Claire Lamb

Name & Pronouns: Clare Lamb (she/they)

Year: Junior

Major(s)/Minor(s): Theatre Major and Asian Studies Minor

A little about myself:

I became involved in the world of disabilities when I realized that I was struggling to stay afloat. Since then I’ve become an advocate for people who struggle in ways like I do. As a performer and storyteller, I try to approach all that I do with this idea. I am working with accessibility services right now and am just beginning the process of seeing what it is like to exist on this campus with a documented disability. 

How my disability has impacted my life:

My situation right now is that I was diagnosed with a lot of mental illnesses while I was trying to get an ADHD or an autism diagnosis. And since I present as a woman, I was unable to receive a proper diagnosis and was instead diagnosed with depression, GAD, avoidant personality traits, and cognitive functioning disabilities. If you look at all these things together, they make these other more encompassing diagnoses like ADHD and  Autism but they just won't give them to me, which is frustrating, because then I have this huge list of disabilities tagged to my name that don’t paint the full picture. They said I was too intelligent to get these diagnoses that are a better fit, which is just ableist at its core. I think there's just a lot of instances where people with very specific disabilities here can't get the help they want, because you have to go through all of these professional channels, and no one is willing to accommodate them. I continue to feel gaslighted by my failure to be properly diagnosed and that has been just as much of a struggle as my actual disabilities.

How my disability functions as a strength in my life:

I am an avid user of ear plugs, because I have a lot of sensory issues. When I began using tools like this, I began to see other people like me, doing what I do to function. People don’t realize that disabilities  are everywhere because they are  so incredibly stigmatized. I understand what it’s like, and it can be really difficult when you feel like your problems aren't being heard or understood. I have so many friends that also struggle with mental health and disabilities. But at the same time, since I do struggle with it, and I know how to listen, I kind of understand how to help. I’ve gained strength in recognizing that there are many people like me who I can lean on and also provide support to.

Barriers to accessibility I would like to bring to light:

As a person that is white, I have access to counselors that are also white. I don't know if any of our counselors here are people of color, or know how to respond to struggles that people of color have.  There's a lot of barriers for people of color, not having access to things and predominantly people of color in this country can't get proper health services to get diagnoses, or when they go in to get a diagnosis, they're discriminated against in ways that prevent them from proper treatment. It's just further separating our community.

There's also been a lot of stories that have come out in recent years about people with really strict diets that they have to follow for their health and then they're forced to starve with a campus meal plan that they can't use.  If we're supposed to be this Benedictine community, why would you force someone to pay for something they can't use? Or people not being granted requests because they can't get your accessibility stuff approved. You have to go through all of these professional channels, and if you can't get a proper diagnosis for whatever reason, then you can't get accommodations. That really frustrates me. If you can't afford to get medical care, then you're screwed over. I'm very fortunate that I have decent medical coverage to go and do all of this testing. I know so many people here who can't afford to do that or they don’t have a support system to help them get there. It’s just terrible.

“It's a universal thing to struggle mentally, especially at this point in our lives and in this environment that the world has become. We have to listen to other people.  If everyone just reached out to one or two people that they're close with, it would be so much better for our community. There's so many people silently struggling, who have visible or invisible disabilities, that don’t realize where to get help or what kind of help they need.”