disability, essays, neurodivergence

It is for freedom we have been set free

Content warning for child abuse story. Start at 3:24 if this is a trigger for you

First, it is a great feeling to be able to understand and process every word from a speaker without needing the captions. That almost never happens. I feel like I actually processed every word!

Aside from speaking skills, this was so healing. And not only as someone with APD but the heart behind it holds several jewels I think we all need to learn from. Dr. Alexander approaches her work in a way that feels more like ministry than many “ministers” we hear about online.

“I know what it feels like … to be imprisoned, but I also know how it feels to be set free.”

This is the crux of it, right from the start. Those of us deconstructing or evolving or just plain leaving conservative and evangelical church traditions know that feeling of being “set aside and dismissed.” Queer people who have lived in the closet know the feeling of being restrained inside that metaphor, of being not only hidden but trapped. Neurodivergent and mentally ill and disabled people know this prison that is their own mind and body. So many of us who resonate with a name like “Invisible Cake Society” have had to work through our traumas while it felt like no one could perceive us and no one would believe us.

Until we are seen and refuse to be silenced. Until we come out, whether in a quiet, subtle way or an explosion of colors. Until we learn more and advocate for ourselves. Until we hear our therapists and doctors say, “Look how far you’ve come.” That doesn’t always mean physical healing or acceptance of others or a thriving faith or that life is smooth sailing. But at some point we take a step, usually with help from those who have gone before, and walk into freedom out of that system or organization or way of thinking or relationship. Out of places of (or internalized) ableism and queerphobia and trying to pray it all away or hustle our way around it. Out of the cage.

That step is the first part of our story. We know how it feels to be set free. But our freedom isn’t just for us.

“I have made the conscious decision to believe every client who tells me they are struggling.”

So many of us need this from our leaders, our friends, our family. And now, being on the journey of learning freedom, we can offer that empathy to others. We can believe them when they say they are grieving instead of comparing suffering. We can listen instead of ranking and gatekeeping identity. We can learn before dismissing and ask the deeper questions.

Sarah Bessey and Jeff Chu have been talking about this a lot for The Evolving Faith Podcast this season. Your healing is not just for you. Your journey into the wilderness is not a solo trip forever. You may feel alone at the start, but there have been many before and many alongside and many will follow. What will you do with the gifts you have been given? Who has been hurt by the systems you were invested in, and where do you invest now? What will you do with the vulnerable stories shared and the wisdom you have learned through hard experience and the responsibility to do better now that you know better? We can’t answer these like homework questions. They too are lifelong companions we bring with us.

You are good,” and we are so lucky to have you.

This is our work. To speak imago Dei, to make sure that we have treated everyone with respect and value and dignity, to continue the word of goodness to the next generation and to our neighbors who have been traumatized too. Who have been marginalized too. Who have been desperate to escape. Who have been given the diagnosis with condescension and no options. Who have been told to change themselves to belong. Who have been trapped in need of freedom.

The freedom we have felt.

As Kate Bowler says, “You are not the bad thing.”

You are good, you are believed, you are seen, and you are free.

disability, Mental health, Poetry

The Unnamed.

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

This is a prayer for the mystery case

The pain with no clear cause
The symptoms that don’t match
The lab test that comes back clear

The numbers say you’re fit as a fiddle
So why is your body screaming
As you beg the white coats to care

This is a prayer for the ones unsure
If they deserve to belong here
Disabled. As if it’s a title you earn

This is for the ones who have a hard time
defending themselves against the “just”s
Because maybe this one will be right

And it’s less hope and more desperation
As you swipe your card and try it.
You’re running out of time

You’re running out of your mind
Trying to figure out how to survive
In a new normal each day

And when people ask, you say sure!
Because it still doesn’t occur to you
You’ll be gritting your teeth the day of the event.

But you don’t have a name yet
Or ever. Maybe. Maybe you won’t know
What to tell people when you say sorry

And they don’t understand fully
Because yesterday you seemed fine
And it’s hard to describe what you feel

The symptom list inconclusive
Is hard to describe without
A name for what’s within

This is a prayer for our minds and hearts
and stomachs as they churn
with grief and anxiety and fear

For the choices we make with no guidance
For the questions with no answers
For the mystery that leaves us without

Community. Support. Resources. Research. Plans. Treatment. Hope.

I pray you find a doctor with undying curiosity
I pray you find empathy in a nurse’s needle
I pray you find a treatment that works

I pray your insurance covers you with no fuss
Like a blanket on a soft couch
With all you need within reach.

I pray you hang on to tomorrow
Breathe in and out, do what you can,
And in time you find a name.