Jessica Schomberg is one of my first collaborators on this blog series, and I'm excited to learn more from her as we explore this topic.
Jessica is currently serving as Library Services Department Chair at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where her other hats include Media Cataloger and Assessment Coordinator. She tweets as @schomj.
It wasn’t until I read Susan Wendell’s The Rejected Body last year that I started really recognizing and internalizing the idea that I am a person with disabilities. I grew up with Type 1 diabetes, have had thyroid disorders for a few decades, and was recently diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and depression.
When I first joined Twitter (in 2009!), I primarily followed librarians and people with diabetes. I initially lurked during #critlib (critical librarianship) and #dsma (diabetes social media advocacy) chats and followed a lot of people who talked about things that resonated with me. Over time, I began participating in those chats and started to realize that my diabetes and my work life actually do intersect a lot -- and that it’s okay. I also heard about the term spoonie and began interacting with other members of the spoonie community. Through these opportunities, I learned that a lot of librarians are spoonies. And a lot of librarians live with mental illness. Talking with others like me gave me the confidence to seek out support for depression when I needed it.
In terms of the mental illness diagnoses, many of the symptoms are the same as poorly controlled diabetes and thyroid disorders. This makes it hard to identify exactly what is going on and what the best treatment options are. Adding to this difficulty is the stigma surrounding mental illness, which made me put off getting help much longer than I should have. It is only due to librarians and diabetics on Twitter who are open about their mental illnesses that I was able to overcome that stigma in order to ask for the help I needed. Because of that, I decided to be public about my own experiences, so other people know what to look for and know that it’s okay to ask for help. Once I started investigating and reflecting on this aspect of disability, it became clear to me that -- for me -- mental illnesses are just another variety of chronic illness.
I’ve written a blog post for Letters to a Young Librarian specifically about how diabetes affects my work life as a librarian. What I hope to do through my participation in this blog series is to expand on what I wrote there about how library employees can show respect and support for their peers.
Because I have the privilege of tenure and seniority at my current place of work, I also want my presence to exist as proof that you can be a valuable member of the profession and have mental illnesses. I want other mentally ill spoonies to know that we matter, we bring value to our workplaces and our communities, and we have a right to speak out when our disabilities make us a target of discrimination. In my next installment to this series I'll talk a little about that discrimination, and what you can do to support your colleagues with illnesses similar to mine.
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