My children have odd ideas of what it means to be southern, especially to be a Texan. Their only ideas of being Texan are from my whole side of the family and Sandy from Sponge Bob or ,God forbid, Hank Hill. I say funny things. I talk funny sometimes. It has been pointed out to me that I say,"I tell you what," after some sentences.
I am a redhead. I was a stepchild (several times). I grew up rather poor. I wore glasses and to top it off I moved to the north so everyone made fun of my accent. To say I understand being picked out, bullied, and discriminated against would be an understatement. And that was all before they knew I also suffered from mental illness. Discrimination is a word that misleads. Many think it only happens to those that have a different skin color or social status.
Growing up was fraught with negative feelings about myself. I never seem to fit into any kind of situation. A family friend one time sat me down and told me that being different was a hard thing to be and maybe I should make it easier on myself and try to fit in.....Like I wasn't already trying to do that. I couldn't very well change my hair color or pale skin with freckles, or eyesight, nor my financial situation at thirteen years old now could I. I decided if fitting in meant I would have to be mean to others, than I rather not try to fit in at all. I was a complete anomaly or at least that is what I was told by my peers. It was what I learned as they tormented me, tripped me in the halls, stole my belongings, laughed at my pain. It was what was thrust upon me as some of my teachers made it clear if I wasn't so different I wouldn't have a problem. It was an extremely painful process. It made me really look at myself and I must say it shaped how I treat others.
I am sensitive to being judged or discriminated against. I know what it is like. Therefore, I refuse to do that to others. I refuse to judge or shame others. It is not my place. I do not pretend others are invisible simply because some people choose to overlook them because they deem them unworthy to be seen or heard.
Having mental illness makes discrimination come to the forefront. We deal with angry comments, side ways glances, and preconceived notions. It hurts. In an age of information, we are confronted with the fact that many times the information that should be spread is not being shared. Instead, ignorance has taken over scaring those that do not know better and being perpetuated by the media and news sources. It makes us a target and it is extremely unfair.
Discrimination has no place in our society. It solely based on fear and differences that others have a hard time accepting. If growing up the way I did has taught me anything, it is that differences are what make us who we are. They make us a world full of interesting and colorful possibilities. That in a world of black and grey, we are vibrant. We are to be experienced not feared. We are all human beings, mental illness or not, glasses and unusual hair colors or not, accents and strange sayings or not,social status and belief systems or not. We all deserve the same respect and consideration. No one deserves to be singled out and discriminated against.
We are supposed to be a society if not a world full of people that are better than our ancestors. We are supposed to have learned something from their mistakes hundreds of years ago. You would think we would have learned how to treat each other by now and the fact that we still hold onto these false and hurtful beliefs saddens me greatly.
Sincerely mentally ill, former glasses wearing, poor, southern girl, redheaded stepchild,