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Getting People Past the Face.


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Dear Everyone.

My first post on this site - I've stuck it here because there doesn't seem to be a disability issues thread - is that the right term? - anywhere and I can't find any disability site to help with this one. So here goes!

Basically, I want to learn techniques to stop people looking at me with the same horrified fascination they'd give a dog slavering with what MIGHT be rabies, and start looking at me as though I'm human. Or approaching being human. Read on, and you'll see what I mean.

I'm disabled, Cerebral Palsy and the remains of Hydrocephalus (think of a pink-skinned Shrek built by Frankenstein (he's the scientist, his creation was never named) and you're along the right lines) It doesn't seem to matter what social moves I learn or try, I feel about as welcome in general society as Tiger Woods at a KKK Golfing Convention!

I'm banned from many cafes/bars in my town because other people complain about having 'something like that' in there. Got bouncered the other evening because a bunch of construction workers said they didn't want their evening ruined by having to look at me. I've been asked to take my pic. off dating sites because 'they don't want to be reminded what I look like'. And I've ended up having to live in a Home for the Elderly (I'm 45!) because other local idiots kept trashing my apartments. (The cops told the local Housing Association to find me somewhere safe to live, so they've dumped me in a Home for ageing psychiatric cases. I'm the only one there not on any medication!)

I volunteer for everything, get given nothing. Example? Volunteered for 15 local positions recently, went for the interview at the volunteer bureau, heard nothing. Bumped into the boss lady in the town centre, got told 'Don't expect to hear anything in the near future'. I haven't. I go up to people in social situations and immediately get treated like they're So Sorry for How I Am. Why? It doesn't bother me. It only bothers others. (Yeah it bothers me BECAUSE it bothers others, but that's the only reason.) And I've had boiling water chucked over me, been stabbed several times, had all my teeth kicked out (had to spend a month in hospital getting my jaw wired back together, 2 months in hospital getting skin grafts over the burns) been beaten up and mugged more times than I care to go into, all because I'm a target because I'm a spazz. Those times seem to have finished now, thank Christ. But I always get approached sidelong by folks, as if they don't want anyone to see them associating with me. If they're with other people, I'm not allowed to recognise them. Only if they're by themselves.

In 45 years I've never been in a group of any kind, not counting enforced groups such as classes in schools/colleges. I don't consider I have any kind of social phobia, I'm happy to go up to anyone. But if they tell you to 'go forth and multiply', what do you do about it? Being always alone weighs on me more heavily than anything else. I know blaming the disability sounds a tad paranoid. But I KNOW other people see Shrek coming towards them. Why? Their whole demeanour changes. Some of them look nervous and shocked and back away. The males go into 'defensive Silverback' mode (hunched shoulders, clenched fists, rolled-up face.) Younger males come out with things like ''You waiting for Esmerelda, mate?'' ''Not ringing bells tonight, then?'' I love kids. Best reason for owning a Uzi ever invented. But I get the same treatment from everyone and I'm beginning to realise it just aint gonna change. Us spazzes have filled the ecological niche vacated by coloured folk when it became non-PC to call them ''coons'' or "wogs". What's sad is you never even hear this talked about on TV. Which gives tacit societal acceptance to the fact. People need something to band together against and spazzy Shreks like me seem to be it.

How do I get people PAST this point? I don't fit into either world. Physically I'm slightly disabled. But the brain works fine. And I don't accept the disabled ethos. I feel I'm perfectly capable of employment/voluntary work/anything. But I keep going up to places and they keep saying ''We'll let you know, dear', and 'Do you think we want to scare our customers away?' (a recent remark by a chip-shop owner when I went for a job there.) Two examples out of hundreds. Able-bodied people think of me as disabled. Disabled people think I'm able-bodied! If I'm with disabled people and they ask me to help, there's always an able-bodied idiot who goes 'It's alright, dear. I can handle it.' and jumps in before you can do anything. I'm trained in handling disabled people and I've seen people dropped and hurt quite badly just because the handlers wouldn't let me show them how to lift their charges properly.

