Sharing the Dream

I have a dream. It started small, with the idea of teaching other women with disabilities how to get their doctor to adapt to their needs, to make certain that they have proper medical care and it grew. A part of this is the rumor that in California there are accessible facilities for medical care. This access should be for all women and men with disabilities as well as those who are aging. A second portion is a discussion I recently spent two weeks taking part in. The third part is my own experience and the frustration that is omnipresent with my current medical needs.

I am sharing this dream with you for two reasons. The first is that I want your input. I am not an expert on all disabilities and I want to make this dream a reality. The other is that this will be my platform when I make my run for Ms Wheelchair USA. So, here it is, my dream.

I want to create not just an accessible doctor’s office but an accessible facility that has several purposes. First and foremost I want an accessible mammogram, one where you do not have to call, beg, and push to get access but where it is expected that you will need access. This will be furthered by a program to teach you how to adapt to your bodily changes and limitations while being able to fulfill the self exam for breast health. If you cannot adapt, either due to paralysis or other limitations then I want to offer the option of having a doctor or nurse perform your exam for you. Breast cancer risk does not magically vanish the minute you are suddenly disabled. It often goes up!

This goes further, I want accessible exam tables and facilities to offer every woman regardless of function and mobility a pap smear. I have an annual cancer scare, something tries to trick us into thinking it is cancer yearly. This year’s cancer scare surrounds my pap and it’s abnormal results and other tests that scream, “You might have cancer!” I am more worried about the high table, embarrassing lack of hospital gowns that actually fit, and my physical issues hampering the test than the actual possibility of cancer. I am loathing the idea of half climbing half being shoved up on that table, half naked and without any chance at privacy because I need help at times to even move my hips. There are accessible tables. Other forms of accesibility will be needed. I want to hear from any persons of short stature, what are the needs you face in the doctor’s office that are not being met? Even the most accessible table for a tall person will fail you, so please tell me what you need so that you are not excluded from my dream.

I want accessible facilities for rape victims with either severe injuries due to the actual rape or a previous disability. Writing these words has me panting with fear, but, how many women could be protected with evidence that is not obtained? There is enough of a violation with in rape itself, but being violated and treated like you do not matter after is a crime as well. This alone could be my platform focus, this alone could impact the lives of countless women. Accessible rape kit access with proper training for those taking the kit is a must. this is the part of my dream that is frightening, this is the part of my dream that feels the most out of reach. I must reach this goal however, for every victim and survivor that exists now or may exist.

I also want a center for adaptation. The Center for Adaptation would include a kitchen, a bathroom, and other areas that the once-abled take for granted. I still have not managed to cook a meal without harming myself in years, but a place where I had the safety to learn without being in danger of literally killing myself would help. This adaptation center must include potential assistive devices so that before the money is spent by the individual they know if the device will work. I wasted so much money on items that I cannot even use. Everyone does. Most persons with disabilities or freshly disabled persons have a very limited income, therefore this is a key component to creating universal access. Imagine learning how to cook around your limited energy, ability, and strength? Imagine learning how to clean again, and imagine too learning other things such as crafts, or finding ways to adapt so that you can create art? Dream with me and see it, a place of learning for all levels of ability.

Not just learning but socialization. I want people of all ability levels to commune together. There need to be varying support groups, socialization groups, and even a place to coordinate activities for the single individual and the couples. There needs to be a safe place to discuss sex with in ability, there needs to be a safe place where intersetion occurs. If you are gay, bisexual, a lesbian, or a transgendered person with a disability you deserve this just as much as someone who does not overlap two subgroups with in the realm of minority. The able bodied need to be welcomed here too, so that they can learn, assist, and so that there is a lack of segregation.

There needs too, to be a place to work with Service Animals. This facet will have to have answers to questions about the legalities of service animals in the given area, certification challenges, and training suggestions. Although it will not be a place to get a service dog, there needs to be a place where safe support can be found easily. Safe support that can come and help you advocate, safe support that teaches you to self advocate, and safe support for the process of accepting your animal partner.

