Ten Years.

Me on New Years Eve, Memphis, December 31, 2012. Sitting outside of my hotel with a plastic cup of champagne. Alone.

It’s been 10 years since Roger Ebert died. He emailed me to ask me to write for him on the same day I got diagnosed with bipolar. I’m sitting in the mood clinic, a wild-eyed maniac, and I get the email. He had less than two months left to live. How it all went down: He read a piece I wrote on Ben Gazzara. It wasn’t a recent piece, which suggested Roger had been scrolling around on my site. I think I wrote it when Gazzara died. Roger somehow found it. He then linked to it on Twitter, and the traffic crashed my site’s server for about an hour. I had no idea what was going on, though, since I was extremely busy acting like a lunatic in a mood disorder clinic on east 52nd street. My friend Steven Boone texted me saying “hey, congrats” and since I wasn’t on Twitter I didn’t know what had happened. So Steven was the one to inform me that Roger Ebert linked to a piece I wrote. Within a couple of hours, I got the email from Roger. Just a reminder: all of this is happening as I am going through an intake at a mood disorder clinic, yelling at the doctor “you people are just running a racket” and, my finest moment, “If anyone tells me I have to stop writing about Elvis, we are DONE here.” I’m doing THAT and texting Steven in between filling out forms – Text: “wait – what? Roger knows who I am?” – Yelling at the doctor, pacing – back to texting – back to answering questions about what the hell I was doing in Memphis all by myself for 10 days – back to my phone – back to the intake: “I sleep about 3 hours a night. Why, is that weird?” Back to my phone. Steven sending LOLs and emojis and hearts – so warm, so kind, so supportive. (Honestly, I haven’t thought about that in a long time, I haven’t thought about it at all until writing this, how Steven was there for me on that day, and he had no idea he was messaging me in the middle of a BRAIN STORM.

My mother came to stay with me during the crisis. I was afraid of opening mail. I was in a complete STATE, the illness had me in its grip. Wild buckling moods. A sense of crisis, of now or never, of life or death. I was committed to getting well now that I knew something was really wrong. I took time off of work. And I was freelancing, so this was a financial burden. As all of this was going on, I started writing for Roger. Literally, simultaneously. I reviewed two movies “for him”, with him editing them. My first review was of Christian Petzold’s Barbara. Mum was there as I hit “send”. Ten minutes later I received an email from Roger. “I love how you start with the details.” I burst out sobbing, and Mum started crying, and it was this wild moment of triumph, heightened by the fact that I was now in serious treatment for a deadly ailment, as I am writing that review. Wild. It is so so special to me that Mum was THERE as I pressed “send”, that I didn’t go through that moment alone, as I have gone through everything else, alone. She was there. Next was my review of Gimme the Loot – which ended up being quoted in the movie ad in the New York Times. (Kerry was the one who alerted me to that, via text. “You’re quoted in the Times.” Roger would send me comments, telling me what he liked about what I was doing. From his death bed.

Everything changed in 2013. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of separate events. It feels like all one event. I never got to meet Roger in person, but I will treasure the two months of our correspondence, and am grateful to him for recognizing something in me based on the years-old post about Ben Gazzara. He saw something of value. He had no idea he was emailing me in the middle of a mental crackup taking place in the east 50s. I of course didn’t tell him. I was so out of it, and so IN the illness, I wondered if I was making it up. But Steven was there, reminding me it was reality.

A month after Roger died, I flew to Champaign-Urbana to attend my first Ebertfest. Mum came with me. Thank God. I still was far from well. We had this mother-daughter adventure. I faced doing all these new things. Appearing on panels. Attending parties. The whole thing. Nobody knew what was going on with me. It was fine they didn’t know. I was not well enough to truly appreciate how far I had already come. Getting this diagnosis, so late in life, and then immediately having to do all these new things, things I had never done before, was a LOT. My anxiety often got the better of me. I was still in serious treatment, weekly sessions with a doctor and a therapist. I had no insurance. My family pooled their money to pay for it. This was how bad it was. But I accepted the New. It seemed I had no choice. I couldn’t NOT go to Ebertfest. I HAD to do all these new things out in the world, as hard, as impossible as it seemed. I think I comported myself quite well, all things considered.

I have been writing for Rogerebert.com for ten years. Hundreds and hundreds of reviews, 4 a month on average, plus interviews, some obits … and in 2017 I had the GREAT honor of screening the short film I wrote at Ebertfest. Life has a way of moving on in ways you just could never anticipate.

