the feelings of solitude affecting each of the participants began to emerge. The tyranny of daily life with its demands on each of them. The lack of intimacy and dialogue in the co-op even among the Board members, the decline of socializing in the co-op. Something profound had happened right there: people could not relate to each other anymore as they did before because a new intimacy had been shared in the group during this meeting. How important it would have been if all of the neighbors had heard Cathy open up, say things and talk in a way that none of them had heard before.

This meeting was a microcosm of the whole Diversity Project, a living example of the difficulties a community faces to cope with difference. It was clear that despite the good will of community members, there is a feeling of relative powerlessness and confusion. The group talked about how difficult it is to find energy and time in everybody’s life to go out and help others when so often they come back exhausted after work. There was unanimous agreement on the positive value of the experience they had just shared and on the extent to which workshops similar could benefit other members of the community.

Cathy has contacted us to add this note to her story.

“Since this story I have reflected much more on the worried upset state that I put myself through. I have decided not to dwell on what I can’t control that used to upset me. Today, I appreciate in a deeper way what people do for me and am truly thankful for their help. I appreciate the mountains, the trees and animals more. It still feels like I wasted a lot of time in systems but I don’t get as frustrated as I used to.” You can contact me to let me know what you think of my articles on thsi website at the following e-mail address: cgrant@aebc.com