The importance of community
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
- Helen Keller
If your early education was anything like mine, Helen Keller was one of the first (and few) disabled people we learned about, at least in a mostly positive, but still cringey “inspirational” way.
I’m not sure exactly what Helen was talking about when she made this statement, but knowing that she was a pioneering disability rights advocate and political activist, I like to think it applies to the idea of power in numbers and allyship in disability justice, even if these terms didn’t exist in her lifetime.
Why is community good for your mental health as a disabled, chronically ill or neurodivergent person?
Because when we connect with others who have similar life experiences, it’s like we speak the same language. All of a sudden, someone truly gets you, truly sees you for who you are. It’s the same reason why the queer community exists. Humans have an innate need to be around other humans and we naturally gravitate towards people who feel safe.
There’s a long-standing stereotype that autistic folx are not social. While this may be true for some, the vast majority of autists are quite social when they are among people who they can feel safe unmasking with.
And just like queer folx don’t have to have all queer friends, a disabled, chronically ill or neurodivergent person will have a variety of people in their life as well. The key is to find those allies - the people who support you even though you’re different from them; the people who love you not despite your differences, but because of your differences.
Now, you may be saying, “But Kelly, I live in the middle of nowhere, how do I find community??”
We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to connect with community, especially online. Sharing more of yourself and your life (good and bad) on social media may feel liberating! Posting on social media has actually been shown to increase self esteem (now scrolling, that’s another story…) Follow people with similar life experiences and interact with them. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself.
It can be intimidating to put yourself out there and it may take time to find your people, but once you do….it’s magic. 🪄