I didn’t go to film school. I didn’t study film in college. I never took a film history class. My education was Roger’s books, which I pored through as a kid. He is how I learned about Werner Herzog and John Cassavetes and Kurosawa and Bergman. He was my film education and it was a good one.

My posts round these here parts in 2012 – September to December – are extremely alarming. I posted all through it. I was suicidal in November. My birthday month. Historically a terrible month for me. I was all alone. My friend David told me he was trying to come to peace with the fact that I probably wasn’t going to make it. I remember feeling very alarmed but I also felt the same way. He was letting me go. I was almost relieved. I went to Memphis after Christmas, 2012. While I was there, my family orchestrated an intervention. When I came back to New York, everything was different. My entire life was in crisis mode. All out in the open. I had to go see doctors and specialists. It was being paid for, so I couldn’t blow it off. I was obligated to other people. I couldn’t have afforded any of it. I recognize how lucky I am. This shit is expensive and not covered by insurance. I wasn’t insured anyway. I wasn’t allowed to be alone. I thought this was over-kill. Now I understand.

So I’m dealing with all of this and then Roger emails me.

I honestly don’t know if I would be here now if I hadn’t gotten the diagnosis and help from what basically was a fully-loaded care team. I just wanted the doctor to give me a shot and put me out of my misery. Keats called melancholy “wakeful anguish”: there are few phrases which capture the feeling better (although Gerard Manley Hopkins, who loved Keats, comes close in his so-called “dark sonnets”). David Foster Wallace called the experience “lurid”. “Lurid” is so right on, chillingly right on. Only a person who KNOWS would use the word “lurid”. The experience is not sadness. It’s lurid agony. Words don’t do it justice. It’s impossible to convey what it’s like. The crisis was – as I can see now – extreme and I am lucky I am alive. My doctor told me much later that the first time he met me he said I was like a “wild stallion” in his office. I just wanted to be strapped to a bed and drugged until I emerged feeling better.

I described above the day I got the diagnosis. I left his office, buzzing with the texts from Steven about Roger, and buzzing from the diagnosis handed down. I felt like a burden was lifted. IT had a name. I don’t know why I didn’t clock it earlier. After going through this intense intake process, where I had to talk about every single day I’d ever lived in my whole life, he guessed my first crackup was when I was 12, a year I remember well. I cried every day for four months. I was in so much agony I wanted to die. I was a cutter, too. Before there was even a word for it. I wore long sleeves. I was in seventh grade. Just one year before, I was this child:

I got my period for the first time and bipolar slipped through the door. This is how it often happens for girls, I was told by my doctor. Puberty hit me like a Mack truck. The happy flamboyant tomboy child I was vanished almost overnight. I would bind my budding wee breasts to keep them from growing in, wrapping T-shirts and Ace bandages around myself until I couldn’t breathe. This makes me so so sad to think about now. In my 20s I grew to love my boobs and wore low-cut cleavage even in inappropriate settings because fuck it I was young and I had a rack and I loved it and so did the boys who loved me. I embraced it all. I wore combat boots and shaved my head but I still embraced my stacked figure. But when I was 12, boobs were the end of the world. I felt a sense of total dread at what was happening. I wanted to go backwards. Lost Eden just behind me. An Eden where I was free. And yeah, there was also that hidden enemy bipolar, ravaging my mind as my body started to develop. Good times.

I had been walking around with this thing forever. It was totally normal for me to go periodically insane, and the doctor created a chart showing me the cycles, the ups, the downs. Every four years I would lose it. I could almost set my watch by it. I just somehow didn’t perceive the pattern. It always was connected to an event, some disappointment, and my reaction would be this outsized THING that took over half a year. I just didn’t think I was sick. I thought life was just like that.

I walked across town after receiving the diagnosis at the mood disorder clinic, headed for the bus station. I felt this weird lightness. I knew I had a long hard road ahead of me to try to course-correct, my moods were still a buckling jump-rope, completely out of my control. It was a spring-like night and I walked by Rockefeller Center and 30 Rock, my old stomping grounds when I worked at the Today Show. The trees around the ice rink were strung with blue lights. It was so beautiful. Magical.

I went to take a picture and a voice came, not one of the bad voices, this was a good voice, saying: “Put the camera down for a second. Just look. Just be.’ So I did. For a while I let my brain empty out, and stood there looking up at those whimsical fairy-blue lights.

