I live in a country where, if you don’t look too closely, all people are considered equal. Let’s get really frisky here and look a bit more closely. Zoom in on higher education in my area. Colleges and universities are, I believe, required to have a department dedicated to meeting the needs of students with various disabilities.
My former university, being massive, has a large department of that type, supported by an on-campus medical and psychological complex. Granted, it’s a university, so some of the psychologists are actually still psychologists-in-training, and many are recent graduates with little to no real-world experience who leave after a year or two for a better job. Continuity of care is essentially nonexistent, therapists constantly say things like I’m new at this and Maybe someone better qualified would know, and the single psychiatrist on staff comes in once a week and has an alarming tendency to fall asleep during consultations. (He fell asleep while I was talking, woke up when his timer went off to signal the end of the session, called me a name nowhere near my actual name, and tried to prescribe me completely contraindicated things. Guess who gave up on medication pretty quickly.) The medical section was better, or at least, I never had any problems or extensive confusion with them beyond what I would expect from any reasonable doctor; however, they did once ask my cis brother if maybe he’d considered pregnancy was causing his allergies. (And had been causing them since he was a toddler? Yes, I’m sure that’s the case.)
I had a nice therapist in the midst of my brain crisis, even if he did look an awful lot like Peter Kavanaugh. He let me call him Chuckie, even though his name maybe started with an L, and he never once fell asleep during a session. However, it was Chuckie’s first year out of school, and I was not at all reassured by his constant referencing and obvious check-listing in the DSM while I was talking. I’m actually capable of marking lists and doing the math for a diagnosis from the comfort of my own couch. Chuckie may not have been the world’s most experienced therapist, but he tried, right? It’s not really his fault I spiraled down for several months before eventually dropping out. He’s the one who arranged for it to be a medical withdrawal, at least.
All the same, I look fondly on those horrible spiraling months, because at least it looked like someone was helping. There is no such option at my current college. I have been assigned both an academic advisor and a “counselor” – I went to see the counselor once, more to scope her out than anything else, and was told that I can sit in her office to do homework if I do it in absolute silence, but otherwise, I’m not her job. Apparently, you have to be registered with disability services to see the counselors.
Okay. So I go to get registered with disability services, since it’s something I need to do for non-psychological reasons anyway. First, it takes two months for them to call me back. Then, they keep moving and canceling my appointments until I give up and just walk into the offices one day when I have eight hours to spare. They saw me eventually, only to reject every scrap of paper I brought with me as not evidence enough of a disability. Up until I moved to the city of this college, I saw a therapist for a handful of psychological issues? I can understand how they won’t accept his letter; it’s a few months old and I haven’t seen him since then. But the letter from my neurologist: pip has Diagnosis X, which causes occasional periods of confusion and memory loss lasting up to several days. Yes, it’s absolutely unclear how that could impact my schoolwork. The woman I saw at disability services said, in an effort to help, “You just don’t look disabled. Do you have any real disabilities? Ones that people can see?” I cannot articulate how badly I wanted to reply Don’t you think you’d be able to see if I did?
I’ll be okay, I tell myself. Professors in my tiny department understand my diagnosis and will work with me. But I have no official fallback plan. I have nothing to take to my clinical sites to say I am nearly always good to go, but you should know about this anyway. Because I’m not registered at school for the accommodations I’m getting anyway, I won’t be permitted to have those accommodations when I take my board exam next year. All because some disabilities are still considered not to be real. I certainly feel like I’m considered equal in this wonderful country of equality and equal-ness.