We Don’t Belong Here

I’ve been thinking about this drawing, and the meaning behind it, a lot lately. With my SSI hearing weighing on my mind and prompting me yet again to question the level of my disability, I find myself doubtful of my place in the world. Is there, in fact, a place for me at all? Can I not work because of debilitating mental struggles and physical disability or am I just a lazy brat who refuses to become a cog in a system I disapprove of? Am I holding myself back or trying my best?

When it comes down to it, the ultimate truth of my level of disability can neither be determined nor defined by the legal system of the United States. The will decide whether I get benefits, yes, but their decision doesn’t ultimately change whether I can work or not. If they say I’m not disabled enough it won’t mean I can suddenly withstand the social scrutiny of an employer or the pressures of full-time work.

But I still have voices in my head telling me that if I haven’t achieved something it’s because I’m not trying hard enough. Those are the same voices we all hear that say anything is possible if you really want it. But they’re lying. There’s a fine line between pessimism and realism. I would certainly call myself an optimist at this point, I’m not going to lock the door on the possibility of ever feeling my toes again, but I’d be an idiot to focus my energy on something that’s physically improbable. As they say, you can’t squeeze blood from a stone.

My disability has taught me to find new ways to achieve the unattainable. I’m taking back one by one the things I thought I’d lost forever. I know for certain that if you don’t believe you can, you can’t. However, believing something doesn’t make it real.

I drew this picture as a recollection of a time about 5 years ago when I was deep in darkness. I began cutting words into the skin of my legs. This was one of the phrases. I have often felt like an alien on this planet. Being socially awkward, unusual, and frightened, I began to believe I didn’t belong here. At that time I frequently referred to myself internally as “we”. There was a feeling of inner divide. My fearful child-self was being criticized and mutilated by an unpredictable abuser. It was easier to displace the blame of self-harm and chronic failure to an imaginary “we” than to attribute any of the vile thoughts or behaviors to my one self. After a disturbing episode at a performance of Tale of Two Cities, in which family members discovered I was carrying an x-acto knife around with me, I went into a crisis residence.

Thinking about it now is still quite upsetting. It was probably the most overt expression of my pain my family had yet seen and I can only imagine how frightening it must have been for them. Certainly, I was afraid, but in my fear there was a hope of the relief that death could bring. To them that would have only been the beginning of a terrible pain.

I thought that death was the only escape from a place I didn’t belong. Now I can only attempt to carve a place out for myself in what still seems to me like a hostile society nestled, thankfully, in the haven of nature. At least I feel at home within myself, and that is no small accomplishment.

“You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”
– Max Ehrmann, Desiderata


drawing We Don't Belong Here by Camille Willis
We Don’t Belong Here by Camille Willis

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