Making Sense of a Stolen Year: Mental Illness in the Context of an Abusive Therapist

Image Description: A white woman with large glasses smiles at the camera while wearing a Toque (deal with it nonCanadians) for the CUPE local 3903
Image Description: A white woman with large glasses smiles at the camera while wearing a Toque (deal with it nonCanadians) for the CUPE local 3903

It all started with the historic 2018 CUPE 3903 strike in Toronto (longest post secondary strike in Canadian history). I mean no it didn’t you don’t trigger your PTSD during a strike only to have it open up flashbacks to your childhood. However, for the purposes of this blog post, I can’t go through that lifetime of trauma. For that you can wait for my dissertation “We Still Hide Madwomen in the Attic” (link to twitter thread on how you can support me and my work, it will be repeated at the end of this post).

The strike was hard for a number of reasons. Initially simply participating with the strike was a struggle. I believed in the principles I believed we were fighting for but I learned quickly standard picketing daily was a physical impossibility. Accommodations for union members who couldn’t picket or who couldn’t picket full time were very poorly organized. This remained a stressor throughout. By the end of the strike (months after it began) I had become so confused by work expectations on and off the picket line, I sometimes just didn’t go.

This was not helped by the inevitable strike staple of being threatened with near constant vehicular death. I was body checked by pedestrians on several occasions regardless of whether I was blocking the sidewalk. The disruption to campus was enough to incur the violent wrath of pedestrians.

Then there were the drivers who always thought that they had special reasons to skip the predetermined picketing schedule.

For those unfamiliar with a legal picket. Picketers are allowed to delay but not stop traffic. Courts have been forgiving in how they define delay versus stopping in a strike scenario.

Picketers usually pick a set period to delay traffic before allowing it to proceed before picketers again take to the streets to delay traffic.

A picketers job description is essentially to walk in a circle in the road and try not to die. Whether that’s getting off the street fast enough when the current delay is over or because some driver has decided that they don’t care about the people in the road. We had people zip through on motorcycles (not safe) or simply drive on the sidewalk to bypass our picket line.

Through it all through the incident that sticks in my mind the most was when a member of staff for York’s Counseling Services decided to oversell the importance of her job to skip the line. It worked a couple of times and at least one coworker started copying her.

The problem? There is no reality in a university campus counseling office where students lives are endangered by an entirely predictable delay. She just didn’t want to shift her morning schedule. When the people who make the decisions on which cars get special treatment (emergency vehicles obviously, parents taking their kids to daycare, I think there were a couple other) were informed of her exaggerated status, she got angry and actually began suggesting that if we did not continue to give her special treatment “people might die”. We didn’t give her special treatment. I wrote a strongly worded letter about using clients as pawns and how that reduces faith in counseling services at York (I’d certainly never trust anyone who works there, I never got that lady’s name).

A strike that started in March plodded straight through June and I actually got a bit of a respite, though not the respite I’d hoped for.

Last year I fundraised to go to a disability law summer school in Galway, Ireland. I enjoyed the summer school as much as possible but unfortunately had some serious medical side effects from traveling. I ended up missing more than a day sorting out how to deal with a bad drug reaction in a foreign country. I was on the drug because medical marijuana isn’t legal in Ireland so, I needed a replacement med for my chronic pain.

I ended up leaving the school early on the second day, to wander around Galway, looking for a health food store so I could pay an ungodly sum of money for CBD oil. I spent the next day in bed purging the demon drug from my system.

Ireland is pretty though

Image Description: Bed and Breakfast outside Shannon Ireland where the airport I flew in and out of was.
Image Description: Bed and Breakfast outside Shannon Ireland where the airport I flew in and out of was.

I did return to the summer school when I fely better and enjoyed what little time I did spend at the summer school.

Hey look they even gave me a certificate.

Image Description: Me shaking hands with a smiling woman with light brown hair. I am holding the certificate in my left hand
Image Description: Me shaking hands with a smiling woman with light brown hair. I am holding the certificate in my left hand

As much as I enjoyed my short respite from the strike, it was still going strong and tensions were running high. I experienced some horrific in person ableism from a fellow union member. On top of the stress from the threats and the near constant messaging of unwelcome we got from the university, I no longer felt safe on the picket line. I rarely went after that.

We were ultimately legislated back to work by our incompetent premier Doug Ford. Who couldn’t even be bothered to include a return to work protocol.

The end of the strike was a confusing nightmare. There was pre-strike work that needed to be done quickly because the Fall semester was imminent. We needed to find out how much we would be paid for that work (there was no standard).

It is around this time that I started dissociating. I was still able to mostly function. I was able to complete my TA duties but that only lasted a few weeks. I was falling apart. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get grounded on my own again. So I did something that was a long time coming. I went to my doctor and got diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety. I’m pretty sure the anxiety has always been there. The PTSD has been around since at the latest 15. I’ve spent a long time coping.

It’s no wonder that it took events as dramatic as a strike to crack me so bad I couldn’t find the glue to ground myself and move forward. Both my doctor and I agreed that I needed therapy.

I just chose the worst possible therapist. She seemed to be perfect. She advertised with queer friendly service providers. She described herself as,

Whether we work relationally and/or somatically, my practice is grounded in the frameworks of intersectional feminism, anti-oppression, social justice, queer theory & harm/risk reduction. I am sex & kink-positive, sex-work positive, class-conscious & anti-racist.