Then I took a picture because I did feel – I couldn’t help it, the thought WOULD come – that maybe my life was about to change and maybe I should take a picture to have a record of it.

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41 Responses to Ten Years.

  1. Those photos are stunning. (As is everything else, tbh. Life is just…strange. There’s no other way to describe it, is there?)

  2. Carolyn Clarke says:

    Sheila, I am so glad that you are here. We (my family and I ) lost my brother to mental illness despite interventions. My best friend’s husband used a gun in their garden despite her best efforts.

    You got help and it’s working. I’m so glad.

  3. Maryanne L. Keller says:

    Fairy Blue Lights 💙
    Thank you for sharing your experience with mental illness.

    • sheila says:

      They were so whimsical! Different than white lights. Magical! They felt significant. so pretty.

      thank you for reading.

  4. Julie Westwood says:

    Thank Goodness your family had the will and means to get you help.

    This is my first comment on your site, though I’ve been reading it for
    probably a dozen years. Although you write wonderful essays on many
    topics, these personal, deeply felt posts are one of the things that keeps
    bringing me back.

    It seems to me that you have everything necessary to write a book-length
    memoir–the story, the writing ability, and, most crucially, the honesty.
    You may have no inclination to do so, but I think you could find a wide
    readership that can relate to what you’ve been through and your varied
    and wonderful cultural obsessions, which you write about with
    such love and enthusiasm. I, for one, would gobble it up.

    All of us are enriched when someone such as you shares
    the difficulties in your life so beautifully as you have in this essay
    and in so many previous ones. I feel honored to be one of your

    • sheila says:

      Julie – thank you so much for reading all these years and thank you for choosing to comment! I really appreciate the kind words.

      The anniversary has been on my mind. I went to Memphis for the exact same dates – stayed in the same hotel! Kind of to commemorate how much better I’m doing. and I’m going to Ebertfest again in a couple weeks – I haven’t been in years because of the pandemic. And I am really looking forward to it. again: full circle. Or, not full circle. just a whole new circle.

      thanks again

  5. Debra Thomas says:

    “we are DONE here”

    I did not know this but watched and read at the time. Memphis felt dark and cold.

    You have a beautiful family. I’m glad Rodger found you in time.

    • sheila says:

      I am sure my blog was extremely scary. There was Hurricane Sandy too – which hit my area HARD. There was a guy too. and then my birthday. a perfect storm (literally).

      Memphis was amazing – it was dark and cold – but it was a break from the norm and I love hotels! But I can see now I had no business being there for 10 days by myself.

      thanks for reading all these years.

  6. Kate says:

    Glad you are still here and glad you had so much support. So much swept under the rug by ‘oh, it’s just puberty!’

  7. KathyB says:

    So happy that Roger reached out to you at the same time that you were starting care arranged by your loving family. You are also a gift to us, as was Roger. The man knew a kindred spirit when he found her.

    I’ve loosely followed your blog for about that long and scanned enough of the archival material that it screamed at me – this child doesn’t sleep for long stretches.

    Ten years is a victory. Your work is a victory. Thank you for accepting the love and help. The SPN blogging was a cherry on top for me.

    • sheila says:

      // this child doesn’t sleep for long stretches. //


      Very grateful to Roger. He changed my life. Up until the end, he was supportive of younger not-established writers. People he wanted to give a chance. it’s really how I want to be. He was a great role model in a lot of ways – but I just loved how much he supported unknown writers. This is NOT the case for a lot of those older writers who came up in the print world, who looked at all of us bloggers and internet people as uppity kidz. That’s pretty much changed now – but Roger was really forward-thinking that way!

      SPN blogging! that was so much fun!!

      thanks for reading all these years!

  8. jeanie laub says:

    its become almost the thing to have a mental illness of some sort ,if you do have and have lived with it throughout life ,you try to hide it ,cope with it or try to “get a grip of yourself “people still dont understand or are afraid of someone who is struggling with life .
    This was good to read and your photographs are beautiful ..j

  9. mutecypher says:

    A loving family is such a blessing.

    I’m glad you are here with us and sharing so much.

  10. I’m glad you’re still here.

  11. Mike Molloy says:

    I am so glad you made it from where you were to where you are.

    The photos at the end are fantastic, especially the middle one, which centers the lighted-up trees and where the buildings are like a frame.

    The moment where you insist that “If anyone tells me I have to stop writing about Elvis, we are DONE here” made me laugh. It’s like a line from a Coen brothers movie. Also speaking as a stranger who only knows you through your writing, sounds exactly like you.