How - and I HAVE tried just saying it straight out - do you say to people 'I'm a bit fat and I've got an odd face. Live with it. I have to. I could also be a useful member of your group once you've gotten past the above 2 facts.' Hokay, you can say that straight. I have done, many times. But how do you get them to let you PROVE it? Recently I got kicked off a voluntary job, helping people learn computing (I've got 14 qualifications in that subject.) Why? Because everyone was asking me, the volunteer, how to do things and nobody was asking the official teacher how to do things, because I was showing them the easy shortcuts and he wanted everyone to do things the hard ways around. The first voluntary job I ever got onto in many years of trying and I get kicked off because I'm showing people how easy computing CAN be! That's why I applied for the other 15. And as I said above, I'm not even being considered for those.

I'm not asking for special treatment. I'm just asking to be treated the same as all the others - as if I'm human. I'm happy to try everything out, if people actually LET me try things. I'm happy to be with groups, but not if the reason I'm there is to be the butt of their so-called 'humour'. I'm happy to walk along with anyone, but not if it's to get me around the corner so they can mug me. I've had that happen too often to mention.

Anyone got any ideas? Please?

Yours hopefully

Christopher Burke

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Christopher, welcome:). Your community SERIOUSLY needs some diversity training!!!!!!!:mad: There has got to be someone in social work or the schools that is taking up this responsibility, or are things really that depraved????? We have all kinds of associations and support groups for people with disabilities here. I'm not saying it's perfect--employment is very tough (partly because jobs are tough to find for everyone). Does your government have any programs at all? What do the students with disabilities do in the schools????

You are definitely being bullied. I hope you find our support helpful and continue to participate with us.

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Hi Christopher & welcome to our Community

I must agree with Finding my way, you have seriously been treated the wrong way! You have your rights like everyone else who lives on this earth!

I hope them people who treated you the way they did, have realised that everyone is unique to themselves. No-one should be treated the way you have been!

Anyway, you will be treated fairly on this site, trust me!

The past is the past!

"Why try so hard to fit in... When you were born to stand out!"

"Don't let yesterday use up to much of today... You can't change the past, so don't ruin the present by worrying about the future..."

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Dear Finding My Way and Paula.

Thank you very much for answering, I must admit I was expecting to be booted from the forum because I'm not truly mentally ill.

Schools have improved over here nowadays, but when I was in 'em, I used to get entire CLASSES jumping on me, just because they knew they could do it and get away with it! I wanted to learn, so I used to go to libraries instead - I remember one HUGE old library in London where the custodian taught me how to read Ancient English - I could read Chaucer in Original Folios so rare he used to turn the pages for me. And huge old Dore Bibles, their pages over half an inch thick so the letters could be engraved into them and inlaid with leaves of colour thinner than silk that looked as though they'd trapped sunlight between themselves and the pages. The silence was matted with cobwebs and even the traffic outside seemed to hush itself respectfully as it went past. The gentleman who taught me was in his seventies - he got me speaking Latin with him and he'd frown when I got the conjugations wrong.

I remember a rat in the corner, sitting up and looking at us completely without fear. I used to leave crumblings of cheese there for him and his little wife.

Government programs have a huge drawback here. Because I've pushed the fact I'm disabled, I get a little extra money. Not much, but it sure comes in useful. If I declare myself onto a program, I lose the lot. It gets replaced with Workfare Benefit, which is a fraction of the amount. It's like they take all your wages away and say 'you MIGHT get a job paying MANY TIMES MORE then this bit we've let you keep'. Yeah. And again, you might not. But you're not on the official unemployed figures, so they can b/s that there aren't as many jobless around. If they let you keep your money, until you got a job, I'd be on them like a shot, I'm not workshy. But I don't want to lose almost everything and end up working for exactly what I get now. That's the other trick they pull. OF COURSE you're better off working - because they take all your disability money away. You end up, on minimum wage, getting only about 25-40 bucks a week more than you were getting with your disability benefits. So you're working, in effect, for forty bucks a week.

