Posts Tagged ‘disability’

Seeking Awareness or Seeking Pity?

June 29, 2012

When a girl posts a status on facebook along the lines of: “I’m so lonely, why does nobody love me?” we note this is a case of self-pity. This status usually emerges from a girl who only goes three days without a boyfriend. This brings me to my next point: look at the comments on said status; a stream of friends telling her that she’s beautiful, countless hearts made up of punctuation and of course the standard “Awh babe xxxx”. You realise that this girl is seeking awareness. Social networking sites are there to let people know who we are with, who we are friends with and that we are in fact alive.

Let’s take a more serious case. A young teenage girl is left disabled after an accident. From ‘normal’ to ‘the centre of attention’ to (in her own words) ‘forgotten’ She tells others quite vocally that has no friends, no life and nothing to do. We listen and assure her of all the good things in her life however there is a fine, fine line. Her cry for help/awareness is taking over.  Is it right to make everyone painfully aware of her own unhappiness or is she pushing herself into a worse position than before?

I was told to always be happy; no one wants to be friends with a sad person. That’s what I did, I never voluntarily spoke about my spina bifida until a certain point in the friendship. Shouldn’t we encourage others not to linger on what’s happened? Being bitter is the start of a long slippery slope. It’s right to remember and remind others of our past, good or bad, but how can we expect others to see ourselves as ‘us’, when we are tugging a massive elephant into the room?

The girl I’ve mentioned is beautiful, bright and talented. I want to scream at people who think otherwise or see her as ‘disabled’! Is her public declaration of unhappiness a sign of desperation or is it honesty?

What would she be like?

September 3, 2011

What would she be like? The girl born on the twenty-third of the third month of the year that is the year I was born.

 Do her legs slot into drain pipe jeans with shape and dignity?

Do her feet melt into high heels?

 Is her back as smooth as a back should be?

Maybe her skin is marked with the time people tried to repair her; maybe not.

Would her life be all that different? I’m not sure how deep the damage goes. Maybe her favourite colour would be purple and she would enjoy the smell of rain.

She’d be a dancer, one that trains for hours on end, although I’m not sure that she would pursue it. You see, she always excelled in math and English, perhaps a degree in English literature in Edinburgh or maybe she would become a business women, in a black pencil skirt and jacket with killer high heels to match.

She would settle down early but keep her head above water in the business department. A wedding dress down to her ankles, showing off simple white heels, decorated with lace.  Her children would be healthy and she would run with them as they battled each other in a game of cowboys and Indians. She would be a cow girl. She would work abroad and eventually move there for several months however she’d return to be with her family.

Later on in life she would retire, spend years with friends going to fitness classes and wasting time at spas in dressing gowns. Her children would grow into musicians who speak at least two different languages. They’d be successful at work and take their parents to dinner to celebrate birthdays.

Eventually she would grow old with her husband and whilst putting out the rubbish they would wonder how it got so good.

She’d look back at her life; the parties, the shoes, the work and she’d be proud.

The truth is, she would probably hate her freckley skin and straighten her hair to cover the curls. She would regret not going onto become a professional dancer.

Her friend would give birth in Holland to a girl with a ‘defect’ and she would write a ‘thinking of you’ card enclosed with the ‘Congratulations’ card. She wouldn’t know what to say to her so simply write “To Ben and Caroline, Love Amy and the family”. The scar on the inside of her foot, where she trod on glass as a child would bother her, she would use bio oil to cover the pink patch and would wear shoes to cover the unholy blemish. She would have gone to hospital on many occasions, her birth, her child’s birth, her second child’s birth and her husband’s death. On top of these would be the odd visits to a relative or friend, she would skip the canteen for fear of hospital food and leave.

She’s a good person, a nice person. She cares for others and many care for her. She gives to charities and is a shoulder to cry on. She’s different to me. We’re not really the same person at all.

I wonder if we had the chance to cross one another in the street, who would stare at who? The jealous or the curious; which is better?

Girl + Boy + Wheelchair = Hmm.

January 26, 2010

I just read a Yahoo question; a boy was telling yahoo that a while ago he met a beautiful girl and became friends with her, however now he has started ‘liking her a lot more then friends’. The thing is, she’s in a wheelchair and he’s not sure if he could cope with it- her disability that is. Most of the answers tell him that if he’s even thinking about that then he is not the man for her, others tell him to gain some confidence and tell her how he feels, that way he could ask the questions he needs to.