Amelia Sloan

She also directed her ad at the most vulnerable people

Services Provided: Counselling/therapy

Client Groups: Men, Women, Trans people, Children, Youth, Adults, Seniors,

LGBT parents, Family members of LGBT people, Two-Spirit, Intersex, People Living with Disabilities, Racialized Communities, Gender Independent Children

Amelia Sloan

This quote from her website seems particularly ironic,

I work with individuals using Relational Somatic Psychotherapy, Trauma Therapy & Sex Therapy. My approach creates an empathic, non-judgmental & safe space where you are the expert of your experiences & where we can explore deeply the feelings, memories, thoughts & experiences you have. We will start wherever you are at & moving at your pace using my gentle but direct approach.

Amelia Sloan

As someone looking for trauma informed therapy that would consider my particular location of intersectional oppression seemed perfect. In our first session I laid out my goals and what I felt my current issues were. I made it very clear that I was autistic and would not be masking during sessions as masking has been connected to suicidality. She agreed.

She gave me a brief overview of her approach and we began what I thought was the joint work of therapy. I would discover about nine months later that my therapist and I had never been on the same page. Not only that in the misguided (I really don’t know what her motive was) to heal me, she was in fact doing psychological damage.

I recently received a copy of her clinical notes. Nine months of therapy was summed up in 8 pages single spaced. Nothing that resembles me can be seen in those pages. She got annoyed that I would let her “regulate me” whatever that means.

Those clinical notes paint the picture of someone who had no life whatsoever during the time I was in therapy. While this wasn’t true, in hindsight I can see the way she actively isolated me from my support networks.

Regaining control over one’s ability to regulate one’s emotions is not an overnight affair. I’d been trying to take positive steps even before I set foot in a therapist’s office. Stepping back is why I stopped blogging last year. It is also why I pulled back from a lot of the Twitter activism I was involved in.

My therapist however sought to compound that isolation. She encouraged my justified anger at my sister and expedited an inevitable estrangement but would that sister have called the cops on me when I couldn’t handle processing the abuse I experienced at the hands of a trusted therapist and started making delusional phone calls to my brother, getting weird and inappropriate in certain people’s DM’s and posting weird shit on my timeline.

I was barely conscious at the time, I almost never left my bed. I was the definition of not a threat to myself or others but my sister convinced the police that I was potentially violently unpredictable. This woman initiated the estrangement by the way. She blocked my number and blocked me on social media. I couldn’t threaten her if I wanted to. Not to mention she lives somewhere that requires a car to get to and I can’t drive.

The psych ward wasn’t helpful in sorting anything out. It felt like the attending psychiatrist on the rare occasions I interacted with him was just looking for the volatile and potentially violent person that I have never been. I have asked my doctor to get my notes from the psych ward stay. They should be interesting.

Perhaps, the worst thing my therapist did to me was keep me uncomfortable stasis. I was never ready to return to blogging and shouldn’t I really spend less time on social media? The whole time directing our discussions as much around horrific trauma as she could manage. I genuinely expect my chattiness saved me from a lot worse damage. It’s also probably why I missed the signs of abuse.

According to her notes, I never advanced much past being able to recognize when I’m in a manic state. She maintained this misconception by frustratedly pointing at a terrible visual aid (think basic science over head slides with psych 101 terms and some graphs)and telling me I was in hyper arousal (her word for being manic). I would inevitably have an autistic meltdown because I was trying to tell her what I was doing to regulate my emotions during this time and she kept interrupting me with vocabulary.

Once I got upset though she would swiftly smooth the situation over. I suspect she managed get me to trust her by making the early days of therapy very much about getting me at least vaguely emotionally balanced. Which meant getting me medicated.

After about a week of horrific side effects my anti-anxiety meds worked extremely well. I was also actively doing the work of healing my body to the closest I can get it to whatever its original factory settings will allow for.

In hindsight the fact that I remarked on more than one occasion “it’s weird, I seem to be in the best physical shape of my life but the worst mental health”

It was only very late in our professional relationship that she began overtly telling me to let go of things that I as a disabled person cannot let go of. I remember one incident where she was telling me to let go of some ongoing discrimination I was experiencing.

I was genuinely in tears just repeating “I can’t escape my body, I can’t escape my life or how it is impacted just by living in this world”

Apparently, my therapist thought I was having an epiphany about just laying down and taking it I guess, because I was telling her quite clearly that her method was not survivable.

Clearly,I should listen to myself more. The reason I wasn’t making as much mental progress was because I was being held back.One of the reasons I never saw the control and the danger was because I was accidentally thwarting her by controlling the sessions through chattiness. Everything I aspired to do, the therapist got in the way. She was subtle about it. She’s not even consistent in her 8 pages of notes whether I should be pursuing any goals, long-term or short-term. I have no doubt she was looking for more trauma triggers. That she successfully found so few and the triggering moments of therapy were rare is probably why I failed to notice what few red flags there were until I had escaped her.

I suspect our professional relationship came to such a sudden and dramatic end because I wouldn’t let go of school. This meant that I couldn’t let go of the baggage I had around school because she hadn’t helped me process it. An end was inevitable. School necessitates more social interaction. She would never have been able to maintain the degree of control that she had over me if I was actively a student.