    • sheila says:

      // The moment where you insist that “If anyone tells me I have to stop writing about Elvis, we are DONE here” made me laugh. //

      hahahaha I know. i was so wild then that I looked back on it a year or so later and wondered ” ….. did that really happen?” I asked my doctor and he said yes, and that he reassured me that he would not “take Elvis away” from me. lol I really was terrified though. I just came back from Memphis where I was IN my Elvis thing 24/7 – and I loved it and it gave me joy and I was afraid they were going to take away the stuff that made me happy. We ended up having some good talks about Elvis. A colleague of his did a whole research study about bipolar in old-time rhythm & blues players. so he was supportive – although on that first day he was just saying “nobody’s taking elvis away from you.”

      My God, I was insane!!

      // Also speaking as a stranger who only knows you through your writing, sounds exactly like you. //

      lol. Yup!

  12. melissa sutherland says:

    I thought the anniversary was soon. You’ve come so far. And I’m glad you are still here. I had confused the days instead of converging them. What a time that was. Be well.

  13. Sheila
    Echoing all the comments here, like Julie I LOVE all your writing but these deeply personal ones strike me the hardest. They always did. When you write about your father say, I how had a completely different kind of father but it connects me instantly to mine. That’s great writing.
    Yes for a full length memoir!
    Also what Mike said: //the moment where you insist that “if anyone tells me I have to stop writing about Elvis we are DONE here.” //made me laugh.
    That”s the line that hit me with two different and deep emotions at once. It was funny but I almost couldn’t laugh because that was the whole thing for me, that was the other fear. You could get well but could you still write? The illness was terrifying but also was that thought if getting well meant taking away your great gift of writing. “Nobody is taking Elvis away from you.” The relief to hear that and begin to start that journey to wellness.
    Also the part about your Mom being there for you. I love hearing about your wonderful, loving, big sprawling family. We are all so glad you are here, well, and writing prolifically as always!

    • Mike Molloy says:

      regina’s thought about the Elvis line:

      “It was funny but I almost couldn’t laugh because that was the whole thing for me, that was the other fear…that [terrifying] thought if getting well meant taking away your great gift of writing”

      Yes exactly. There is so much in that “not taking Elvis away from me” thought.

    • sheila says:

      // I almost couldn’t laugh because that was the whole thing for me, that was the other fear. You could get well but could you still write? //

      that’s it, right? I was so afraid they were going to take away everything that made me happy. and not just happy – but motivated still to communicate, i.e. writing. I was so scared – and mad ahead of the fact. They were going to tell me my love of Elvis was “too much” and I needed to “calm down” and I was ready to FIGHT THEM.

      thank you, Regina!

  14. John doherty says:

    Im so grateful you shared this.
    Thank you.
    For you to still be with us us a testament to you, how friggin’ tough you’re built.
    Funny, when I had my Crack up, your family was among the first I reached out to, as well.
    Something about you O’Malley women, huh?

  15. Barb says:

    I’m so grateful that you are here, Sheila! Thank you for this beautiful piece, and those photos.

    One of my sons is in recovery, and also has depression and struggled with suicidal thoughts. He is only 20. It’s agonizing to watch someone you love go through this kind of stuff, knowing that as much as you can do, as open as you try to be, as much help as you try to give and obtain, everything might ultimately fall apart and there’s nothing you can do about it. Like you, he’s found support and treatment at this point, and is doing well. The shadow will always be there, though.

    That’s why those hopefully photos at the end are so very important.

    • sheila says:

      Barb – I am so sorry to hear about your son and am sending him – and you – all my best thoughts. Support and treatment is so important – many people don’t even make it to that step so I am glad to hear it. I was wayyyy older than your son when I got diagnosed and I basically had to be taught how to think. My thoughts were all wrong and I had been thinking that way since I was 12. This is CBT-stuff – which seems to be controversial not sure why – but it really helped me.

      • Barb says:

        Thank you, I appreciate that. He was helped by a therapist using CBT techniques, too. I didn’t know it was controversial – it makes perfect sense to me, learning how to re-train your thoughts and develop dependable strategies.

        • sheila says:

          yeah I’ve heard some dismissive comments from more classic talk-therapy psychoanalysis circles – but – as I’m sure you know – classic talk-therapy doesn’t work in all cases. You don’t have to sit around and TALK about these things – you need drugs, support, and strategies to not think bad thoughts. it’s a totally different thing!

          CBT was a revelation to me. I’m so glad it’s helping your son too.