Less medicalization of life needs to happen, and the focus on that aspect is a place to find good fashion, perhaps this could even become the funding source for my facility. The fashion needs to be adaptable to the wheelchair users needs, most likely this will require custom tailoring. The clothing needs to be affordable but also fashionable. Persons who have disabilities cover all age groups and the institutionalization of clothing is unacceptable. The clothing must also be in a broad range of sizes. Just as wheelchairs need to fit everyone from the small child up to the very large adults, the clothing must as well. Giving a place to access good, quality, stylish clothing for men and women with varying abilities will be a huge part of this, simply out of my own desires. I desire affordable clothing that works with my ability. I do not want to trip over skirts that are too long, I do not want to have my sleeves caught in my wheels if I use a manual chair, and I am presuming this is a universal frustration.

There need to be classes as well to train those with degenerative conditions to adapt, or those with compound disabilities to adapt. Perhaps the adaptation center is a new spin on the idea of an accessible home to learn in, yet, the focus on this portion includes teaching skills you might not have. What brought this to mind is my own degeneration. I lost my ability to walk and my sight is endangered. What adaptation can I have if I cannot see to drive my chair? I must learn and there needs to be a safe place for this. There needs to be a place where it is safe to feel the fear, the hope, and a place where there is hope. There is too little hope for the disabled demographic in this world.

A part of preventative care is dentistry, though I have yet to find a dentist who can work with my limitations. There needs to be a facility for dental care. I have a cavity I cannot get tended due to my combination of allergies and inability to bend backwards in their chairs. This cannot be. This is discrimination, yet to stamp out discrimination there needs to be action. If the facility cannot have a dentist, then it needs to have an office where accessible vision and dental care is listed, where referrals can be given, and it needs to be a place where there is acceptance that every body has a different need.

Disaster Safety is also a concern. During the disasters that hit the world, such as Hurricane Katrina, the disabled are often left behind. Their families may stay so that their loved ones do not die alone, and therefore these devalued people are murdered. It is murder to leave someone behind because it might be hard to deal with their wheelchair. A part of this facility needs to house a program that teaches people how to advocate, adapt, and prepare for emergencies. This program also needs to teach FEMA and other rescue organizations how to rescue the disabled. We are people, we deserve life, and being abandoned because of a wheelchair or cognitive disability is murder. It can be helped, it can be changed.

A lot of the focus here is on prevention and adaptation. My focus is not to cure disability, to wipe it out. That is impossible and I have gained from my own limitations. I cannot imagine a world without Autism as being beautiful, for without it I would not exist. Therefore the focus needs to be on preventative medicine, there needs to be a focus with in the facility on adaptive medicine, and there needs to be a focus on demedicalizing the bodies that have limitations. There needs to be a personalization of existence. I exist beyond my disabilities, though they are a part of me. We need to foster acceptance of self, of difference, and we need to offer a safe harbor for all people with all abilities to commune.

A lot of people are unable to work, are fighting for government assistance, and are dying without durable medical equipment. I want to offer rentals, loaners, and at times even the purchase of needed medical equipment such as CPAP machines, wheelchairs, and walkers. These are just examples. There would be a qualification process, and yet the freedom I felt that first time I sat in a manual chair and had more than three hours of coherent function haunts me. I have nightmares of being trapped without my chair now, I have nightmares that others feel that same terror. Those nightmares are realities. This program could use older equipment that was donated, purchased equipment, and could perhaps eventually include low interest/zero interest loans with minimal payments to allow people to obtain equipment. This could help those with a copay and a minuscule income to make ends meet. This could help someone who is choosing between homelessness and a wheelchair to get the chair and keep their home.

A second facet on employment is access to workforce training. There are already facilities yet at times access is denied based on a lack of visible potential, so, I want to coordinate with them to try and educate and prepare those who want to work but are being told they aren’t worth the training. An entire segment of this facility needs to be coordination with existing organizations to get people what they need, to get people connected with the programs that exist. A lot of people who ask me for help do so because they cannot find programs that fit their needs, even when they exist. A hub in the network could make their impact broader, while in a way delegating some of my dream over to their offices. I know one facility cannot possibly do it all.

