Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Do We Really See In the Mirror?

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said that. What she's saying is that no one can make you feel bad about you unless you listen to their negative comments. Not to disagree with the fine and great Mrs. Roosevelt, but she is not completely right. Yes, if we chose to focus only on the bad comments listen to the bad comments alone, then we are consenting to feel inferior.
But what I want to say is that I do feel people have the POWER to make us give our consent, especially through repetition and persistence. If a comment is said, no matter how off-hand or however well-intended, and even if we recognize it as negative and choose to shrug it off, it plants seeds of doubt. Here’s an example to which everyone can relate. You think you look good in particular clothes and wear them often. What if someone said, "I'm surprised you're wearing that. It is not flattering."  "Are you sure you don't want to change?" You ignore them, because you like those clothes and choose to wear them on another occasion; they say, "You're wearing that again? I told you it's not very flattering to your body." Even if you dismiss them again, the seed of self-doubt has been planted. "Do I really not look good in this?" You question yourself. And that seed grows. "What OTHER clothes do I really NOT look good in?" "Do I not look good in any of these things because I am fat?" "Does no one want to tell me that?" So see, you start to question yourself. You start to over think and before you know
it, you begin to feel inferior--with or without your consent.

As individuals with disabilities, a lot of people tell us things “for our own good” And some of us are born not seeing barriers. We are always thinking. "Why CAN'T I do this?" if someone says, "You can't do that!" Some of us have that attitude pushed on us by loved ones until we adopt it as our own. And some of us do see barriers. I'll admit that I used to, even though I played the "can-do-girl" for my family. I eventually grew into her. And this Roosevelt quote was one of my favorites because I thought, "This is true, and I'm not letting anyone make me feel INFERIOR." For the most part, I live up to my word, but there are times, I let those seeds get to me. And what I am wondering is for other individuals with disabilities still growing into their "can-do" or "no-barriers" attitude, how much do those "for-their-own-good" comments grow into seeds of self doubt that become poisonous and regress their growth. So, “for their own good”, be quiet and let us grow.

- By Stephanie Hickey - 
Image Credit: 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

BORN in the U.S.A.

By Stephanie Hickey

     In the1980s, Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called "Born in the U.S.A."  On the surface it's a fist-pumping, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anthem, affirming that America is the greatest country in the world and to serve and protect it is the greatest honor.  But if you get past the energy of the song and listen to the lyrics, you find the truth: a soldier fights for his country; he does his duty, but he doesn't come home to glory or respect. Instead, he comes home and cannot find a job or keep his home. He comes home to end up on the streets.

    It doesn't seem like things have changed much today. Everyone is crying, "Support our troops!" and decorating our doors and car bumpers with yellow ribbons. But do we really support our troops? I don't think that we do.

    Our troops are young men and women who risk their lives to protect the freedoms and principles we cherish. We readily support them from afar, but how do we treat them when they come home? It seems to be no problem to expand our military budget, but when it comes to government assistance, it is a problem. We don't want to help freeloaders. Many soldiers are coming home wounded, amputated and disabled in the age of IEDs. They want to work, and are not looking for handouts. They only want assistance needed to get their lives back on track.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a much less-talked about problem plaguing our troops. Many soldiers come home and suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It seems to me that the "Support our troops" motto gets quiet and leaves these troops struggling to survive. Much stigma is placed on mental disorders that it's no wonder veterans with PTSD feel such shame. The current statistic stands that every 22 seconds a veteran takes his or her own life.

    War is not killing our soldiers en mass. Shame is. Our veterans come home to fight an hidden war. The enemies they face are mental demons--emotional IEDs. Are we, who shout rallying cries while they are away from the home front, rallying for them when they are back on the home front? Or are we reaching out to them to offer help?

    I want to see politicians who love to plug how much they love soldiers put into fruition laws that truly help troops. It would be wonderful to have more funding for programs and services that support our veterans as they return to their lives on the home front.

    Let's stop singing, "Support our troops" and start doing it.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army,