I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Empowering Inspiration

Change your life.  God's kin-dom is here! (The Message Bible, 15)
I've been thinking about inspiration lately and when it is empowering and when it becomes harmful.  This is what I posted in response to the article, Inspiration Porn: What It Is and Why It Hurts:

I have much conflict with this.  I feel like it applies if a person is born with a disability.  But if it happens later in life, then choosing to give up is a much more realistic choice. I feel like especially when it comes to severe mental illness, the success I've achieved IS rightly inspirational.  I graduated college and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done and the only thing that made it so hard was my disability-severe mental illness. So yeah, I'm proud of that.  I do a lot of mental health presentations where I put myself as an inspiration to others. On the other hand, sometimes I am used as a commodity.  Like people only see me as inspiration and not as human, like I've got supernatural inspirational powers, almost.  People don't have hope for their loved one or themselves, so I get the sense that they're trying to squeeze all of it out of me.  A very unpleasant feeling. I even turned down a presentation once because I was told that My inspiration was needed, which made me feel objectified.  So I think inspiration porn is on a case by case basis and doesn't just apply to all disability inspiration situations.
Yesterday I expressed to my therapist my conflict of misrepresenting myself when presenting myself as an inspirational speaker.  More and more I am feeling like people do not see the real me.  Yes, I have come a long way.  Yes, I have gained a lot of wisdom.  Yes, sometimes I have it all together.  But when I am tired...then I am still very prone to panic attacks that cause me much misery.  I am getting better and better but I do not by far have it all together.  Also, like I said in response to the above article, sometimes I feel very objectified, commodified.   

 The therapy appointment was a DBT catch-up appointment for the interpersonal effectiveness section.  This section is filled with acronyms and unfortunately, I usually have trouble remembering what the letters in an acronym stand for, so she told me to just try to remember what the main point of each acronym is instead of trying to remember the exact words and I found that very helpful.  

The first acronym is DEAR MAN and is about getting one's needs met in a relationship.  I was told to think of it as, "What is my objective in this relationship?" - "What do I need?"   I was then asked, "What is your objective in your presentations?  It seems like you are being taken as an inspiration when that may not be your objective..."   That was an a-ha moment for me, as I thought about what I really people to take away from my speeches and I realized she was right.  I don't want to be an inspiration anymore - I want to make people think about mental illness in a different way.

 I usually start my presentations saying that I want to educate, dispel stigma, and inspire hope, and so, of course, people are being very inspired.  I have now come to realize that way I am being perceived is all my own doing and that is a very liberating feeling because I can do something about it.   I will now say, "I am speaking with you today to educate, combat stigma, and to help you think about mental illness in a different way than perhaps you have thought of it before.  There are many common assumptions about having mental illness that I want to talk about and disprove."

 Inspiration is not a bad thing at all and I do want to leave people feeling hopeful but I also want to be seen as myself, not as a superhero, not on a pedestal.  I don't want people to think that they need regular doses of me in order to make changes in their life - ultimately, we must all find our own inspiration within.  I think now instead of saying that I want to "inspire" hope, I will say that I want to "empower" hope. 

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