Reading In Between The Lines

“Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience molds us into fascinating beings. I hope we can embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We are all in this life together.” -Linda Thompson

As adults, people fight so hard to be seen as an individual; the things that sets them a part from others. Sure, by default we belong to and are categorized into various groups; race, gender, orientation, ability, class, etc. Within these groups, there can be shared experiences, shaping way for collectivity. It is these dynamics that can cause people to lose sight of the individual. A group does not define a person, but rather the person defines the group.
So, what is causing me to bring up the subject of individuality? It can be summed up in three words. Within these past few weeks, these three words have sparked a big controversy among people. At some point you have probably heard about it, and might have seen previews on television. What am I referring to? Well, I am talking about the book turned into film, “Me Before You.” It caused debate and even protests. The storyline is a bout a 31 year old man, who became a quadriplegic a few years earlier, due to an accident. The young man is grief stricken over what he has lost, in addition to enduring chronic physical and emotional pain. The character, Will, is bitter and depressed; he wants an escape. But, what type of escape is he looking for? Death. Will does not want to live his life anymore.
As a counselor, I have talked to many clients who have this despair; the hopelessness. It is a real issue that exists, whether people want to admit it or not. Pretending these thoughts do not exist does not cause an issue to go away, but rather fester. Not talking about real issues can cause shame. Not talking about it can cause an issue to persist. It is not the character’s job to represent the disability community as a whole, but rather, as an individual who is struggling with his life circumstances. Again, the key word, an individual. He represents himself, and no others. It is important for people to realize that.
Personally seeing the film, do I feel that it sends the message that having a disability is not worth living? No. Do I feel it promotes stereotypes? No. Do I feel people should read the book and/or see the movie? Yes. I feel that everyone should see the movie for themselves, and form their own judgements. One positive thing that has come out of this controversy, is that it is causing people to talk about something that is viewed as being taboo. It is bringing real feelings to the forefront.
If you are someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. When calling, you will be connected with a counselor in your area, who is ready 24/7 to offer support.

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