This is my dream, this is also why I was so quiet this past week. I was dreaming, trying to put into a coherent idea what is needed. This facility will need funding but the insured can be charged. I do not see this as a fee free environment but money should not cause a person to not be able to participate. If a person can pay, or if their insurance can allow coverage then they should pay. Much of what is offered should be covered under Medicaid/Medicare and other insurances without issue. The rest could be funded via donations and grants. I have no idea what I would call this facility yet, but, that is not the most important focus at this time. Branding must come after a plan for action is laid out.

Share the dream. Share what you see as a need. Please feel free to pass links to this post around, I want to offer a taste of freedom to a set of people that anyone can join, to the only equal opportunity minority. If we band together, we can change the world and create universal access. This plan is flawed, this dream is imperfect yet it is merely a start.

She Wore a White Beret

Sprite adores the French Language. I think it is beautiful but my service cat understands French. I am not sure where she picked this up, but the first two years of her life are just hers and hers alone. Today, at Walmart, we met the most fascinating woman.

When I am old enough to be Elderly I want to be just like her. She has eight cats, speaks five languages, and respected the etiquette of Service Animal interactions, at least until Sprite forced her to pet her via a well placed headbutt. She still asked permission.

Being exhausted, a bit mentally foggy and heading into Walmart usually leads to calamity. Last time I felt this bad and did my shopping I was nearly assaulted for existing, because I get more bull headed in this mode. I am less forgiving, because it takes time to forgive, to ignore the slights, and to not let myself punch annoying people. I still manage, but I am ten times less likely to be patient and calmly explain why they cannot pet my cat, why they cannot touch me, and the fact that I am an intelligent human being.

A cart with a single bag of cat food blocked my path, and I said, “Excuse me.” She turned around, and I saw that this woman had the sweetest face. Her eyes were bright, gleaming with intelligence and years of experience, she held her back straight and smiled. Her smile grew as she saw Sprite. Moving her cart she commented to me, “What a lovely cat.”

I managed as always to not mumble, “I know. She lives with me.” Instead I smiled and said, “Thank you.” Then went to grab a few cans of cat food. She continued, “Is she a service animal?” I paused and said, “Yes.” She turned to another stranger and said, “See, you did hear a cat and i was right.” I felt a bit of guilt then, for I had been less welcoming, though I was trying to just do my shopping and go home. The man huffed, “Cats ain’t ever gonna be service animals.” His jarringly bad grammar made me wince and I said, “According to the law, any animal that can be trained and is not a threat to public safety, while meeting other specific requirements can be a service animal.”

He stalked away, a third stranger laughing, “Wow, Where can I read more.” My frustration was gone. I was shocked, first by the fact that this woman had stopped a stranger from complaining, stating the truth that my animal was likely a service cat, and that they should just leave well enough alone. Then by a request for information. I shared the sheet I have with me at all times explaining the law, and he wrote down a few of the website addresses I have in the first post, about how to Self Advocate.

I had already dealt with a manager who was also accepting of her. Entering the store, I had run into not one but two employees who chose to discriminate. Despite my state of mind and limited ability, everything was going well because I was being treated like a person.

We began to converse then, this beautiful woman and I. She said something I did not understand and Sprite perked, “Oh, forgive me I forgot to speak English.” I apologized for not knowing French, and she laughed. “That is a first. I am used to Americans, especially women, insisting I speak their language. I hear so often how horrible the French are, how we are rude, for expecting people in France to speak French.” I replied, “Well, we expect people to speak English here, and many discriminate on language alone in this country.” She chuckled again, her laugh is so smooth that it was like wrapping my ears in silk. “Very true. You are very open minded, you must not have gone to College.”

This confused me a moment and I blurted out, “Well, I dropped out when I broke my back.” She clucked her tongue, “You should make a better story out of that, you went adventuring and merely have gone to the college of Life.” We traded stories, then, she asked me how I trained my cat. I told her the truth, the same way I used to train my dogs. I rewarded her for good behavior, I punished her for the bad by not petting her and saying no. “She is very rare, her eyes are showing more intelligence than I have ever seen in such a small creature.” She paused then asked, “Do you have provisions for her, should you die?”

