In response to my blog about the ableism often seen in fourth wave feminism, someone asked me if I am still suicidal. I’ve yet to reply. Partly because the blunt, personal nature of the question threw me, but partly because the answer is by no means simple.
My depression wasn’t caused by a chemical imbalance. Having a disability which impacts upon most areas of my life, including my ability to parent my own children has been something very difficult to manoeuvre emotionally. No matter how many times I’ve experienced remissions then relapses there is always the hope that this time things will be different, this time I won’t relapse. Then when the relapse happens I have a period of deep depression and a sense that things will never change.
Even before Labour introduced ATOS into our lives, and the Conservatives upped the rhetoric ten-fold I have found it very difficult to be out of work. My major depressive episode was precipitated by two things a) being raped and b) being unable to access work and trying to cope with the resultant isolation. No matter how many TV shows I watch, or arts & crafts I try to learn, life has felt very much like a succession of staring at walls. This sense of repetitive nothing stretches out before me and makes me feel physically oppressed.
However, since my time in the psychiatric hospital I have had more insight into what would be the implications for those I love if I were to end my life. Suicide occupies many of my thoughts yet I pull myself around to remembering how much it would hurt my family and I try as much as possible to push the idea away. Does this mean I am no longer suicidal? I don’t know.
I’m sure my story is in no way unique. The government’s attack on people with disabilities has led to a number of suicides. Sometimes it is not so much what they remove, but what they don’t offer which has the biggest impact. They take benefits away from people saying they must seek to find work, with support from the job centre. But they don’t put any support in place. Many job centre advisers are unable to find work for people with disabilities because when manual labour is taken out of the equation many people just do not have the work experience to find white collar jobs. In addition to this the government has been actively closing down routes for people with disabilities into work, for instance they closed down the Remploy factories, and last I knew vocational colleges for people with disabilities were under threat. Then you have the effects of the government upon worker rights. It is easier to fire someone, which necessarily will disproportionately impact upon people with disabilities. It is harder to seek a finding of unfair dismissal, and cuts to legal aid darken the picture even more.
People with disabilities are being told that they are well enough to work, but, when they look, they are finding successive doors closed to them. It is an abhorrent government which leaves people with disabilities in a position of being unable to work, but also unable to claim benefits. If they were serious about helping disabled people into work, they would be focussing on the barriers to work, rather than continuously axing benefit after benefit, including benefits such as DLA which can help people access work, changing Access to Work so that people receive less support, and trying to discard the Independent Living Fund.
So in answer to the question of whether I am still suicidal: I haven’t yet found a way to navigate this world, though I continuously try. But when the goal posts are ever shifting against our favour it makes it harder to want to continue striving. I am sure I’m not the only person who thinks so.