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Disability Awareness Week

Sydney Robinson

Name & Pronouns: Sydney Robinson (she/they)

Year: 2019

Major(s)/Minor(s): English major with a concentration in creative writing

A little about myself:

My name is Sydney Robinson and I work in the Multicultural Center as the diversity and inclusion program manager. I supervise all of the student teams within the center, which includes Multicultural student services, advocates for inclusion of mentoring, and The Institute for Women's leadership. A lot of my creative work has to do with being both a black person in white spaces and dealing with anti-blackness in my various intersectional communities. Because it's disability awareness, my mental health diagnosis also. Part of me wanting to sign up to be on the panel and interviewed for disability awareness week has to do with those who deal with mental illness to the point of the rotation are silenced and not her in the community because not everyone sees mental illness as a disability. So I want to put a face to actualize for others.

How my disability has impacted my life:

Yeah, so I do identify as disabled, I do call it a disability. But I'm also very fluid with it, that it's an accessibility concern. It's, I kind of go back and forth based off the situation I'm in. If I know it's going to be respected as a mental health condition, that's a disorder, I'll say disorder. But if I don't necessarily feel like I'm in a safe environment to say that I'll usually just say, disabled and not go more into it.

My disability is a big part of my identity. You can't separate my mental health from the person that I am, you know, I have an ESA, I have a service animal. I take medication, it's a full part of my life that I think about him cognizant of every day, but it's not something that hurts my identity. It's something it's one of the stronger parts of my identity that I'm comfortable with and understanding of.

Well, I think it influences every part of my life. Um, the reason why it's listed as a disability is because sometimes the lows get very low, where I can't get out of bed, I have to take medication, I can't function as a “normal human being”, or they get so high that I am on 3000- way past human speed of thinking. And so my cognitive and my mental and emotional are constantly in flux, and I have to interact with the world versus allowing the world to interact with me.

How my disability functions as a strength in my life:

I think I'm very emotionally intelligent because of that. Because I'm so cognizant of my emotions and things that will bother me one way or another, I'm very careful about how I interact with people around me knowing like, okay, I can see that they're like, I can check their body language and see that something's very akin to what I said, or something's going on. And it also helps me check myself that if my heart rate gets too high, like, I know, this is not a safe environment, or if I see something that's going to trigger me like, I know myself enough to leave the situation without making it about me, but taking care of myself at the same time and knowing when other people need to take care of themselves.

Barriers to accessibility I would like to bring to light:

I think one of the biggest barriers is that when we have conversations about mental health, we keep it in the realm of depression and anxiety, that for those of us who have more intrusive and intense symptoms, it's minimized because we talk about well, everyone has depression. Everyone has anxiety. Like, no some of us have personality disorders. Some of us have mood disorders. Some of us have different mental, mental health conditions that are not just I'm in bed crying, or I'm not just shaking because I have to go speech. Sometimes the idea of putting my feet on the ground is too heavy. Sometimes taking a shower and having things touch me is too much- my house not being clean, affects my mood, because if it's not clean, I feel like something's gonna go wrong, or because I'm not doing things, it's going to domino effect other things. We thankfully have counselors on campus that do talk therapy and do kind of that one on one. But especially me, that doesn't work for everyone. And I know medication, because it costs money, is a financial barrier for some people. I am very, very lucky that I have good insurance and my mom has stable insurance. And we kept that through the pandemic, I am in a wonderful privileged position. I cannot say the same for a lot of my friends who had episodes during the pandemic because they didn't have the financial means to go see their counselor get their medication or do their group therapy. So I think just the barrier of we're normalizing mental health in a way that isn't centering their experience or normalizing for other people to talk about it versus I can't go into the world being a mentally ill person, I have to go into the world saying I have a disability for it to be taken seriously. So I think just the language and the community, not always accepting those mental health conditions in the community is usually the one of the bigger barriers because we have the resources and the means, but if we don't have the community, what were those resources for?

“It’s important for people who use media or movies to understand disabilities- remember that's that authors, that director that writers experience. I appreciate people watching things like Euphoria and Shameless and Roots and all those other things that deal with mental health capacities, but every single person's story is not comparable to mine. You can ask me my story. You don't have to watch other things, you will do that. And a lot of people in the community are in a similar fashion that if you want to know we'd rather tell you, then like I know, we say Google is free. But that's not a personal connection. Google isn't does not tell you all my symptoms. Google does not tell you what I experienced, I can do that. So allow people to tell their stories. Don't watch other stories to infer your own information.”