Our last session she was clearly desperate. Much of her advice (when she was egging me on into unhealthy levels of anger about abusive family members who may never be held accountable) involved telling me “to let it go”

This is great advice in moderation. You always have to know when to choose your battles. The problem is that when you experience oppression sometimes you don’t get to choose whether you fight or not. You just get to decide how much fight something is worth.

Which is why I filed a complaint against my abusive therapist. It’s going to be a long hard fight but it’s a fight that regardless of outcome is worth the battle.

Historically, I have survived by jumping from opportunity to opportunity but in my current situation, there was no way but forward. My therapist tried to cut me off socially and put me in a cage that I did not know how to get out of until I fired her.

Now I know my road forward is to get back to my PhD and working on an autoethnography (academic memoir) about how we still treat mad and disabled women tentatively titled “We still Hide Mad Women in the attic” (there will be a shameless plug for help with funding this and just surviving my PhD in general at the end).

This last year I was stuck and I was isolated and I survived this year not because I finally asked for help (that didn’t turn out so great) I survived because people reached out. People reached out just because they were concerned. The incomparable Alice Wong, who actually reached out to check on me the day I got my PTSD diagnosis. The people on social media who respected that I was pulling back from activism but who never let me lose those ties of friendship. Inside jokes save lives. And to the people who reached out because they too were going through their own brand of shit and decided to offer to help carry my load while I lightened theirs.

I was never truly completely isolated but that therapist took a lot of my choices away. She had financially bled me dry. Of course I had to come back to school, I can’t eat or pay rent without that student loan.

It really is only in hindsight that I am seeing the level to which she controlled my life both financially and socially.

The way forward is to focus on my complaint against her but also get back to learning about myself in healthier ways. I’ll probably need therapy again but for right now, I’m energized by working on my dissertation proposal and the journey from being a PhD student to a PhD Candidate so that I can get to the real work of my dissertation and telling my story.

Image Description: A smiling white woman wearing all black stand between the decapitated head of a snow man and it's body. The snow man is stylized like those in the Calvin and Hobbes comics, face seeming to evoke pain
Image Description: A smiling white woman wearing all black stand between the decapitated head of a snow man and it’s body. The snow man is stylized like those in the Calvin and Hobbes comics, face seeming to evoke pain

So now for the very in depth appeal for support for mu PhD. Please read through there are so many ways to help, including just sharing this blog post on social media.

Kindle ebooks read on my iPad are the easiest way for me to read and take notes unfortunately Amazon does not allow people to buy ebooks for others through their wishlist system. I have an amazon wishlist anyway as some of the books can only be purchased in print or from third party sellers because they are out of print. If you could buy me one of the books that can only be had in print, I would greatly appreciate it. If you want to help fund the ebooks I’ll need you can buy me a gift card and send it to the following email address

The email is kimberleyjanephd@gmail.com

I will not be answering queries about my research through this email. It is solely a way for people who want to support my work to be able to do so. (this is a safety boundary). If you want to talk to me, find me on Twitter.

My research and supporting myself will get past the reading phase and there will be field work in my future. If you would like to help me fund my PhD in the long term you can

support me on patreon

Become a Patron!

buy me a ko-fi

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

send me money via paypal

send an e money transfer to the email above (if you have scruples about third party sites)

I also have a generic disability wish list of things that would just improve my quality of life

Thank you for your ongoing support. and just an FYI I’m changing my name socially to Kimberley Jane Erin. You can call me Kim or Jane but I prefer Jane. I am however, not the least uncomfortable with Kim so don’t worry about messing up.

It’s time I really leaned into my identity as a scholar. I hope you’ll support me

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Redefining Independence on the Psych Ward

Image description: A blond white woman wearing a blue, shirt,beige shorts and a fanny pack, walks out of some tall grass arms outstretched
Image description: A blond white woman wearing a blue, shirt,beige shorts and a fanny pack, walks out of some tall grass arms outstretched

I recently spent eight days in the Humber River Hospital psych ward. It was a strange experience, made stranger by the fact that my presence on the ward made it an atypical experience not just for but for those who work there as well.

There are two things that made my stay on the psych ward difficult. First no one told me anything. There’s a welcome package, they apparently give new patients when they arrive on the ward. I received this package the night before I was discharged. So I spent the entire time on the ward not knowing what was expected of me. This was conveniently or inconveniently (depending on your perspective) overcome by the fact that the psych ward was almost entirely inaccessible to me in my current medical state.

I had initially spent my first night and almost the entire next day on the emergency psych ward. They watch you 24/7. There are CCTV cameras pointed at your bed. Yet, I was treated better there than I was on the general ward. The nurses, every single one treated me like a person. They were empathetic to the way I had been violently brought to hospital.

They were as accommodating as they could be. They gave me time to come out of the brain fog that followed my dissociative episode. One nurse went above and beyond to make sure I would get a breakfast and lunch that I would ear.

When I asked to take a shower, they immediately emptied the room that was clearly used for storage so that I could feel a little less gross.

The doctor who visited psych emerge was also kind and empathetic. There is literally nothing to do in the emergency psych department. So she brought me books to read.

So my transfer to the general ward was a bit of a culture shock. I was wheeled up by a porter but then lead on foot to be shown the common room and lunchroom. The importance of knowing these locations is important on the psych ward, I almost never set foot in either.

On the psych ward it became apparent that my resting heart rate was dangerously high. This resulted in my being very dizzy. As a safety precaution I rarely left my room. The one time I did try to independently go to the lunchroom and get my breakfast I became horribly dizzy only to discover that most of my meal was dairy based and I’m lactose intolerant.