Refreshing, to be asked that. Most people run away from the conversation of death. As I wrote about before, I am supposedly going to die before September. I refuse of course, but Death is always looming over me, shadowing me on. “Yes, I have a series of plans, all numbered and written out incase one should fail.” She was relieved, her expressive body revealing that. “Good, so few think beyond their lives. You are rare too.” I shook my head, “No, I merely have lived.” I gave her my phone number, after we discussed a myriad of other things. I wanted to stay in that moment forever, but an alarm went off and I had to go. We will stay in contact.

She was so striking, not out of a physical beauty alone but also because of her genuine and open nature. She showed me an aspect of life I desire, and although my brain is still clouded over and my body demands rest it stood out, sparkling before me. She wore a white beret, a cream sweater, and tan pants. She glowed like a snowflake. Her blue eyes were a bit cloudy with age, but her mind was so sharp and she was open to sharing so much. I suddenly want to go to France.

She also took the time to converse with Sprite, treating her as an equal, and feeling joy as Sprite obviously understood her. They chattered at one another, and Sprite leaned up just before we left placing a kiss on her lips. After we parted ways Sprite made sure I did not feel neglected, though I felt the same warmth and love she seemed to. She rubbed all over me, purring and delighting in our shopping trip.

I even let myself have a treat, I bought a butterfly hair clip. No more lamenting my choice of a hair brush or nothing, I am going to have some panache, and a dose of style when I give my speech tomorrow.

Super Cripple #2- Secret Origins Special!

I have spent several years being Super Cripple, I learned how to act like I was perfectly happy even when beaten, tired and exhausted because of a neighbor. This is another one of those happy attempts, yet it is also colored by darkness. I did not even remember him for a long time, my brain shutting down too often, trying to erase my biological father from my life. When I remembered him, it all came back and I cried. I did not just cry but I cried for days, mourning the years without the knowledge of what made me become better than I could have been.

It was a dark and stormy afternoon. The clouds were thick in the sky and a blast of lightening caused a loud clap of thunder. I dropped the glass of milk in my hands and spilled it. The cup was fine but I knew my father was going to hurt me. He worked for himself, which really meant he slept all day and all night. I was making lunch and had been going to serve it to him on the couch. I had burned myself during cooking but the food was not burned so it was fine, and I knew that my father would be angry if he found out about the milk. I tried something new. I refilled the glass, carried the plate and cup to him, and then went and cleaned up the spill. Then I told him I had spilled the milk.

The end result was just as violent as the other times I had spilled something. I was also locked outside, because of course telling him meant I had to be hiding the spill, I must have done something worse. I remember being relieved that the tears blended with the rain. My neighbor came home, his car was a bright blue with green accents, a classic 1957 Chevy. I always loved watching his car, imagining what it must be like to ride in it. He stepped out of the car and looked over at me sitting in the rain.

His steps were uneven, he limped and huffed a bit, it sounded as if he hurt. He crouched down and looked me in the eyes. I remember his voice being the first that I had heard which held an accent that did not match the one my own has. I was curious. I was also afraid to answer him. His voice was soft, warm, and inviting, “Are you locked out?” I just nodded. “I can open door?” I shook my head no and squeaked out, “I’m in trouble and he’ll kill you!” I was afraid my father would hurt the nice man. He smelled like candy. I also thought he was as old as the God that I believed in at that time.

He smiled, and I remember noticing how many teeth he had. I thought all old people lost their teeth. He was elderly, he was 74 and I was merely 4. He stood up and took my hand, “We won’t tell him you came with me. When do you get back inside?” I answered, knowing the answer from practice, “When my mommy comes home I go to the back door.” He nodded and we walked to his house. His wife wasn’t home yet, so it was just me and my Sensei. I do not know if I ever learned his name but, I did learn other things.

