I was in a conversation with a man at church today and found myself saying to him “I knew you were one of us”. This got me thinking. Who is “One of us”? Is it a good or a bad thing to be one of us. I hope I didn’t just insult him.
So first things first. I went to church! I talked earlier about my struggle to go to church and how I felt that I was in preparation stage for church attendance, but now I’m in action. Feel free to take a look at the Stages of Change to see what I mean. But that’s enough about my personal life.
So this guy is “One of us”. Boy, did I think about that a lot. I meant it as a compliment. I meant to say that we understand each other and we can be great friends. But I think some people have a negative concept of those of us with mental illness or developmental disabilities and such. I think a lot of people in our society view us as a sort of cripple. Somehow we’re less capable and some would even consider us a burden, or maybe dangerous to be friends with. I want to challenge all of this.
I’ve been learning recently not to be ashamed of what I do with my life. I don’t work a regular 8-5 job and frankly, I don’t intend to. It would bore me out of my mind. I worked an 8-5 job early last year, and I would space out, staring at the computer screen. And then I didn’t want to go to work because I was tired of dealing with people. My coworkers were amazing, and I kept in touch with a couple of them on Facebook, but I just want to not be around people all the time.
Am I less because of this? I think a lot of people would say “Yes”, but I’m coming to believe that the real answer is “No!”. Not at all. I am not less. I am equal. I don’t have a regular job, and I don’t make a ton of money, but I build websites for a living and I just created a peer support business that is going to break new ground in my state, if not my entire nation. People wonder why I don’t do “More” with my life, given my intelligence, and competence. The more I think about things and the more I heal, the more I realize I am doing more. I’m doing more for me than any regular, normal life ever would.
My best life is lots of freelance, lots of moving around, and absolutely tons of encouraging people who need it. It doesn’t exactly fit society’s mold for people. I have so many jobs, and most of them have very few hours. Some people view this as scraping by like a poor person, and maybe in a way it is, but I love it. I love having time for myself. I love building websites. I love refurbishing computers. I love encouraging people and advocating for them. I love going to church, even when my past makes that really scary for me. I love being not normal.
This man at my church is “One of us” because he doesn’t perfectly fit society’s mold. His mind works a bit differently and I can tell that he and I have a lot in common. Some might call him less, but to me he’s better than most because we understand each other on a level that many don’t
My brother is probably a pretty normal person. Sometimes that bothers me. Why is he so normal and I’m so… this? What even is this, that I am?
This is… well, it’s just different. I will always find a way to think of something that most others haven’t considered. That’s not crippling. That’s a sort of genius in its own way. I’m creative, but in a very different way than most.
Now what about my illness? Is not an illness a bad thing? Perhaps in some ways, but I don’t think it is in all ways. I do need medications to get by. That’s probably a sort of sickness. I need extra coping skills and might collapse without them. But I also understand suffering better than most. My understanding of suffering is what makes me such a great Peer Support Specialist. My experience of pain enables me to help lead others out of their own pain.
I am not ashamed and I am not alone. I’m finding at my church that some of them are “My people”, and that’s a great thing.