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The Validity of Invisible Disabilities

Interview of Shayne by Laneikka Denne

Shayne is a queer writer and actor who has written their debut play dog about their lived experience with OCD. The play unpacks what it is to live with mental ill health/an invisible disability. I, Laneikka, was lucky enough to chat to Shayne about their new play and all things mental health.

LANEIKKA: Before we started this interview, I was about to write that you are a ‘disabled, queer creative’ but then realised I hadn’t asked you how you identify. How would you describe yourself, Shayne?

SHAYNE: I would describe myself as… wait did you say queer? Because I’m queer for sure! (laughing) Yeah, the disability thing… I feel like I don’t deserve to have ‘disabled’ as a title, but like, it’s hard because I definitely have a disabling mental health condition. I am disabled by OCD at times but also it ebbs and flows. I mean look, it’s rare that I’m not too disabled by it but I don’t know… to me having the freedom to not feel like I have a disability sometimes – makes it feel like it’s not a disability…

LANEIKKA: I think what you’ve just said is the definition of an invisible disability! It’s becoming more prevalent that some disabilities do change in their intensity but that doesn’t take away the validity of your invisible disability, if that’s how you identify?

SHAYNE: Yeah, well when you say it like that, I absolutely have a disability. Yeah.

Sometimes I feel like because there are so many different categories within the disabled community, validating that I have a disability, like OCD, can feel like I am taking away the validity of someone else’s disability, you get what I mean?

I have sort of manoeuvred my life around OCD for so long like… that is just how my brain operates. Yeah – it’s hard and yes, sometimes I’m so bad I can’t leave my house or I spend 2 million minutes in the shower but like – I always have? So it’s hard to take a step back out of that and go… ‘Other people aren’t disabled by their thoughts…?!’ When it actually disables my everyday function.

LANEIKKA: Fully. I feel like there’s also this connotation that being disabled is a bad thing? When it’s actually just part of who you are and how you live. Disabled people are just living their lives with the highs and the lows and that doesn’t make them any less disabled.

SHAYNE: Yeah. Absolutely.

LANEIKKA: There are also 4.4 million people living with one or more disabilities in Australia. At least 90 percent of these people have one or more invisible disabilities, yet I rarely hear conversation around invisible disabilities. Why do you think that’s the case?

SHAYNE: I feel like it’s what we are talking about. Where people feel like they don’t deserve to talk about invisible disabilities… If there’s a textbook definition of something that is ‘disabling’ they would identify with it but, maybe it still doesn’t feel valid. It’s like what you were talking about how people can have a disability and still have all the peaks and the lows but for me I sometimes feel like I have more highs than lows at times… and I have this misconception that ‘well if I’m not low all of the time I’m not valid to say that I have a disability’ which is a shitty way of thinking because I don’t agree that a disability makes a person’s life awful all of the time.

LANEIKKA: What misconceptions have you experienced from others in relation to your diagnosis?

SHAYNE: That I will get 100 percent better and like, I won’t have OCD anymore. That OCD is something that is curable which is hard because then I feel like there’s an expectation that I can’t have OCD? In certain situations or with certain people because they have hope that I will not have it one day… (Shayne gets emotional) which just isn’t how it works really. It’s kind of something I’m going to have to live with and alongside for the rest of my life. Which is fine, it’s just about accepting that… There’s the misconception that everybody has a level of OCD, of course I can’t diagnose you but it is hard when people say ‘I get that’ and you just feel like ‘I don’t know that you do. I hope you don’t ‘get it’.’

LANEIKKA: How has your play dog come to be? Is it based on your lived experience?

SHAYNE: Yeah, it’s based on my lived experience with OCD. I have sort of an ever-changing category of Contamination OCD. I wanted to give space on a stage to what real people go through with OCD and that hopefully people who don’t have OCD will see the show and can witness what OCD, in this very specific-to-me-type-of-way does.

LANEIKKA: At times having an invisible disability can be challenging but it can also be a superpower. What strength and joy do you think your OCD gives you?

SHAYNE: Oh… I feel super weird saying this because it’s like I’m giving myself a compliment but I guess… I care about people? And that’s nice, I think. That’s a nice trait to have, to like genuinely care about people, even people I don’t know… I think if I heard someone else was out there caring about me that I didn’t know. That would be a nice feeling to know.

LANEIKKA: That is so wholesome… So, what we really want to know is where can we come watch this incredible play?

SHAYNE: Well dog is on at KXT on Broadway May 24 – June 8. On Sunday Performances there are panels after each show. On the 26th May it’s a panel on The misconceptions around OCD, invisible disabilities and mental health we have the Deputy Commissioner of the Mental Health Commission NSW speaking on the panel so I’m super excited. Then on Sunday 2nd June we have a panel on Men’s Share Night: Addiction, Mental Health and how to get help – I’m really excited for the community initiatives outside the play because it keeps the conversation going and gives people the opportunity to ask questions. I’m sure you’ll link the tickets below.

LANEIKKA: Haha. Yeah I’ll do that here.

SHAYNE: Follow us on socials too! @dogkxt2024

LANEIKKA: Yay! Thanks for chatting Shayne – your story and life is really inspiring and I’m so thankful for you taking the time to be vulnerable with me today.

SHAYNE: Thank you for chat. It’s been really soothing 🙂


Laneikka is a queer writer and actor. They have worked on shows at Belvoir, KXT and in the film and tv writers rooms occasionally. They actively speak out about gender and queer representation and issues. You can follow them @laneikka

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