I suddenly had try and negotiate food accommodations along with physical accommodations that challenge the very way the psych ward runs.

By not getting my own meals or returning my own trays, I was not demonstrating “independence”. At some point the nurses just start doing sitting/standing blood pressure tests which indicate that my heart rate remains dangerously high. They couldn’t ask me to leave my room. This time when I wanted a shower I asked for a bath chair because I was no longer certain I could stand long enough for a shower without passing out. It took a long time to get that bath chair. I had to ask twice.

Despite my stay in the psych ward being objectively atypical, I was still being judged by the standards of “independence” used by the staff to determine emotional progress. Even though they objectively knew I could not participate in these daily tasks, I was still held to the same standards as anyone else on the ward.

I was in the psych ward for 8 days. Only the first 48 hours were mandatory. I beat my form 1 (the document that says you can be held against your will because you may pose a risk to yourselves or others) easily. Admittedly the attending psychiatrist never mentioned discharging me right away. By that point I had already had a chest X-ray had 5 vials of blood drawn. I was concerned about my heart, so as long as they focused on that I was fine to stay.

My weakness, largely made my stay uneventful. I had the odd spat with a nurse who thought she could run a power move on me but for the most part, I relaxed, napped and read.

My occasional forays out of my room only happened when my sister was visiting and I felt like I had a chaperone. She would return my food tray for me etc. One day I felt up for a walk, so went with my sister to sign myself out. This is where I learned that despite being a voluntary patient, I had no privileges. To add insult to injury, no one at any point had explained that I was under a privilege system at all.

My sister doesn’t like conflict so, she’s already scratching our names off the sign out sheet. I however, stared at that nurse and demanded to know how I could be subjected to a privilege system I had never been made aware of, particularly as a voluntary patient. Then I glared at her until she made a phone call.

The photo at the top of this post was taken during that brief break for freedom.

I was discharged without much fanfare not long after receiving an echo cardiogram there was no medical followup about my heart issues (which have calmed down somewhat since leaving the hospital) or for the dissociative episode I experienced. All I got was a paper with a lack of detail and the diagnosis of psychosis. I suspect the truth is more complicated than that. I’ve been describing it as a dissociative Fugue. I came to myself quickly enough in the hospital after people stop reacting to me with anger or violence.

This is how I was able to so compliant up to the point of inaccess. Yet my way of surviving independently did not match how the people running the psych ward viewed it.

It’s a good thing they didn’t make performing independence a criteria for my discharge. Or I might still be there. I’ll have to wait to receive my records to find out why I was really discharged and if the hospital learned anything useful about me at all.

Until my life starts to get back to some semblance of normalcy, I hope you will support me in my goal of completing my dissertation in any way that you are able. Whether it be through emotional support or by financially investing in my academic success.

My dissertation is tentatively titled “We Still Hide Madwomen in the Attic”

It will be an autoethnographic (meaning I will be using myself as a research subject) study of how mad/disabled women have been and still are silenced and isolated both directly through things like abuse and involuntary committal to the cultural idea that mad women in attics are just a literary device for gothic novels.

In the immediate, I need to complete my comprehensive exams which necessitates a lot of reading. Some of the books are out of print and hard to find. I have created am amazon wishlist (it’s not exhaustive and will likely be added to). If you could support my work by purchasing one of the books on that list that cannot be had in kindle format, I would really appreciate it.

Kindle books read on an iPad are really the most accessible format for me but Amazon does not allow for the purchase of ebooks through wishlists. So I have set up an email solely for people who want to financially support my work. I would greatly appreciate gifts of amazon gift cards (I’ll even tell you which books you bought me)

The email is kimberleyjanephd@gmail.com

I will not be answering queries about my research through this email. It is solely a way for people who want to support my work to be able to do so. (this is a safety boundary). If you want to talk to me, find me on Twitter.

My research and supporting myself will get past the reading phase and there will be field work in my future. If you would like to help me fund my PhD in the long term you can

support me on patreon

buy me a ko-fi

send me money via paypal

send an e money transfer to the email above (if you have scruples about third party sites)

I also have a generic disability wish list of things that would just improve my quality of life

Thank you for your ongoing support. and just an FYI I’m changing my name socially to Kimberley Jane Erin. You can call me Kim or Jane but I prefer Jane. I am however, not the least uncomfortable with Kim so don’t worry about messing up.

It’s time I really leaned into my identity as a scholar. I hope you’ll support me.

A Long Overdue Update

Image description: A blond white woman with cerebral palsy stands in a patch of tall grass in a garden outside the Humber River Hospital. She is smiling from her brief reprieve from the Psych ward.
Image description: A blond white woman with cerebral palsy stands in a patch of tall grass in a garden outside the Humber River Hospital. She is smiling from her brief reprieve from the Psych ward.

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while and I’ll admit up front I might not be getting actively back into blogging for a while, though it is on my to do list (which is too long).

I’m just writing this to get you updated on why I disappeared and letting you know that going forward I need to focus on some issues in my life and really getting into the work of my PhD.

Last year, as a member of CUPE Local 3903 I participated in the longest post-secondary strike in Canadian history, something previously considered impossible for an English language university to accomplish. Quebec just has a better culture for getting angry when their educations are threatened.