  16. DBW says:

    Hi, Sheila. Five times I have started to write a comment on this post, and five times I’ve erased it. There’s too much to say, and it still wouldn’t be enough. I just wanted you to know that I read this, and I’m thinking about you.

  17. Lyrie says:

    It’s not the first time that some of the intense experiences you describe sound so familiar – now that I’m older and can see my own cycles and patterns, I can see why bipolar and other things can get so often confused for one another. I don’t mean to diminish your experiences – I think there’s a special kind or level of loneliness and isolation that not many people understand. Actually, I’ve never met someone in real life that understood what I was talking about, but I see it reflected in your writing. I think it might be because so many don’t survive it – literally.

    I am so, so glad you did, and so grateful for all you share with us – your honesty, your humour, and your passion – no one’s taking Elvis away! Ha!

    • sheila says:

      Lyrie – Hi! Thank you!!

      yes, these illnesses or ailments or whatever often “present” as something else, or they camouflage themselves. People are mis-diagnosed all the time and it’s a big BIG problem. I think it has to do with specialization – which is great, theoretically – but it also means … you’re dealing with confirmation bias, or you aren’t looking at the person holistically. You specialize in one thing. Like, ADHD could also “present” as bipolar II. two totally different treatments required. Depression is one thing, anxiety another – in bipolar you have both. but they are DIFFERENT in mixture than separately. and anti-depressants are incredibly dangerous for bipolar – not sure about anxiety meds – but … this just happens all the time. It’s a really big problem – esPECIALLY now when people are using terms like ADHD or OCD or PTSD – or ven “depressed” when they don’t actually mean the clinical term. The words itself become diluted. It’s actually dangerous.

  18. citizenconn says:

    I ended up here because I enjoy your movie reviews on the RE site. This was an interesting piece to read and much more forthright than I would ever be, which is not a knock on you but on my need to control the narrative about myself probably. On the RE site you indicated you were fond of Franny & Zooey, and I was surprised that someone would pick that over his more popular novel, until I read this piece.

    I remember how sad my mother was when they announced Elvis had died. Because of my upbringing, especially musically in West Texas, it had not occurred to 12 year old me that any of the musicians my parents listened to on the radio were actually still alive (probably because most of them were not.) Of course, being an only child I lived a rather sheltered life on our small working farm. I share your affinity for Elvis, except perhaps the movie version. Though I do enjoy 2-3 of his films. Musically I would have to say that jumpsuited Elvis was probably my favorite. His greatest hits was the first cassette I bought when I received a portable cassette player in about 1975 (lord was the mono sound bad on those early models.)

    I just wanted to write and let you know there was someone out there who appreciates your views and reviews and I’ll probably check in from time to time.
    Best regards,
    R Conn, citizenconn@yahoo.com

    • sheila says:

      R Conn – sorry it took me a while to get back to responding – I do try to be more prompt. But I was at Ebertfest out in Illinois, which was awesome. catching up on stuff now.

      thank you so much for stopping by at my small corner of the internet. And for reading this piece! Some people find me here from my writing over on Ebert and can’t make the segue to me just blabbing about my life. I appreciate you taking the time to read and make such a nice comment.

      I love people’s thoughts and memories of Elvis. Thank you for sharing. I love jumpsuit Elvis too.

  19. Lyrie says:

    Hi Sheila and Barb, 
    I’m replying to both of you here — quite a bit late, but oh well. 

    //yes, these illnesses or ailments or whatever often “present” as something else, or they camouflage themselves. People are mis-diagnosed all the time and it’s a big BIG problem. I think it has to do with specialization – which is great, theoretically – but it also means … you’re dealing with confirmation bias, or you aren’t looking at the person holistically. You specialize in one thing. Like, ADHD could also “present” as bipolar II. two totally different treatments required. Depression is one thing, anxiety another – in bipolar you have both. but they are DIFFERENT in mixture than separately. and anti-depressants are incredibly dangerous for bipolar – not sure about anxiety meds – but … this just happens all the time. It’s a really big problem – esPECIALLY now when people are using terms like ADHD or OCD or PTSD – or ven “depressed” when they don’t actually mean the clinical term. The words itself become diluted. It’s actually dangerous.//

