Yesterday I took my car to be serviced. Reception was on a call so I had a chance to read the gender equality charter that they’d pinned to the wall. It was named Foxy something and the gist was “we won’t try and pull the wool over your eyes and get your cash just ‘cos you’re a girl. #EverdaySexism would have a field day with that one, I thought. More so since I had spent three years hassling them (admittedly this was once or twice a year) about some documentation they should have provided when I bought the car, without success, but the matter was cleared up in a matter of hours when my manly man The Dude turned up. Causation or correlation, I’m not sure, but enough to raise the hackles.
Then there was the whole Jonathan Trott – Piers Morgan thing. Trott goes home from The Ashes due to a stress-related something. Many people assume he’s depressed and therefore they understand exactly what he’s going through and good ol’ Morgan weighs in with a very understanding point that he should never have gone on the tour at all. Then promptly gets upset when @garwboy (here) points out that based on that logic, Morgan himself shouldn’t be doing his job either. Cue a thousand zillion people weighing in on the argument, saying @garwboy was out of line.
So why did this annoy me so much? Because Trott has taken the right decision to go home (probably) and in so doing has “outed” himself as needing to manage some sort of condition (which he has done, quite well, since none of us knew about it tell now and he has been playing cricket for a while now). Likelihood is, he will never live it down. This will be thing he will be remembered for. A different kind of prejudice. And he knew that when he decided to get on the plane. And he decided to get on the plane anyway. And people say he lacks courage? Far from it.
Any kind of chronic condition, including the invisible ones, require courage. I have epilepsy, well-controlled by the little purple tablets I take every day, and it does not constrain my life most of the time. Except I need to make sure I don’t get too tired, and I need to be careful around flashing lights (they can contribute to a seizure, medicines notwithstanding). My brain shouts at me “overload! Get me out of here now!”, I see spots, sometimes I start hyperventilating and get disorientated. and that’s just my little warning that I might be heading towards a fit. I don’t tell people about the epilepsy because they get that glazed sympathetic look in their eyes, pat my hand and tell me they will sort something out.
What people don’t understand is the consequences of things going horribly wrong. I’m right to be afraid of having another epileptic fit, because it screws with my memory, my personality and my ability to drive. It means I won’t remember birthday parties, or Christmas, or (as happened the last time) the PIN for my bank card. It means Little Person will wonder what happened to her mummy, and could quite easily throw me into the chasm of depression (without the option of anti-depressants) all over again. It would make my life incredibly small.
So do I face the prejudice of telling people about the epilepsy and the problems of the flashing lights? Again? Or do I worry every time I go into the church building, and make sure I never enter it at night?
I don’t have the answers to my own frustrating position, but I know two things for sure. Jonathan Trott is a brave man, and @garwboy has made me think. Again.