The strike was long gruelling and full of emotional labour. The emotional labour of constant threats of vehicular death. The constant rhetoric from the university that cast me as an outsider despite my still being a student.

During this time I became estranged from my mother. This was an ultimately healthy decision but because of how long she had kept me isolated and emotionally dependent on her despite her abuse, it was hard. It is still hard but only in that not talking to mum tends to strain all the other family relationships.

The aftermath of the strike did not really calm things down, though I wasn’t threatened with bodily harm quite so much but I had difficulty getting myself regrounded in the academic environment.

I began dissociating and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to pull myself out of this funk alone. So I went to the doctor and got diagnosed with anxiety, and PTSD (both conditions I am sure were not new just newly officially diagnosed).

I immediately began going to therapy but in my vulnerable emotional state, I chose my therapist very badly. She did help get me onto anti-anxiety meds and helped get me feeling slightly more grounded. Then she spent months isolating me from the few friends I see in person and isolating me more from my online presence, So isolating me from perhaps my strongest support network.

I had during the strike independently pulled back from blogging and some of my more inflammatory online activism. With a few exceptions. I stayed involved in the straw debate, though to a lesser degree than before and I admit I went unintentionally viral with #DoctorsAreDickheads

The stress of the attention was more than I could handle and I pulled away from Twitter even more. It took months for me to realize that my therapist was actually keeping me from moving forward with my life. The realization was uncomfortable and I spent some time trying to unpack it on Twitter

I had a lot of trouble processing that betrayal. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely what happened next because I began dissociating, this was quickly joined by a fugue state.

This means I didn’t even know who I was, what I was doing, or who I was communicating with. In my few lucid moments many online friends reached out in concern but because fugues cause amnesia, I assumed that I must have been hacked.

You see for the entire period of time I basically never left my bed. I knew I was unwell, I just didn’t realize that I was posting delirious and often hurtful things online. I’ve seen some of it and chosen to delete much of it.

I doubt I’ll ever get a full picture of what I was thinking or everything I said. I apparently called my brother about 20 times, I only remember two or three of the calls and I’m already mortified.

I understand completely, why people were concerned for my welfare. What I am still trying to come to grips with is that my sister decided to channel her concern over online posts that to my knowledge never threatened violence (there was a ton of sexual harassment and I could not be more sorry). The harm I caused during that fugue was emotional. Yet my sister decided that it was better to call the police than come check on me.

I was placed under what is known as a Form 2 which means the police are going to assume you are violent and you have no option for deescalation.

I made the mistake of trying to deescalate. I was lucid enough to know what cops and paramedics at my door meant but I was still unaware of my delirium induced online posts.

The fact that I was still unwell and prone to delusions, I remained I think surprisingly calm (by which I mean I only fought the police with rhetoric, I got loud) but I was still in a fugue state, I’m pretty sure at one point I thought I was my sister, at another I was convinced I was going to marry the star of the show I’d been watching in my more lucid moments.

I probably had at least 4 separate narratives going but I wasn’t violent.

Yet, I was still grabbed and shackled in the ambulance.

Dark bruise on pale skin from being grabbed while being involuntarily committed

That bruise is gone now but as it faded it revealed the thumb print of whoever it was who grabbed me to shackle me to the gurney.

I was shackled to that gurney for I don’t know how long. I lay there shackled long after I was removed from the ambulance. I was horribly uncomfortable and begged to be let out.

I did eventually convince security to let my left arm free because the shackle was forcing my shoulder into a painful and unnatural position because of my cerebral palsy.

This was my first clue that the psych ward is not prepared for physically disabled people.

I live tweeted much of my stay in the psych ward so you can check out my Twitter for more details on that.

I actually came out of the fugue pretty quickly upon getting to the hospital but I was on a 48 involuntary hold (known as a Form 1). I stayed for 8 days because my resting heart rate and blood pressure were disturbingly high.

I got very little in the way of psychiatric care. The attending physician seemed to be looking for the sort of person who is irrationally violent.

I was extremely compliant on the psych ward.

Well I was extremely compliant until something was inaccessible and then they had to deal with the full force of having me stay on as a voluntary patient just to figure out if something was wrong with my heart. I got cardiology tests on the psych ward that I don’t think the attending psychiatrist knew about in advance.

He seemed surprised that I was on a 24 hour holter heart monitor and was waiting for an echocardiogram. I think he was trying to discharge me.

I was ultimately discharged shortly after I received the echocardiogram. I have yet to hear back if any of those tests had any interesting results.

So I still don’t know if the dissociative fugue was caused by the mother of all panic attacks or if it was exacerbated by illness. Just like the exact details of everything I thought and did during the fugue, I will probably never know. I however, suspect that this latter ignorance is more likely to be blamed on how I was hospitalized and how my symptoms were initially interpreted. I didn’t get a blood test until I’d been there nearly 48 hours and was lucid all of the time.

Skipping ahead a bit (again see Twitter for more Psych ward details), I am now back home recuperating from my ordeals.

In the immediate I need to do two things complete my complaint against the therapist who tried and failed to derail my life (this is going to be very stressfull)

In order that my life not get further derailed, I need to get more actively focused on my PhD studies again. To that end my therapist from hell followed by my stint in the Psych Ward gave me a great idea for a dissertation topic and that is what I will be focusing my energy on.

