I’d like to think of myself as a pretty well-informed person when it comes to the disability community. Still, I hadn’t even heard the term “Spoonie” until I began following more self-identified Spoonies on Twitter in the last year or so. Many of them I discovered through writing a short story for the Nothing Without Us anthology, a collection of short stories by and for folks with chronic health conditions and disabilities.
Submitting to NWU was the first time I had really started to identify as having a disability, though I’m still trying to figure out what that means. All of what makes me a Spoonie — Crohn’s disease, arthritis, mental illness — is invisible. I don’t use aids for these things, though sometimes when the arthritis is bad in one of my knees or my hip, I can’t stand upright fully. I thought for a long time that I didn’t qualify or wasn’t “disabled enough.”
That so much of what makes me a Spoonie is my mental health, too, made it difficult to identify as having a disability. For so long I was told that those illnesses were “in my head,” as though that made them any less valid. I’m learning to unlearn those biases and speak about mental health the same way I speak about physical health, as something vital to my wellbeing.
More recently, I’ve been a part of conferences for Spoonie authors and been on podcasts about the intersections of writing and disability. Jamieson Wolf, who also had a story published in the Nothing Without Us anthology, blurbed my forthcoming book about a woman with anxiety and depression readjusting to her life after an eight-month inpatient experience. This connection is one I couldn’t have made without the Spoonie community and without the both personal and professional support folks have offered.
All of that has led me to the Spoonie Author’s Network and in all honesty, I’m excited and afraid to be here. Excited to keep growing my community, and afraid to make myself so vulnerable in a place where anyone can read about my experiences. But I guess part of breaking the stigma is doing just that.
Other than being a chronically ill author, I’m an activist, currently making calls for local candidates in North Carolina with Downhome NC. I’m a podcast producer and managing editor with The Nasiona, working on projects around race and mixed-race families. I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd, dog lover, and New Yorker.
So now that you know a little bit about me, I guess I’ll get started on writing the bigger stuff. Oh boy. Wish me luck.
Nicole Zelniker (she/her) is a writer, activist, and podcast producer at The Nasiona. Nicole is also the author of Mixed, a non-fiction book about race and mixed-race families, and Last Dance, a collection of short stories. Dress Rehearsal, another short fiction piece, appears in the award-nominated Nothing Without Us anthology. You can check out the rest of Nicole’s work at nicolezelniker.com and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Medium.