    Right, specialization and confirmation bias make sense. That said, I think there’s also a big issue with how a lot of conditions are conceptualized by and taught to practitioners who are not specialists – and specialists too, at least for the conditions I know the best. When diagnosis depends on how things look from the outside – because we do not trust the person whose life is impacted – it’s easier to mix up ADHD and bipolar, or BPD and bipolar, or autism and burnout/depression, etc. Especially complicated because it can overlap, and so if you see only the depression you’re missing the bipolar, or depression and anxiety are very often co-occurring with ADHD but can’t be treated the same way, etc… 

    I understand that people are not always reliable narrators, but I think we deserve more credit and should be listened to. Medical practitioners and researchers being seen as impartial and reliable and good — so, above the individuals’ capacity to describe and understand their own experiences leads to a lot of misunderstanding. There are tons of great people, but they are working in institutions, which are not neutral – and believing that is dangerous. See for instance Drapetomania or female hysteria. And if you think it’s a thing of the past, look up the list of symptoms for oppositional defiant disorder and ask yourself: how many abused children get that diagnosis? How many autistic children? How many Black children? Is it really a disorder or is it one of the reactions that can be expected in an oppressive or otherwise difficult environment? Is the individual the problem, or the environment? Or read about #StopTheShock at The Judge Rotenberg Center. 

    So, I agree that many people misuse specific terms and it’s a disservice to everyone – for instance, I am a neat freak to a degree that is definitely… far from normal, lol, but it’s not OCD (although I’m probably just one breakdown away). But I also think that a lot of people use those terms because they don’t have access to diagnosis or help, and all they can do is self-diagnose. And try out labels until they find one that fits, meaning until they find something that gives them access to some modicum of help, be it accommodations, or minimal understanding, or community. 

    I wouldn’t have gotten my own diagnoses without social media. Because people were sharing their internal experiences, not how it looks for “normal” onlookers. And that’s what led to my formal diagnosis – but I had to do all the work myself first: understand what people were saying, separate the wheat from the chaff, then read the scientific literature and the medical diagnostic tools, separate the wheat from the chaff again (and it was much scarier and heartbreaking that time around). For almost four decades, everyone missed it – and it was all there. I was repeatedly punished for things that were not only out of my control, but made worse by a very normative environment. And no doctor was going to help, I had to arrive with the work already done.

    And that leads to how we think about conditions – whether we consider them conditions, illnesses, neurological differences, disabilities, etc. With the social model of disability having more traction lately there’s a big clash with most healthcare providers and institutions, who only consider the medical model. And the social model is a useful and important lens but as it gains in popularity it also becomes simplified – I think things are more nuanced. I disagree that everything in the medical model is garbage. 
    I’ll chime in about CBT to bring another perspective, and what I wrote above puts my comment in context. I don’t know about //classic talk-therapy psychoanalysis circles// – not my people, and also very much not my jam, although I understand it’s great for some people. And the same goes for CBT: I totally understand how retraining your thoughts can be a useful, life saving tool. And so I’m not saying it’s BAD, but: I think in some cases it can also do more damage than good. For starters, when the person has been misdiagnosed. I look back at my four decades of experiences and the fucked up thought processes it has created and… for sure, it would be great to not be immediately convinced people hate every time I’m a little upset. But, wait! Research has shown that actually, yes, most normal people will have a strong negative reaction to people like me and refuse to engage, even if they don’t know why. And when you translate that to environments like work, it means I’ll almost systematically be the scapegoat when things go wrong. People DO hate me for no reason! And for four decades, I thought I must really be an asshole for that to constantly happen. I simply didn’t have the tools to understand that the situation is much more complicated – and that I can only do so much. Where am I going with this? 

    If CBT focuses on retraining my thoughts not to catastrophize in social situations without taking into account that broader context, all it does is 1/ put the responsibility of things going wrong on myself only and denying that I’m playing a rigged game 2/ reinforcing my feelings of guilt for things that I cannot change 3/ getting in the way of addressing a huge part of the problem – I might need accommodations or just people to be informed and not be assholes. 

    And so just to be clear, I’m using myself because it’s the only experience I can talk about, but what I’ve discovered is that there are so many of us with similar experiences. So many of us are made to believe our experience is an individual one, and that the problem is also us, individually. And while meds or CBT could help with part of it, what definitely makes the biggest difference is community. Breaking the isolation, realizing you are not alone, that actually, you’re not wrong – and that leads to understanding something that’s actually a pattern. And some patterns need to be changed, and the problem is not the person on the receiving end of ableism. The good news is that patterns can be changed. And that’s group work, and CBT can’t do much about that. 

    Obviously, I have looooots to say but I’m going to save it for my PhD dissertation, lol. 

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