That's why I've been going for voluntary. I know what I can do, even though my skills might be a little out of date because nobody's been letting me use them. I put myself down for a teaching course a year - just over - ago. Was there ONE DAY and the teacher called me over and said she didn't want me on her course. So I asked her why and she said she didn't think I was capable of doing it. Remember, this was after the first day and I hadn't been given anything to do. So I told her not to worry, I could handle it. The next week, she wouldn't let me in the class. So I got the Disability Advisor and went back. She was going ''Look at him. You can SEE he isn't capable of doing my course." To his credit, the Disability Advisor told her to let me carry on going. But after that, I wasn't there to her. If I put my hand up to ask something, she wouldn't notice that for 40 minutes or so. If there were group activities, I'd always be the one left over. My assignments would get lost and I'd have to re-do them, along with the new ones. Nope, I didn't pass the course, because of having to do all the groupwork by myself as well as all the solo work by myself because I kept not being found a place in the groups. When she failed me, she sent a copy of the failure letter to the Disability Advisor to prove she'd been right in saying I couldn't do the course. He hasn't spoken to me since! That's not the only time that's happened to me with teachers. On my computer courses, some of them used to take the mickey all the time even though my programs were working perfectly. (They'd press a button nobody would press at that point. The program would stop. 'Oh, dear. Crashed again!' They never once gave me any credit for getting the darned things working in the first place.)

I don't know any disabled kids nowadays, because I don't really know anybody much nowadays. I saw a girl with a thin arm - don't know what was wrong with it - being pelted with paper in a school bus and I banged on the windows from the outside to try to make them stop. Didn't work, though. I was the only disabled person in any of my schools. I kept being sent to different ones because they wanted to find one that 'worked' for me, but they never did.

I'm psyching myself up to go out now. I just want to feel safe. They've put me in this Home because they used the fact my other flats got smashed up to 'prove' I couldn't look after myself. But if every time you went out someone broke into your house, you'd find it hard to look after yourself, wouldn't you? O.K., it wasn't EVERY time, but I got a LOT of break-ins in the different flats.

Given half a chance, I know I could look after myself as well as anyone else.

Yours respectfully

Christopher Burke (ulrichburke on the site!)

Edited by ulrichburke
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Hi Christopher

That's why I've been going for voluntary. I know what I can do, even though my skills might be a little out of date because nobody's been letting me use them. I put myself down for a teaching course a year - just over - ago. Was there ONE DAY and the teacher called me over and said she didn't want me on her course. So I asked her why and she said she didn't think I was capable of doing it. Remember, this was after the first day and I hadn't been given anything to do. So I told her not to worry, I could handle it. The next week, she wouldn't let me in the class. So I got the Disability Advisor and went back. She was going ''Look at him. You can SEE he isn't capable of doing my course." To his credit, the Disability Advisor told her to let me carry on going. But after that, I wasn't there to her. If I put my hand up to ask something, she wouldn't notice that for 40 minutes or so. If there were group activities, I'd always be the one left over. My assignments would get lost and I'd have to re-do them, along with the new ones.

My my, you have had it pretty rough haven't you? Whatever happened to equal opportunities?

Where about do you live, in the States or the UK? I am from the UK & Finding my way is from the States.

You mantion doing a lot of Voluntary work... I do Voluntry work myself, for the CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau). It's a place where people go to find out about the Laws & their Rights! I don't think they have them in the States?

Well keep posting Christopher and I'm sorry but I have to dash. I have my Literacy Course at 18.45 & I'm going to have a quick rumage through the site first!

Take care

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Hi, Christopher, and welcome.

First of all, I think the "bullying" thread is the PERFECT place for you to have posted. You probably know more about it than everyone else here COMBINED.

Have you ever considered writing a book about your experiences? It would be a fascinating and very human story.

I don't think people can be controlled in the way you mean. Although maybe some should, especially children, who ususally aren't taught any better. (Because you know how many qualifying exams there are to be a parent. Heh.)

Problem is, people can be pretty stupid. We're just intelligent enough to get us into trouble. We think we're not suseptible to base animal instincts...that we don't a salivate when the bell rings. In fact, anyone who has ever been bullied can tell you that kids are a bunch of sharks.