I don’t know what I think.

If I was the ‘girl’ in this situation and I found out my ‘friend’ had posted this on yahoo, I would probably be rather upset. Here’s this guy that I might have feelings for and he’s worried about my wheelchair. However on the other hand I think: “Sure, that’s a fair enough question; I might be that way if I was in his shoes”. I just can’t get my head round it. For years I’ve wondered if boys think that way about me, it’d explain a lot, trust me. In fact only one person, yes a boy, has ever asked me out right: “Can you have children?” I didn’t know what to say at the time! I asked my Mum because obviously she has all the answers but it just made me worry about my future and I’m only 17!!

If other people are thinking that way about my future now, what am I going to be like when I actually have to deal with it?

I went to a new clinic the other day, it specialises in people with Spina bifida (wheey!) and whilst I was there I actually felt like I could be cared for in the right way, they can give me the independence I need but also give me the answers for the questions I have, or other people have that I don’t even think of!

I’m going to answer him as if a boy friend of mine had asked me the same question:

People with disabilities can win gold medals, get on the catwalk and climb mountains. Now why would we not be able to be in a relationship? P.W.D.’s get married all the time, sometimes to other P.W.D.’s but often to people without them. If you want to love me, you love all of me, that’s wheels included.

Ali

X

P.W.D.’s = People With ‘Dis’abilities (We should have t-shirts, I know!)

My Poker Face

August 27, 2009

Lady-Gaga11For the last month or so I have been having a rest from performing, I act you see. I do local am dram shows and shows with my college as well as the odd favour for a friend. I sing as well, mostly just musical theatre but you’ll find me in a band or a solo concert every now and then. The thing is; I hate performing as myself. I find it much easier to immerse myself into a character…it’s such a cliché but I really do believe it’s what gives me the confidence to get up on stage and loose myself.

Many people turn to me and ask how I can fully get into character whilst in a wheelchair but I just don’t think of it like that, it just disappears and a lot of people say that they don’t notice the wheelchair whilst I’m performing anyway…whether this is just them being nice is another story!

The reason I started acting in the first place was because I used to act differently in everyday life. I would be in the car with my parents and start talking in an American accent, or be sitting in my bedroom talking to myself, making up scenes on the spot to an invisible audience, for no particular reason. When I was in year eight at school I enrolled in drama classes. It was a massive release for me and really changed me as a person…I went from having no friends to making plenty, most of whom I still see to this day. I was quiet and reserved before I started acting and now, although I’m still naturally shy as a person, I feel I have gained an inner confidence… or is it an inner acceptance?

My Gaga (Grandad-long story) asked me today “What do the audience want from a show?” and I replied “They want to be engaged and immersed in a form of make believe” It made me realise that maybe this is what I do every day. I changed when I started acting, I made new friends and cut my hair but the question which keeps eating me up inside is: Is the ‘new’ me just another character in my pocket? Or did I actually become myself by pretending to be other people? I don’t know, I really don’t and I worry sometimes that one day, my mask will be knocked down and the real me will come out again. Will my friends still love me then? Bloody hell, this is deep eh?!

I’m still talking to myself by the way, although I’ve graduated from the mirror in my bedroom to talking to myself whilst driving late at night through abandoned towns….I swear to god one day someone will see me and report me and I won’t be allowed to drive anymore; it’s bad enough that I tend to sing Lady Gaga at the top of my voice whilst driving, god knows what people will think when they realise I talk to myself as well. Hopefully they will understand that it is my way of working things out and understanding how people think.

My Mum thinks I’m quiet at the moment, that I’m not telling her things, the truth is that I’m just trying to work things out in my head, I’ve suddenly realised that I’m in a wheelchair; that I can’t just go and sleep round my friends house’s, that I can’t go out and get drunk every night and it hurts; it really does. It feels like someone’s chipping into my well crafted character and telling me I’m interpreting it in the wrong way.

I’m constantly telling people to be themselves but I’m so frightened that I’m the one I should be telling that to…and I’m not listening.

