Disabled, But Not Alone Anymore
This is my story of depression and being a survivor of suicide attempts. This is my first time saying these things publicly and I only ask you read it all the way through. I implore you to read my story and help if you can. I understand so many have it worse than I do so please read this whole post before you jump to any conclusions.
My name is Sean Smith and I’m 27 years old from Michigan. I am different than most people I suppose in that I have a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or simply, a brittle bone disorder. There are many different types in varying degrees of severity and mine is right in the middle of that spectrum. It was something I was diagnosed with prenatally due to my biological father having the disability as well. Along with this, I was diagnosed throughout my life with restrictive lung disease, obstructive sleep apnea, scoliosis and asthma. I had my first bone fracture at just two weeks old and to date I have had well over 50 bone fractures and remain wheelchair bound. I also have had major operations, including a titanium rod being put into both of my femurs, and one of my arms. I am still to this date in need of medical care, without ability to get it.
When I was fifteen, I attempted suicide the first time. My entire school career was filled with me trying so hard to fit in. I was not only handicap, I was also deep into Star Wars, comic books, rock music and many other fringe interests. I was called a freak every single day. Called crippled, hit in the face, pushed around, everything. I never let it show how much it bothered me but I cried myself to sleep every night for a year. My home life didn’t make it better either. My medical bills and going in and out of hospitals made me feel a great burden on my family so I had nowhere to turn to share my pain. I hated myself…for things I couldn’t change. I was fat, ugly…I wanted to be normal…I wanted a life I thought was impossible for me to ever have.
One night after a very rough school day, I came home and…well I won’t go into detail specifically. I was so blinded by how people saw me that my own self vision became only their hatred. That night, I obviously didn’t die and sadly that made me feel worse. I was a freak to myself, I felt living only meant being a beacon of hatred with no true place. There was no safety net, no comfort zone. Who cared I liked to write or draw? Who wanted to hear my music? No one would even talk to me and if they did it just cut me down. The idea of survival was what life was, it wasn’t joy it was just a means to an end.
So, I recovered in silence, continued on that path and planned one more time. I didn’t know about my strengths, I couldn’t see my self-worth nor that I wasn’t alone. No one ever reached out their hand, no one ever told me I could make great things happen in spite of my challenges. I was just alone. No friends, nothing. Mind you I also know that’s partially my fault as I didn’t share any of my struggles. So, I attempted again at age 17 and ended up breaking my leg and while in the hospital, something hit my mind.
I wrote in a notebook these words:
“We are bound by our own chains.”
It was true. I saw that the destruction of myself was caused by me letting outsiders crush me with unimportant and uninformed opinions. My entire basis of self-worth was on the people whom saw a different looking person and judged around something so superficial. I decided to get help and try to find the me I let die so long ago. I still had the same treatment thrust upon me but I used tools to channel my feelings. I took up creative writing, studied film, learned multiple instruments and tried so hard to prove my disability gave me a one up. I was lucky to find that strength in myself because every day people take their own lives for so many reasons and society gives them nothing. Mental illness is real and it’s not their fault, but we can help them. There was nothing wrong with me…I was mentally sick and it was not something to hide.
As an adult now, I’m struggling with keeping the depression and self-harming thoughts at rest. I go out in public and I’m laughed at, pointed at, treated like a second-rate citizen. I’m talked to slowly or just completely ignored. I lost work, can’t find a new job and am facing new life-threatening illnesses that I find I’m fighting alone. I am physically alone in a world that supports the powerful and forgets the small. I need to remember that I am not alone…none of us are and together we can change the world.
I worked for three years in the Michigan Senate. I was treated like a child because of my disability. I wasn’t included with staff functions and the official I worked for actively voted against things that helped people in my condition. I was let go for no reason, losing my insurance and all income a year ago. I had no write ups and only one review which was very positive…it was a constant struggle for equality that wasn’t ever achieved.
Depression, anxiety, suicide, so many of these things lurk in shadows because we keep quiet and let it consume us. We put a stigma on it and make it shameful, strengthening the evil and allowing it to destroy us one by one. People young and old are afraid to be themselves or speak out and that is wrong. Gay, straight, black, white, male, female, transgender—whatever you are, you are human and you are loved and not alone. It is okay to hurt, it is okay to cry and be afraid but suicide isn’t the answer, there is help.
If we come together, despite all the hate, we can spread love and save so many lives. It’s sometimes just as simple as a smile. Be a listening ear, strike up a conversation with someone, volunteer your time and resources—nothing is too small. Show the world it is okay to be not okay. There is no perfect. Mental illness is not weakness, it deserves nurturing and treatment. Give it attention and help, tell our government to fund programs and give what you can to organizations that are out there.
In March I suffered multiple seizures that caused me to be on life support and have 5 fractures. I had surgery on my left arm which is now partially paralyzed. I can’t do most of what little I could do before. I can’t play guitar, push my chair and I still don’t know what caused the seizures. I am living a life of many new hardships and challenges I don’t know how to overcome.
I now am five months unemployed and going through a second application for disability benefits. I’m relearning so much, including who I am. I have $200,000+ in medical bills and $1,100 a month in living expenses with no income. I’m learning how to deal with being judged for another thing I can’t control and learning how to master the art of building a new foundation with the cards given to me.
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