An Open Letter to Neurotypicals
Don't be scared of the 's' word.
When I first thought to write about ableism, I thought this should be easy. Ableism is common, unchallenged, so I did not feel pressured to dissect it, to discuss its true form—but that's exactly why I struggled. There's so much of it, too much—and it ranges from 'obvious' to 'perhaps that was not the intention, but it can be considered as ableist'. I didn't know where to begin.
My reluctance to begin changed all but a few weeks ago, when our heavily ableist worldview led to the worst outcome possible—suicide. News regarding Chester Bennington's death hit both the music world and the general public like a fully-loaded freight train, and more painful than his death is the realisation that suicide will feel like the only option to so many right now, and in all the days to come.
Neurotypical ableism is probably the biggest killer of our generation. With the event of Chester's suicide, the usual posts did the rounds on social media—suicide prevention hotlines & such—but is that really enough? Suicidal people know that help is out there; they just feel unworthy of it. A phone number, offset by a string of emojis, feels quite distant from the whirlwind of thoughts in one's head. Mentally ill people have a special magical power that can help them heal—talking. No, really—it's so rare & powerful that it's made out to be this incredibly inconvenient, cringe-worthy thing. And, believe it or not, that is ableism. It may not be intentional, but it affects so many people. It's already so hard to open up, to vocalise your weaknesses—and society makes it even harder by purposely avoiding it.
Yeah, it's awkward. So what? Funerals are a tad more tricky to deal with. What you end up with is a vicious cycle of people silently struggling, and suddenly they aren't there anymore, and the pain is passed on, to all sorts of different people. But grief isn't diluted when passed around. It gets stronger and more destructive and flooded by tears.
There is nothing worse than losing someone to silence, especially if you are the source. People often have a hard time of initiating personal conversation, so if you know someone who struggles, start the conversation. Invite them for coffee (wait, don't do that—coffee is yucky). Just invite them. Make an effort to talk about and through the hard things. Your efforts may be rejected, especially initially—and if the person is not a threat to themselves or others, then you should respect that. It takes time to build up trust, especially when people may have never experienced it before.
Suicide is not failure. Not talking about it is.
Opening up is not a weakness. Ignorance is.
Offering support is not ableism. Criticising is.
There needs to be more understanding. If some neurotypical individuals claim 'fidget spinners' to be a toy, a trend, it's not surprising that they think opening up should be left for drunks or attention-seekers. This is the main reason why cries for help are much quieter than cries of laughter. Pain is a competition, is compared to the pain of others ('Well, it can't be that bad/could always be worse/you have all this; yet you're still ungrateful...').
What people need to understand is this: We are not here to make anyone comfortable. You are not here to make anyone comfortable. If we want to scream our traumas, we will.
In short, don't judge pain you haven't felt. Consider yourself lucky. We only know how to tell stories with stutters and sleepless nights. Hearts worn on sleeves are easier to lose, so instead of just having faith that there will be a happy ending, help it happen. Just imagine how beautiful that will feel.
About the Author
L.MUNIR is a law student from the united kingdom. when not studying, reading, writing or being entirely monstrous, they can be found napping, advocating & petting cute cats—though as of yet—due to technological limitations—not all at the same time.