When I left for Camp Sunday morning, I was depressed. I’d spent the last few months in what seemed like a never ending spiral of anxiety. If I wasn’t stressing about my future, I was probably calling myself a terrible writer, a terrible advocate and an all around terrible, unlovable human being. I woke up that morning convinced I was destined to a life of loneliness and wasted potential.
When I left Camp Friday morning, I was happier than I’d been all year. Somehow, it turned out this unlovable, miserable heap of wasted potential was actually a well liked person with lots of friends. All it took was a week at Camp ASCCA to allow me to see that side of myself again. In that five day trip, I’d managed to meet so many wonderful people, have amazing conversations, and even start dating someone I really like.
Sometimes, having a physical disability can be really hard on your mental health. People assume that we’re either incapable of engaging in a conversation, or not worth the effort in the first place, and outcast us. If we do have good friends, we’re still going to get left out pretty often.
Then there’s all the inevitable body image issues. Beauty standards are already impossible to meet for many abled people, but for people with disabilities, no amount of exercise and dieting is enough to make you look like Kylie Jenner. I’ve tried my best to look as conventionally attractive as possible, and I can promise you that it’s not worth it. I can starve myself and work out as much as I like, but it’s not going to straighten my limbs or make my calve muscles magically start existing.
But being around people like me makes me forget about that. Well, maybe not forget; more accurately, it helps me remember that the person strangers think I must be is not who I am. I am not unattractive. I am not incapable of having valid opinions and making decisions for myself. I am not a burden. I am not irrelevant. Nobody with a disability, whether it be physical or intellectual, is.
We are all people, and every thought and feeling we have is just as valid as anyone else’s. Going to Camp is a reminder of that. It’s a reminder that we matter, that we are beautiful and we deserve better. I should be able to feel as confident, happy and respected anywhere on this planet as I do at Camp, surrounded by people like me and other amazing people who understand.
I’ve noticed when I get away from my disability community too long, I get extremely depressed. If I didn’t have access to all the great online communities and websites about people like me, I don’t know how I would function. My ‘brain monster’, as I call it, would eat up all my self esteem, self respect, and motivation until I was just a depressed lump. So that’s why I’m up in the middle of the night writing this instead of sleeping because everywhere should make me feel as loved, valuable and human as I do at Camp.