Hopefully, if my life calms down (like after I’m done with the complaint against my former therapist) I will blog a little more regularly again.

Until then I hope you will support me in my goal of completing my dissertation in any way that you are able. Whether it be through emotional support or by financially investing in my academic success.

My dissertation is tentatively titled “We Still Hide Madwomen in the Attic”

It will be an autoethnographic (meaning I will be using myself as a research subject) study of how mad/disabled women have been and still are silenced and isolated both directly through things like abuse and involuntary committal to the cultural idea that mad women in attics are just a literary device for gothic novels.

In the immediate, I need to complete my comprehensive exams which necessitates a lot of reading. Some of the books are out of print and hard to find. I have created am amazon wishlist (it’s not exhaustive and will likely be added to). If you could support my work by purchasing one of the books on that list that cannot be had in kindle format, I would really appreciate it.

Kindle books read on an iPad are really the most accessible format for me but Amazon does not allow for the purchase of ebooks through wishlists. So I have set up an email solely for people who want to financially support my work. I would greatly appreciate gifts of amazon gift cards (I’ll even tell you which books you bought me)

The email is kimberleyjanephd@gmail.com

I will not be answering queries about my research through this email. It is solely a way for people who want to support my work to be able to do so. (this is a safety boundary). If you want to talk to me, find me on Twitter.

My research and supporting myself will get past the reading phase and there will be field work in my future. If you would like to help me fund my PhD in the long term you can

support me on patreon

buy me a ko-fi

send me money via paypal

send an e money transfer to the email above (if you have scruples about third party sites)

I also have a generic disability wish list of things that would just improve my quality of life

Thank you for your ongoing support. and just an FYI I’m changing my name socially to Kimberley Jane Erin. You can call me Kim or Jane but I prefer Jane. I am however, not the least uncomfortable with Kim so don’t worry about messing up.

It’s time I really leaned into my identity as a scholar. I hope you’ll support me.

Vancouver Very Impressed by How People Plan to Adapt to the Straw Ban by Serving Milkshakes in Plastic Bowls with Plastic Spoons

*Satire* Vancouver is planning to ban disposable plastic straws despite it being an important accessibility tool for many disabled people

VANCOUVER–As Vancouver moves forward with a proposed ban on disposable plastic straws in a bid to reduce plastic waste, the city council is pleased with how the city’s businesses are preparing to deal with the ban.

The city’s many ice cream parlours have collectively decided to serve their milkshakes in plastic bowls and will be eaten with plastic spoons. As of this reporting, Wendy’s is still doing market research to determine if they need to rebrand their Frosty’s as soft serve ice cream.

Starbuck’s is planning on replacing the straws that are normally used to consume their signature Frappuccino’s with proprietary candy straws. Consequently the cost of a Frappuccino will be going up by $2.00. The company assures us that the candy straws are totally worth it.

7-11 has prematurely filed for bankruptcy because consumers have made it clear that Slurpees are definitely a beverage and they will not be pawned off on eating them out of plastic bowls with plastic spoons. Milkshakes are already ice cream so that adjustment while uncomfortable is acceptable but Slurpees just aren’t milkshakes ok.

Disabled people have pointed out that for many of them straws and disposable plastic straws specifically are an important accessibility tool that gives them access to necessary nutrition.

To them, everyone has explained “oh we’ll make an exception for you”

As of this writing, no one has actually elaborated on what that exception will be or how it will be implemented but this reporter has been repeatedly assured that it will be totally great and that no one needs to worry about it.

Vancouver city coucil concedes that straws are probably necessary to dribk bubble tea. A limited exception for bubble tea shops.

Well, I guess the environment is solved.

 

 

 

How to support my work

I am currently fundraising to attend the International Disability Law Summer School. You can donate to that on GoFundMe

Click Here to Donate

If you liked this post and want to support my continued writing please consider becoming a patron on patreon.

Become a Patron!

If you can’t commit to a monthly contribution consider buying me a metaphorical coffee (or two or more). Contributions help me keep this blog going and support my ongoing efforts to obtain a PhD.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

If you want to support my work but are unable to do so financially, please share this post on your various social media accounts.

I was “So Lucky” to Review Nicola Griffith’s New Book: A CripReads Review

so lucky cover

Image Description: The cover of Nicola Griffith’s book “So Lucky”. The title and author’s name appear in a large font made to look like scraps of burning paper. They appear on a black background

When I was asked to write a review of Nicola Griffith’s upcoming novel “So Lucky” (to be released May 15) I had no idea that the most frustrating part of the process was going to be figuring out how to summarize the book without spoilers. I have ultimately decided to give up on that entirely and just copy and paste the summary of the book provided by the publisher. I will only preface this summary with the opinion that I think this summary is both misleading and does not do the book justice.

So Lucky is the sharp, surprising new novel by Nicola Griffith—the profoundly personal and emphatically political story of a confident woman forced to confront an unnerving new reality when in the space of a single week her wife leaves her and she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Mara Tagarelli is, professionally, the head of a multimillion-dollar AIDS foundation; personally, she is a committed martial artist. But her life has turned inside out like a sock. She can’t rely on family, her body is letting her down, and friends and colleagues are turning away—they treat her like a victim. She needs to break that narrative: build her own community, learn new strengths, and fight. But what do you do when you find out that the story you’ve been told, the story you’ve told yourself, is not true? How can you fight if you can’t trust your body? Who can you rely on if those around you don’t have your best interests at heart, and the systems designed to help do more harm than good? Mara makes a decision and acts, but her actions unleash monsters aimed squarely at the heart of her new community.