What you have to run into--continually--is that aspect of humanity that's most primitive. It's automatic programming. As for the people who stand by their knee jerk reactions to you, well, they're just lazy, because it represents a complete inability to question their animalistic response to you. It must be kind of a bummer, and also kind of funny from your perspective.

You're actually very lucky, because just a few decades ago, someone in your situation would not have had a venue--the Internet--where those knee jerk reactions wouldn't come into play. Humanity may have trouble evolving, but our technology doesn't.

I'm being told I must get back to homework (and he's right) so I must cut this short. Welcome again. :-)

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Welcome to our little corner of the web.

Posts like this leave me feeling emotional. You (I) want to fix things, and yet it is not always possible to fix things. And people can be very cruel, with or without meaning to be.

A few years ago, I had a damaged knee and was on crutches for a while. I was on a ferry crossing the long island sound one evening and up on the top deck looking at the stars when a guy came up to me and out of the blue threatened to throw me overboard. He wasn't entirely serious and I managed to limp down the stair before he made his mind up just how threatening he wanted to be. I hid out in front of the purser's office for safety and it was an awful feeling knowing that I could not defend myself. It pointed out to me how much I take a general feeling of safety in the world for granted; a feeling that not everyone gets to have. With your story about being stabbed and mugged repeatedly, I don't doubt that you are on your guard.

I don't know how to get by people's first impressions, or how to get by the more outrageous reactions you've been encountering. People need scapegoats and they make them of people who seem the most isolated and helpless and non-cute (because the cute factor is protective). It's a very primative thing - a form of splitting where the negative emotions and intentions are put (psychologically speaking) onto another - you become seen as a threat not because you are one, but becuase the visceral reaction to your appearance provokes anxiety ( I imagine) and the people need to do something with that anxiety. "kill the witch" is the thing that people end up doing a lot of the time. We are apes - with a thin layer of rationality floating on top of a whole lot of animal.

A major factor in forming relationships is proximity and repetativeness. People don't trust stuff they don't know. Friendships form when people see other people again and again. After a while people feel that it is okay to introduce themselves. This is the case when there is no "face" to get past. It is harder when there are complications, but I imagine that if it is to work, the priciples are still similar/same. If you want to form relationships, you need to keep yourself out there where people can get used to you, and you need to keep doing what you're doing which is to ask for opportunities to connect. The process of starting relationships is always a numbers game (for people who are looking to form new relationships of any kind; where it doesn't just drop into your lap). A normal person looking to form a friendship or get a job will often have to pursue many possible opportunties before something clicks and a relationship happens. For you, it appears that you will have to work much harder (as the inital rejection rate seems much larger), but if you have the stamina, it is at least more likely that ulimately you will get something going if you keep going than if you do not. There are no guarentees in life, unfortunately, and many people who are unhappy.

That thing that happened with the computers where you got kicked off the job for showing up the teacher - that easily could have happened if you were a normal appearing person too. You violated a basic rule by undermining the "authority" (e.g., heirarchical superiority) of the teacher. A more tolerant person would have just called you a nerd without a good grasp of politics. A more petty person just let you go. The rule is - do what the person in authority tells you to do or risk them not wanting you around. Make the boss look good and build up credit with the boss so that later the boss is motivated to help you out by providing avenues for advancement (if you're lucky). It's not a fair rule or a good rule; it's just the rule if you want to get ahead politically.

In this age of the Internet there are lots of "jobs" that happen through the internet and your appearance becomes less of a factor. For instance, I've never met some of the people who work with me. I've seen a still photograph and in some cases I've video conferenced, but I've never met them and the arrangement works just fine. So - one thing to look at doing is to seek opportunities, voluntary and for-profit, in online venues. There are various kinds of freelance computer work that can be done - it's competative; it's not necessarily steady; and I don't know what your skill levels are or if you even qualify or are interested, but it is something to think about. You could program for people, for instance. Or develop some kind of software, etc.

Anyway - that's my iniital take. Please feel free to contribute here (with other posts) or ask further questions yourself.


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