That first day he did not call me any names for being wet, to him it was logical, a girl is outside her feet will be muddy and she will be wet. Instead he wrapped me in a thick towel that was soft, my skin didn’t burn after touching it. It too smelled sweet. He helped me get my shoes off, taking his own off. “In my house we go barefoot.” I thought this must be heaven. I had died, the lightening and thunder had to have squished my brain.

It was real. He took me into his living room. There was no television set, just an old radio and a lot of books. “You read?” I nodded yes, and he asked another question, one few people think to ask. “You like to read?” I hesitated and answered with words, “Only if I pick, but I am not allowed to pick.” He frowned and left the room. He brought me a yellowed comic book, the cover had a yellow sky, a man in a weird costume with a cape and a pointy headed mask was hanging on a rope, choking someone. “You read this. You not like, we will find you something else.” I nodded and opened up the issue of Detective Comics #27. Not only was this an original and nearly mint copy of the issue with Batman’s origin but he handed it over without hesitation to a sopping wet toddler.

Detective Comics #27 Cover - Batman Swinging on a jump line, guns aimed at him, a bad guy in his grasp. Total awesomeness

Detective Comics #27 Cover - Batman Swinging on a jump line, guns aimed at him, a bad guy in his grasp. Total awesomeness

I delved into the story, and I was hooked. Batman had so many lessons to teach about healing from trauma, even in the Golden Age. Also, suction cups are still awesome because batman walked up walls with them. He interrupted my reading to ask if I liked tomato soup and cheese sandwiches, I had no idea so I shrugged. He smiled and carried in on a silver tray, in fine china bowls with silver spoons two bowls of soup and two sandwhiches without their crusts cut into halves. He had even added some cheddar cheese to the tops of the soup. I put the comic down as he handed me my share and asked him, “Why do you talk funny?”

I was forgetting to be afraid. He felt safe and I liked it here. I did not want to ever leave. “I am from Japan.” I had never heard of Japan and as I ate my soup, which became my favorite thing in the whole world, it still is and remained so even through the suppression of these memories, I listened to his story. It was not happy and yet, it shaped him into the kindest soul I had met.

“I was born in a small town outside of Tokyo which is a very big city. My brother had come to the United States a long time before I did, he had a house and wife, and talked often of how Japan sounded on the television. There was also forced enlistment in the army. I would have to leave my wife. I did not know if I could live without her. She and I were forbidden to wed but did, our parents punished us for it by disowning us.” He paused there to explain what being disowned meant, to me it sounded fabulous. “So, I came to America. The war had started, just after getting on a boat to flee my country, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.” He had pulled out a map and was showing me the different locations. I hadn’t even heard of Hawaii before. “American Citizens who might be Japanese were locked in camps.” I knew about concentration camps, my father often referenced how much he wished he could gas us. I hugged him, my very first time hugging a stranger. He held me and finished his story. “One of the soldiers watching our camp, it wasn’t like the other camps in Europe,” Another bit of map pointing for my benefit, “He gave me his son’s comic books after the boy was done. He shared them with us to try and help us endure. I learned to read english, as did many children. This was my first comic book. I still read them.” This man had kept the comic books through an internment camp, through a long life of struggle.

I knew they were valuable based on that. He ruffled my hair, which had dried out and asked if I wanted another sandwich. I did but was afraid to say yes so, instead of lying I just shrugged. He brought me another sandwich. “You are allowed to want more, if you are hungry. I want to share.” I smiled. I don’t know if I ever had before, but, it felt strange. I finished the first issue and a second, he then went to find a third but it was late and my mother’s car drove up. We wet my hair in the sink, it was still raining, and he helped me through his back yard, it was a paradise of flowers, and despite not wanting to leave I went to the back door.

My father had no idea. In my mind as he helped me climb the fence, I was bat girl. I didn’t know batgirl was really in the comics yet, but, I imagined I was swinging through Gotham city which I was then pronouncing Got Ham… Before we parted ways he told me to come back when I needed to. I ate my dinner, and went to bed in silence that night but I had something to imagine. I imagined fighting crime. I imagined how it would feel to be a grown up and a crime fighter. I suddenly wanted to be a cop.