I went into reading this book knowing very little about it beyond the fact that the main character was dealing with the transition of becoming disabled as an adult. The main character, Mara gets a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis early on in the book. I also knew that the author, Nicola Griffith has multiple sclerosis. Griffith also co-hosts the #criplit Twitter chats with Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project.

I genuinely think that the less you know about this book before reading it, the better. I also think that you should definitely read this book. It is a good story that is engagingly written. It also offers a great and realistic depiction of disability.

Any attempt to more clearly describe the book or even sections of it would inevitably lead to spoilers.

Now I fully admit that I don’t have MS. The closest I’ve ever come to experiencing MS is when a former coworker became convinced that my cerebral palsy was really MS and spent a week trying to convince me that I didn’t understand my own body. That said, there are a lot of moments in this book that deal with situations that are not diagnosis specific.

What I love most about this book is how real those moments of the disabled experience are. I loved reading about how Mara engages with her newfound disability and how she shifts how she interacts with the rest of the world. I love that she makes decisions that I disagree with. I love that she makes decisions that I wouldn’t because she considered an angle that I hadn’t. I love that she is a whole character with a real life.

Mara also offers a level of intersectionality that we rarely get to see in media representation of disability. She is a woman, she is queer, we get to see her navigate relationships, she isn’t desexualized, and she surrounds herself with a diverse group of friends and colleagues.

My only real criticism of the book is that the ending feels rushed. It’s a complete ending and all the loose ends are tied up but it just feels rushed. Basically, I finished it and wanted more.

The book is good and you should read it but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge why this book is important to me. There have been so few opportunities in my life where I have been able to see myself in media. While, Mara and I are very different people with different disabilities, we still share common experiences. The way that Nicola Griffith navigates the nuances of disability feel more real than anything I’ve read by a nondisabled person. It is real and raw. Griffith doesn’t pull any punches just to seem more approachable for a nondisabled reader and even among what little fiction writing about disability by disabled writers there is, this is still a rarity.

I really hope that this will be the start of a trend and that there will be more books with unapologetically disabled characters that are written by people who really understand what that means.

So Lucky will be released on May 15, 2018 for more information on where and how you can purchase a copy click here.

 

How to support my work

I am currently fundraising to attend the International Disability Law Summer School. You can donate to that on GoFundMe

Click Here to Donate

If you liked this post and want to support my continued writing please consider becoming a patron on patreon.

Become a Patron!

If you can’t commit to a monthly contribution consider buying me a metaphorical coffee (or two or more). Contributions help me keep this blog going and support my ongoing efforts to obtain a PhD.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

If you want to support my work but are unable to do so financially, please share this post on your various social media accounts.

April has Never Been About Autism Awareness, It has Always Been About Money

So April is over and with it “Autism Awareness Month” and what have we learned?

How much did you learn about autistic people?

Did you interact with autistic people?

What awareness campaigns did you participate in?

Did you give money to or purchase an item or service that shared a portion of the proceeds with an autism charity?

If you did the latter can you tell me the goals and intentions of that organization?

No?

I’m not surprised. Autism Awareness Month would more accurately be called “Autism Fundraising Month”. The month where everyone buys something with a puzzle piece on it and proclaims that they are raising awareness for autism. But what awareness is that? and has it done any good?

If you posted about the puzzle piece pedicure you got for Autism Awareness Month on Facebook and you can’t answer basic questions about autism much less the organization that benefitted from your spa day then you didn’t actually do anything for raising awareness. You attended a fundraiser and that is a different thing.

A fundraiser is an event where an organization solicits donations for their organization.

An awareness campaign should be where an organization starts putting that money to good use through meaningful, targeted learning objectives.

Getting a puzzle piece anything in April is really just a good way to show just how unaware of autistic people that you really are. The puzzle piece is, after all, a controversial image within the autistic community (here defined as actual autistic people only) many people do not like it. This information is pretty easy to find with a google search. And if you don’t actually care what actual autistic people think about things that directly impact them, then you can consider this academic study that came to the same conclusions (link leads to a paywall). The conclusions are pretty clear

If an organization’s intention for using puzzle-piece imagery is to evoke negative associations, our results suggest the organization’s use of puzzle-piece imagery is apt. However, if the organization’s intention is to evoke positive associations, our results suggest that puzzle-piece imagery should probably be avoided.

All those puzzle pieces and other vague statements of support for autistic people that nonautistic people proudly post about on social media do absolutely nothing to increase awareness and in some cases as with the wide array of autism inspired puzzle piece paraphernalia may actually be achieving the opposite of awareness. These images ultimately mislead people about what autism is and what it means to live in the world while autistic.

Beyond the fact that for the most part Autism Awareness Month campaigns have everything to do with fundraising and very little to do with awareness, the continued conflation of the two during April actively hurts autistic people. Not just because for an entire month we are inundated with distressing images that people have been misled into believing are helpful. Charities maintain a level of cultural status that often overshadows that of the people they claim to serve. So if an autistic person attempts to inform someone who has proudly displayed their participation in a fundraiser and presented it as an act of awareness raising that their action was at best meaningless and at worst actively harmful, that person is going to get defensive. It is not uncommon for people who have been challenged on their proud act of solidarity to shout down a member of the group they just publicly claimed to support. They’ll believe the charity over autistic people. Because the charity told them all they had to do was publicly say they supported autism awareness month and to put a slogan or a puzzle piece in some proximity to their person.

