Two years ago, I was having lunch with a career writer. She asked what the theme of my current project was. I said, “It’s about change.” She said, “I think all things we write are about change.”
This blog post is about change.
I had my psychotic break when I was 20 years old, after a summer of going not-so-quietly mad. Then I lived alongside my several diagnoses for 18 years, both working with them and working despite them. I was a radio DJ and a copywriter. I did promotional events and went to concerts and other crowded places. I worked as a barista, and then managed the morning crew at that coffee shop. I obtained both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree. I worked as a clinical therapist and then a medical social worker. I was good but not great at all these things.
In my free time, I volunteered … a lot. I spent entire weekends volunteering for years. I played tabletop roleplaying games once a week, then every two weeks. I went dancing at goth clubs. I did progression raiding in World of Warcraft first as a guest then as a co-raid leader, then as Melee DPS lead. I was a guild leader in World of Warcraft while I was getting my Masters and still managed to graduate at the top of my class. I wrote fanfiction for WoW and then SWTOR. I PVP’d in both games, spending time on not only roleplay servers, but PVP servers. I roleplayed in both MMORPGs and in I wrote articles for SWTOR-RP.com.
One by one, things fell by the wayside by order of my doctors. I couldn’t volunteer outside the home. Then I couldn’t write for SWTOR-RP.com anymore. Tabletop games moved to once a month. Then I had to give up raiding.
Then … I had to give up working.
Soon, the things I had to give up were things I had to let go of: driving, going to rock concerts, going to dance clubs, socializing in crowded places, going to conventions, traveling a lot, going to the grocery store, etc.
I eventually left SWTOR and returned to World of Warcraft, because I had friends still playing there. And when there, I realized that not only could I not raid, but I couldn’t run a small dungeon, nor quest for more than a half hour. I also had to give up PVPing or roleplaying in a busy or cluttered area. All of these things caused a headache to form, and then I would have to go immediately lie down.
I play on a very small roleplaying server on World of Warcraft that has been merged with two other very small roleplaying servers. I play there because my friends and I have been through the roleplay meat grinder. We've been through murder plots and silly plots. We’ve battled Pit Lords together, and our characters have stood up to both the Royal Apothecary Society and the Grimtotems I don’t know how many times.
My raiding friends are still there as well, and we chat and carry on about Icecrown Citadel or our Karazhan shenanigans like they were yesterday. All while I do my Legion Expansion World Quests to get the best gear I can, the only way I can.
Disability is about adapting to change.
It’s about making the most of what you have and holding onto the things you can still do. It’s about making lemonade every single fucking day and even when you’re sick of lemonade, it’s still the tastiest thing you’ve ever had, and you love it so damn much, okay?
So now I run storylines for my roleplaying guild on World of Warcraft. My writing gig keeps me working sometimes until late in the evening and the last thing I want to do is look at a computer, so I don’t play often. We roleplay on scheduled nights, so I write early on those days.
When you’re disabled, you gather people around you that are willing to work with you and adapt with you. Those are the people you keep close and call when you need help or want to talk. Those are the people who understand why I need to know their weekly schedule. Not because I'm some kind of voyeur, but because I hate calling people when they're busy with work or a weekly appointment, it makes me really nervous. These people are the people I come back to games for.
Why do I still play World of Warcraft if I can’t do even 95% of what the game has to offer? Because I still enjoy that 5% that I have left. The world is not built for me, that’s what being disabled is. I don’t expect Blizzard to cater to me, and I don’t put in tickets or complain that I can’t do this or that thing because of my muddled brain, I just soldier forth and enjoy what I can.
It’s how I get through life. You work with what you have until you find a better way, like finding a service dog. With Stella I have a lot more freedom than I used to — I can go to the grocery store (for ten minutes) or to the mall (for an hour) or to a crowded party (for two hours). Before Stella, I couldn’t do any of these things. With Stella I can go to conventions and workshops, without her, those weren’t even possible. Stella has given me some independence back.
My husband helps me, my family helps me, Stella helps me, but I am still at diminished capacity. There’s a lot of things that able-bodied people can do that just aren’t even an option for me. And that’s not “weird” or “fucked up,” that’s just how it is. I adapt, I am patient, I stand by. I find what works and I do it.
And I'll still drink that lemonade every damn day until it’s gone. When it is, I’ll take the next thing life gives me, and make the best of that. I just hope it’s not rocks, or an Engineering Profession made entirely out of Dungeon Quests.
So, until then, bottom's up.