The next day, and the next, I would sneak out when my father took his nap or I would go for refuge if I was punished. Every day he fed me a bowl of tomato soup and we read comic books. Eventually he apologized to me for not having any Wonder Woman comics, because he gave those to his daughter when she entered college. Despite his heritage, the teachings of his culture, he treated me as a human. There was no sexism I could see. His wife had a job, he was retired. I believe he was a teacher, but I do not know. Sometimes we would dress up, the soft bed linens he used would turn into capes and we’d go through an imaginary Gotham City arresting teddy bear villains.

He asked my name many times and I never wanted to tell him. I was afraid, because my father and mother tended to only use my name when I was in trouble. That was often, as I never could please them. My mother was working three jobs, trying to feed us and my father just found fault with my existance. My Sensei, as I began to call him taught me more than just comics or how to imagine and play. He also began teaching me Japanese. He helped me to master the art of chopsticks and gave me etiquette lessons. He taught me to dance as well, sharing things with me from the world he lived in. Giving me glimpses of a golden age of love.

I too recall his hands. They were knotted with arthritis, now I know the rain likely pained him yet it rained often in those years. He never showed his pain, he was always well dressed, kind, and never yelled at me. Not even when I tore a page in Batman #1. He never made me pretend to be Robin, and always liked pretending to be my Alfred. Those hours of kindness turned into days, then years. In that time, I did share my name but instead he gave me my first alternate name. I was to call him Sensei, as I liked the word and gave it to him as a title. He was happy, and held me close telling me he was honored to be my Sensei. I was his Little Lotus. I asked why.

“You are a flower, all children are. A lotus has many layers, it has many petals. Never let anyone tell you what you are or what you can be. Like a lotus you are special, you are good and kind. You are smart, and you will be someone important. As long as someone loves you, and I do Little Lotus, you will be important to the world.”

I never asked again, but I cried. He loved me. I loved him. I was six years old when we got caught. I had already endured rape, molestation and trauma. My neighbor, a teenager, had violated me as had my father. There were times I wanted to reveal that I had my very own Batcave. I kept it a secret. I was afraid, as we sent one man to jail, that my father would send another off to prison.

I testified against the young man, I imagined I was batman, putting a criminal away. It was the only reason I could do it. When he was out on Bail he came and knocked on my window, sticking his hands under to lift it up and tried to get in. I pretended I was batman again. I slammed the window shut and screamed. This was the only time my parents acted as parents should. My father did this to hide his own crimes, my mother out of the true pain she felt at seeing her babies endangered.

The day we were caught was one where my mother came home from work early. She was either fired or just sick, and I did not hear her car. I had fallen asleep with the latest issue of Batman, finished superman and my Sensei was making tea in the kitchen. I woke to hear my mother’s voice screaming, “WHERE IS SHE!?” My name yelled out. I did not think, I thanked my Sensei, slipped my shoes on and went outside. There were accusations, my father grabbed me by my hair. I then saw who was truly Batman. My Sensei came out, removed my father’s hands from me and said quietly, “Little Lotus, go inside.” My parents were shocked, my father sent my mother inside as well, though she tried to follow me.

I locked the door and peered out the window, watching and listening. I could hear every word. My father accused him of being a rapist, a pedophile, and a monster. My sensei pointed out that due to his age he would be unable to rape anyone, and that he enjoyed teaching me how to be a kind and caring adult. He insisted our afternoons continue, stating that we had done this for years. My father went sheet white at that revelation and called him racially unjust terms. He lifted a hand to hit him. My sensei defended himself, blocking the blows and not retaliating. “She is a good girl, you treat her poorly. I see the bruises. I see them. I have reported you many times to DCF.” It was true, no one knew who it was that kept the government coming but I had lied every time.

The argument went on for an hour, in that time my Sensei’s wife came home, finished making the tea and sat with me at the window watching. She was just as influential as my Sensei, and I will always remember how she smelled of Jasmin and how I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world, her long hair mixed with greys and black always was styled nicely and she dressed not for others, but for her own comfort.

