Sunday 16 May 2021

"Are you pregnant?"

is a question I have never asked. I don't think it would ever have occurred to me to ask something that personal. There are times when I have wondered that about someone or other that I have known but it is not something I can imagine asking.

There was a supposedly funny exchange on Twitter this morning about schoolchildren asking this question.  Yes, it was amusing in a way. Small children don't usually intend harm when they ask a question like that. With older children it may well be a very different story. With adults it is very definitely a different story.

I thought of this as I skimmed past the exchange. I thought of it because of something else that does worry me.

There are a number of "group houses" for people with physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities in our area. The people with physical and intellectual disabilities are largely ignored by other people. I know most of them through providing communication support from time to time. I don't know many of them that well but they know I am around, that I can be relied on to read something to them and see that a form is filled out correctly or that they phone the right person and talk to them. It's nothing much and I know there are other people who help in the same way.

But people ignore or actively avoid the people with psychiatric issues. Yes, some of them are distinctly strange. There is the man who spends his entire day walking around the district. He used to sit on a seat in the shopping centre and drink endless bottles of fizzy drink - large bottles. He was never a problem to anyone. He simply sat there. When there was a fire in that part of the shopping centre his seat (and we thought of it as "his") was gone. For a long time he disappeared. I never saw him. I often wondered what had happened to him. 

When I mentioned it to other people though they seemed relieved he was no longer around. He apparently embarrassed them. Now he wanders aimlessly all day long because his "home" sends him out in the morning and tells him to come back in time for the evening meal. There is a woman who is much the same. She doesn't wander like he does. She spends hours just sitting and staring into space. Her head does not turn left or right. She never utters a word. Even when she buys her daily carton of flavoured milk she doesn't speak. She stares straight ahead as she passes the money over and waits for the change. Years ago I tried saying "Hello" - nothing more. There was no response. I left it. If she ever met my gaze I would try to smile at her. I think it is unlikely.

I tell myself that "at least I make contact with the people who have physical and intellectual disabilities" but I know that is really not good enough. The people with psychiatric issues may not want to make contact. I can't force it on them. I really don't want anything to do with them. There are enough issues for me to be dealing with as it is - but I still feel guilty. I'd like them to know that I am there for them if they ever do need help. I'd do what I could. It might not be much but I'd try.

Asking these people the "are you OK" question though would be wrong. It would be far worse than the "are you pregnant" question. There are some things you simply don't ask some people.  

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