April 23, 2014

Zine: Collide #2

Collide #2 on the intersection of physical and mental illness.

My favorite part of reading zines is that I am given access into another world. It is here I can relate or, perhaps even more importantly, learn from experiences outside of my own. I can do both in Collide #2, a zine about the intersection of physical and mental illness.

JC Parker, editor and writer, asked contributors, who all cope with both physical and mental illness, to focus their experience on passing as a healthy person. The stories are intimate and raw, giving the reader a glimpse into how each contributor handles their illness or disability, and how passing is intentionally or unintentionally used in their life.

I often wonder if my health problems being “invisible” actually worked against me. As much as I'm grateful that nobody can tell at first glance, and that I escape a lot of judgment that way, it's also made it too easy to pass as something I'm not. I realize it's not socially acceptable to say this, but sometimes I wonder if it would be better to have some visible disability – that then my illnesses would've been taken more seriously.

Some of the contributors are coping with illnesses that are internal while others with ones that are more visible. We are taught that all illnesses or disabilities are abnormal, making someone “less”. Even though we know better than this, we should consider that one with an illness might find relief in passing and that it is their autonomous right when and who to disclose such personal information to.

regardless of perceived threats or outcomes, i don't owe anyone explanations about my mind or my body in any circumstance. but yet, because of the way disability is treated and our normative discourse is structured, the alternative is to keep those parts of myself hidden. perhaps it is omission in the hopes of self-preservation or exercising personal autonomy, but in those moments, is what i'm doing really “passing”?

A crucial intersection in this zine is how mental and physical illness directly affect each other and how often ones upbringing has only made the cycle worse. The writers note that symptoms of their physical illness escalate their mental illness and that, as children, the handling of their illnesses has directly affected both. Their stories of coping and overcoming crack open issues many of us have never considered.

As a healthy, able-bodied person who goes to therapy for depression and anxiety, I can relate to the mental illness aspect of this zine and how, if one has never experienced it, it can be seen as something to just snap out of. For me, this is reason enough to pass – to have to explain something so personal to someone who tells you to just brush it off is exhausting.

people don't know always how to talk about the intangible – if your finger slipped while you were cutting vegetables and you started bleeding all over the place, no one would say, “you were so much more fun before you started bleeding,” or “but red's your color!” or “i guess i just don't let a little blood loss stop me from cooking.

NO they'd be like, “what the fuck, i'm taking you to the hospital, you're bleeding all over our fucking dinner.”

but if all anyone sees is you smiling and socializing and being generally competent and grown up, and you tell them your head is sick or that just getting out of bed would be like someone telling you to run a marathon when you can't remember what walking is, they might not know what to say...

The experiences that I can’t relate to are really at the heart of why I love this zine so much. We can learn so much from what we don’t know in our own lives and use the information to help us become supportive friends and allies. Collide #2 opens up an important discourse in the perception of visible health and ableness. There's a lot to learn here, and compassion is at the crux of it.

Buy your own copy of Collide #2 here.

Written by Cynthia Schemmer