yes-reply #01


This month I’ve been thinking about being disabled and what that means. It began with thoughts of how the social order treats affirmative action initiatives that prioritise queerness and gender diversity but have no interest in disability; of socially acceptable versions of disability, the successful lawyer in a wheelchair with a happy marriage.

But this week I realised my thoughts weren’t about how others treat people with disability, I realised what I was upset about was the way I treated myself.

This month I had a contract with the Queensland Government come to an end. It was demanding, so much so the department paid for on-sight psychologists. In my first week I was crying in front of a manager, and I almost gave up.

But that manager took me for a walk, we discussed my bipolar and how it could be dealt with. I told them, “I don’t want to leave, this job can teach me how to beat this disorder.”

A month later, an on-site psychologist told me I can’t have bipolar because it was only my GP and psychologist that diagnosed me, and I needed a psychiatrist. This was a shrink that knew me for 5 minutes, and those words placed an wedge into me that hurts even as I write these public words. I feel like an imposter, am I disabled enough for affirmative action, am I disabled enough for pity, am I disabled at all?

This week I start a new chapter, I have saved enough money from working to write for 12 months. I’m going to try to be an artist of my own and create something that will demand recognition through its skill. I am setting myself guard-rails: by December I must have a new text to present, I cannot work from home, I must meet my internal KPIs.

Today I find myself in my alma mater, working on a new interactive-fictive piece and planning the rest of my year. I’m building a practice that is sustainable and has a unique voice, I hope to share glimpses of what that looks like in this newsletter and share my journey wherever it ends up.

Me thinking at a university desk

This newsletter is yet another guard-rail, a source of accountability.

Why the need for so many internal rules? Well the palatable answer is that it increases productivity. The actual answer is if I work at home, if I don’t have structure around me, if I lose control of my schedule - I will cycle.

I will cycle through depressed episodes where I do nothing but doom-scroll, and I will hypomanically squeeze stupid projects into 18 hour days. Regardless of if a psychiatrist says it, I must manage myself as if I have bipolar, because if I don’t - I will return to having thoughts about hurting myself.

I’ll do what that on-site psychologist said to do, treat myself with a little bit of self-compassion. I’m disabled, and I don’t need your permission to say so. Maybe that 5-minute session had some value in the end.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Gillanders

P.S - Feel free to reply to this email, I will be monitoring this mailbox and I’d love to have a conversation. When in doubt, yes-reply.