That was not the last afternoon of my super hero afternoons, it was merely the only time we were caught. Until we moved away, my parents marraige in tatters I saw him almost daily. We shared the comics, other books, and he continued to teach me how to live. Without him I would have been in more pain. He too taught me ways to heal. Things that stayed in my soul when my mind deleted them to survive.

I started out as an imaginary side kick, and often when I am exhausted I imagine too the sounds of a cape in the wind, the feel of my body dancing with criminals. I am a Super Hero. I am Super Cripple, and this is my origin story.

*Side notes*

DC comics owns the rights to the image used in this post. They are also the inspiration for the post title. As you read this, there may be some comic book references that are slipped in. I am a comic book geek and proudly so. I hope you enjoyed the Secret Origins Special.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Trigger Warning)

Bette Davis, Joan Crawford…A movie about the horrors disabled people can face with an abuser.

This is one of the most wonderful but horrific films I have ever seen. Joan Crawford plays an actress with a jealous sister who not only tried to kill her but is now her only caregiver. Bette Davis plays all of my worst fears brought to life. She forces Joan to either starve or eat rats, her pet bird, or possibly poisoned food. Their maid, a beautiful African American woman, is the hero in this. It is she who sees the potential for something wrong and refuses to leave the day she is fired, instead insisting on seeing Joan’s character. It is she who saves her from embezzlement, being isolated, beaten, and left to die a slow and horrible death. She was cut off too, no telephone, stuck upstairs, the bell for help taken away. It is horrible to watch.Bette’s performance is that of pure evil, in the loveliest of forms.  The genius of this film is that they use clips of the actresses when they were younger. They build the story up and you feel the pain involved with Joan’s treatment.

This film also highlights the incompetence of others, enabling the abuse. The teller who illegally (possibly not at the time of the film being made) gives cash when a deposit is required. The neighbors who ignore the weak cries for help, though they may not hear. The doctors who ignore the patient’s panicked cry when she could under duress be recanting. I will not spoil the climax of the film, but needless to say, this one touched a nerve. There is murder in this story, no one wins. Hope is torn from the viewer and Joan’s character.

Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman is another film that taps on true life abuses. The abused housewife is not beaten, but is instead told over and over until she believes it that she is insane. His greed is what drives his crimes, polygamy, identity theft, and murder among them. He uses the technology of the day to prove to her she is insane. He too plays on my worst fears. He proves to me that men are evil, a blanket statement that feels utterly true while I watch this movie. It isn’t, but it feels that way. He abuses his wife, publicly and privately humiliating her, forcing her into things that were against her nature.This film was so effective it gave it’s name to an entire term in psychology. Gaslighting is the proper term for causing someone to think they are insane. There is more to this of course, but this is the best I can do to explain right now.

Why am I posting about two films made before my birth? They touched me. They burned my heart up and left me shuddering with memories. They triggered responses in me that were deeper than perhaps intended. I felt the trappedness from my previous experience. I felt the worthlessness of knowing I am wrong at all times, and that my only value to others was at their own pleasure, my own wants and needs coming last. I felt the fists of my father in me again. I felt the harsh words of burden.

I am not a burden, I am not insane, and I am free. I had to chant this at times, the wheelchair a prison during the entire time. I could see even one stair trapping me. I can only remember too well  how few people actually listened when I cried out for help. The cold stabbing feeling of being told my case was not compelling enough to prosecute, that no one wanted to protect a child from  her rapist father.

Caregiver abuse is one of the worst crimes I have ever heard of. Some call it elder abuse, but, elderly folk aren’t the only ones trapped by their bodies. Many are vital and amazingly resiliant. I am posting about these films so that you can perhaps try to feel the things I felt, in lesser measure. These films raise awareness of the plights of the hidden victims in this world. Perhaps even someone you know is enduring secret abuse. You might not be able to save them, but raising awareness even by one, can help them save themselves.

Whatever happened to Baby Jane? Be glad you are not so evil, and if you are, may you see your reflection and set your victim free.

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