I was thinking this morning about mental health and, for a change it wasn’t me specific because I was talking myself into going to a forum.
As I was getting ready to go I thought it was a local Labour Party meeting that had changed venue and time. It would have been my first time there and I don’t admit that I was terror stricken.
I missed a bus and waited forever in the cold as I fought the urge to cross back over the road and run up the street to the safety of home. If I didn’t go then I wouldn’t have to face people but then I wouldn’t get the opportunity to change things in a positive manner. The latter won out.
When I got there I started said hello to someone who dashed off without replying. I sat down at a table and people started to sit down at the seats around me. I felt like the person who nobody on the bus would sit beside
I felt isolated in a place where I shouldn’t have felt isolated and it scared me.
Somebody passed around the Agenda of the meeting and that’s when I realised that it wasn’t a Party meeting but a group that seemed to be rather insular and didn’t like newcomers.
By this point I felt that the terror I had felt earlier in the day was justified and I wiped away a couple of tears. I felt that in a room with a group Equality in its title I was not their equal and I was not being treated as an equal.
As I looked around I could see that everyone else in the room had a visible illness. Forty five minutes in the meeting had not started and nobody had came up to me to say hello. I was asked to sign in and I told the woman I had no idea of what was going on but she was off to the next person before I’d finished the sentence.
It was a cold reception and, in a room of people who understood how it felt to be in a marginalised minority, I was not only a person with an invisible illness I was also invisible to these people.
I felt as thought that they had decided that I didn’t belong there. I got up and left; nobody noticed.
I went down to the floor one down from where the meeting was being held as I knew the building well and sat at a table and began to write the notes for this piece. A woman came up to me and demanded that I tell her where the meeting was being held – no please, no thank you, no politeness.
I won’t go back there again. Equality means different things to different people and for me it means that together we find a way for us all to do the things we need to and help one another on the way and by that I mean in society as a whole.
There should be no competition of pain, no discrimination within or without disability equality forums. If I had not felt marginalised before this morning then I would certainly feel that now.