Poor grooming is commonly associated with mental disability. So much so, it's considered one of the qualifiers whether a person is considered disabled or functioning. Poor grooming includes whether the patient has showered, the state of their clothing (clean vs dirty), basically whether they look like they made any effort on their appearance at all. This is judged on whether the amount of effort has gone up or down since the last visit. If it's gone up, the patient's improving. Down? Declining.
I always make an effort on my appearance. Every. Single. Day.
One of the things I love about being a woman is playing with my appearance. I love picking out outfits, and changing my hairstyle every few years. Makeup is so much fun to play with. And I have the kind of hair which can go from stick straight to a headful of ringlets with minimal effort -- it just takes one different product.
I am a chameleon, as long as the clothes are black and the eye makeup dark.
Because I love playing with beauty products and clothes, people are confused when I have to bust out the disability card. When trying to order sandwich ingredients from memory, I had to explain to the guy making my sandwich that because of my mental disability, I couldn't remember every single vegetable they had for my veggie sub, so could he list them, please?
“You don’t look like a mentally disabled person,” he said.
I leaned over the counter like a predator. “Really?” I asked. “What does a mentally disabled person look like?”
He looked at his hands. “Mayo or oil?”
The self-checkout at the library is too confusing for me. I've had to leave books behind before rather than take them home because I got too frustrated with it. So, I decided to ask the librarians at the circulation desk for help. I'm disabled, I can ask for help now, I decided. Previous in my life, it'd be bite the bullet, kiddo. Life sucks.
Two out of four times, I got attitude when asking for help. One of those times I was even asked to prove my disability status. Thank goodness for my bus card for disabled transportation in my wallet, which says ADA on it, in bright red.
Yes, I can be seen on my regular 3 mile walk every day on the same street, but you’ll only see me in the grocery store to once a month pick up my meds. Every grocery store is so overstimulating, any time I visit one, I'm stuck watching TV the rest of the day. (Hey, while this may be great for you, I'd like to get other stuff done)
My husband opened his second solo art show last Saturday. It was great, and I'm so proud of him. But I spent the entire week before not working on my book, as the pressure of writing with all the chaos surrounding his show preparations brought up symptoms. So I took it easy, and took care of myself, which is a 24 hour job on its own.
Whereas I may know how to do my hair ten different ways, or get that smokey-eye look three different ways, I can’t join you at that concert, or that bar, or go dancing. Yes, I may always dress like I'm ready to go out and do stuff, but dinner and a move is how I live on the edge these days.
If I go to a gallery opening, party, or political event, I’m out for the rest of the week. Don’t call me, I’ll call you. I need to go back to my bunker and live in my head for a while. I'll let you know when it's safe to hang out again.
No, I can’t drive. But yes, I donated my car and that felt great. Yes, I have trouble playing video games like I used to. But I do play them anyway, because I love them. Just because I can’t do it all doesn’t mean I don’t do it at all. And while I can’t see my favorite band band in concert, it doesn’t mean I don’t listen to them really loud in my house. I still love music, just in a smaller, very exclusive, venue.
So my disability is invisible. It’s not that I’m trying to pass for normal, although I've been accused of that. I’m trying to pass for me. Because if I ran errands in pajamas, no makeup, and my hair a mess, I'd be passing for somebody else.
That is me trying too hard.
I don’t wear makeup, play with my hair, and plan an outfit because it’s expected of me. I do it because I want it; because I like it. Because it’s something I love doing. I’m sorry if it makes me look like less of what you think I am, but that’s not my problem. Trying to look like a diagnosis is a very hard costume, indeed, and I've never been one to conform or dress for other people. I do all this prep-work for me.
My disability will remain invisible, because I need to be me while I take care of me. And if people are going to be rude, deny me services, or be completely unhelpful because I am me and not who they think I should be, that’s their problem, not mine.
They’re the ones that have to live with themselves at the end of the day.
Just like I have to live with me.