They were promised that an empty gesture and a financial donation were good enough. Being told that the action is functionally meaningless is unsurprisingly going to make them angry.

I’ve said it before that nondisabled people have set the bar for solidarity with disabled people at simply not actively hating us. But that tolerance only lasts until a disabled person tries to demand more. To demand real awareness and the accompanying acceptance that is really needed to raise our standing in society.

Yet, we must continue to call out individuals for their false solidarity. Nothing will change unless we do. People should not be left comfortably sitting in the lie that simply declaring solidarity and throwing money at a charity actually means that they care about autistic people.

Anyone who claims to have participated in an awareness campaign for any marginalized group of people should be able to answer the following questions.

What is your intention in publicly sharing your experiences with this campaign?

Who organized the campaign?

What does that group/organization do?

Were members of the group being advocated for involved in the planning and delivery of the campaign?

What do members of that group think about this kind of activity?

Did the campaign give you the opportunity to meaningfully engage with members of the group being advocated for?

What did you learn?

What information was new or surprising to you?

Can you explain the information you learned to someone else?

If you donated money, do you know what that money will be used for?

If answering any of those questions would be difficult for a person participating in your campaign then it has nothing to do with awareness and the responsible thing to do would be to remove any mention of awareness from the branding of that campaign.

Awareness requires that people know more than the basic fact that autistic people exist. If your version of awareness cannot lead to acceptance then your awareness is an illusion. You just want a metaphorical cookie for giving a charity money.

 

How to support my work

I am currently fundraising to attend the International Disability Law Summer School. You can donate to that on GoFundMe

Click Here to Donate

If you liked this post and want to support my continued writing please consider becoming a patron on patreon.

Become a Patron!

If you can’t commit to a monthly contribution consider buying me a metaphorical coffee (or two or more). Contributions help me keep this blog going and support my ongoing efforts to obtain a PhD.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

If you want to support my work but are unable to do so financially, please share this post on your various social media accounts.

#HotPersonInAWheelchair and the Longevity of Bigotry

Four Years ago former Jeopardy Champion Ken Jennings tweeted an offensive joke

So, why am I writing about a four-year-old tweet? Isn’t it old news and basically irrelevant now?

Unfortunately, no. This tweet caused controversy at the time and because it is still online, people are still using it to harass disabled people. I had four people use it against me yesterday.

The problem with things like this is that they don’t just fade into obscurity. Periodically, someone comes across it and starts engaging with it again. The reason I was harassed (and yes I would classify it as harassment) about that tweet yesterday is because I commented about how people were still engaging with my response to the tweet. Which means people are still engaging with the tweet is still impacting people.

I tweeted my displeasure that Jennings hadn’t deleted it. He actually responded to me with this justification.

This seems like a good responsible take, except that it falls apart the second you remember that people are still being harmed by that tweet.

Twitter does not have a mechanism to encapsulate old problematic tweets with an explanation about how you now understand that it was harmful, that you regret doing it and you want to leave it up as a reminder of the harm it did. Even if Jennings wrote something to that effect among the replies, there are 1600 of them. People can hardly be blamed if they don’t know he’s sorry about it now. It also doesn’t stop the tweet from being used by others who do just think insulting wheelchair users is just hilarious.

A far better response would have been to take a screenshot and write and publish an apology and then delete the tweet. Jennings is famous enough that he could have found somewhere to publish that apology. Then he wouldn’t be whitewashing his past and he would have stopped the tweet that he supposedly now regrets from being used to harm others.

Someone accused me of just going looking for something to be angry about. They justified this argument based solely on the fact that the tweet is four years old and I talked about it yesterday.

But, it’s not going to find something that periodically shows up in my notifications. That’s just acknowledging that people are still interacting with four-year-old bigotry and that’s worth talking about. Bigotry doesn’t necessarily get stale and less bigoted with age.

You can’t absolve yourself from past bigotry if it is still harming people. Particularly if there is a way to stop that harm (in this case it’s as easy as deleting a tweet).

Jennings wants to be patted on the back for what amounts to fake contrition. I can’t believe any claim of taking responsibility if taking responsibility means justifying the continuation of harm.

One silver lining of this tweet’s latest resurgence is that it has inspired the #HotPersonInAWheelchair which is a brilliant celebration of disabled beauty and confidence. I do so love the confidence and snark of the disabled community.

Annie Segarra (you can support her on patreon. She also has a YouTube Channel) started it off with this

The whole hashtag is well worth a look, but be advised that some of the images may be NSFW. I certainly hope this protest will be stronger than the bigotry that inspired it.

Jennings should still delete that tweet though and finally really take responsibility for it by apologizing somewhere other than Twitter.

 

 

How to support my work

I am currently fundraising to attend the International Disability Law Summer School. You can donate to that on GoFundMe

Click Here to Donate

If you liked this post and want to support my continued writing please consider becoming a patron on patreon.

Become a Patron!

If you can’t commit to a monthly contribution consider buying me a metaphorical coffee (or two or more). Contributions help me keep this blog going and support my ongoing efforts to obtain a PhD.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

If you want to support my work but are unable to do so financially, please share this post on your various social media accounts.