Ali x

P.S. For those of you who are interested: Yes I love Lady Gaga, she’s the only chart music I listen to, the reason I love her is because everything she does is a stunning performance….and yes another reason is the fact that she is someone else when she’s on stage, watch her perform, it’s a beautiful example of some ones Poker Face (see what I did there?!).

‘IMPERFECT’ Campaign + listed buildings…

August 8, 2009

bloga+fI’ve recently come across the new ‘IMPERFECT’ campaign which has been set up off the back of Riam Deans case against Abercrombie and Fitch. I don’t fully understand the case but as far as I am aware the store in London discriminated Riam by making her work in the stockroom because she didn’t fit in with their “look policy”. Riam wears a prosthetic arm due to being born with her left limb missing, this apparently goes against the look Abercrombie and Fitch want to create for their customers. Riam is in the process of suing Abercrombie and Fitch on grounds of discrimination in the workplace. More information on the case can be found at http://www.imperfect.uk.com, they will be able to explain it far better than myself!

What I find so refreshing about this campaign is that its aim is to not only banish discrimination against ‘dis’ability in the work place but in society as a whole. Another element which draws this campaign apart from similar ‘say-no-to-discrimination’ campaigns is that it is run by Riam Dean and Sophie Morgan (some of you might know Sophie through her artwork/photography or from her appearance on ‘Britain’s Missing Top Model’), both of who are young women living with ‘dis’abilities making an impact on the younger generation…and from the reaction they are getting from their IMPERFECT campaign they are certainly reaching the right people. How bloody brilliant!

Back to Abercrombie and Fitch. After reading Riams story I feel slightly ashamed to say that I have indeed purchased many items from the store…I’m ready to be called a hypocrite BUT (and this is a very big but) I brought them in the US, long before Riams encounter with the store. Back in New York I felt the store was well laid out, accessible, inviting, the staff were helpful and the products were good. So when I got back to England and trekked up to their London store you can imagine how frustrating it was to be turned away from the front door due to steps and taken round to a side entrance “You get the VIP treatment!” the lady sheepishly smiled. Funny that, felt more like I was being smuggled in under a blanket…Once in the store I took a wander about, battling with the occasional narrow door and every so often a small step, “Where are the ladies hoodies?” I asked the same woman who had let me in the ‘V.I.P.’ entrance (who by the way seemed to follow me round like a bad smell) “They are up stairs” she replied. “Oh, so where’s your lift?” her smile faded. “Well unfortunately due to the old, listed building and the layout of the store, we don’t have one…but I can bring some products down for you?” I contemplated the idea of making the poor woman run around the store for me, making her grab items I never really considered buying, but alas I felt rather mean (not to mention I didn’t want the fuss) and so I waited for the rest of my party at the bottom of the stairs as they searched through the clothes above me, every so often bringing a hoodie down to show me, needless to say I didn’t buy anything, neither did anyone else I was with, seemed a bit, wrong.

I am not saying that Abercrombie and Fitch is the only store that doesn’t have lifts or doesn’t cater for disabled customers, in fact half the local shops in my area are completely inconvenient, it seems as though the government are hung up on keeping buildings the way they were, listing them, banning lifts/ramps to keep things looking the way they have always done. Surely now though, it is time to change, time to let us wheelchair users have access the coats and bags on the second floor.

Ali x

For more information on Riams case or to support a brilliant campaign go to:
http://www.imperfect.uk.com

If you are affected/offended by the content of my blog, please contact me.

The Worth Of Our Bodies

August 8, 2009
The Worth Of Our BodiesAs a teenager I witnessed many cases of self harming in my peer group. The reasons for which varied from person to person, at the back of the classroom sat the girl with her long sleeved jumper in the middle of summer embarrassed by her apparent need to be in control. Out on the school field stood the girl with the short sleeves, bandage loose from taking it off so many times, showing her ‘war wounds’ to anyone who would pay attention. I am not about to deny what I once did and yes it was a control issue but I dealt with it properly and fortunately did not become addicted to a problem I now feel very strongly about.I understand why people do it and how distressing it can be but after recent events in which I have seen a young friend of mine robbed of all control, in an accident which fate should never have let happen, I have a new found love for the bodies we are given. We only get one of body, unless of course you count surgery which of course is a god send to people who have had similar accidents like my friend, surely this is a reason to look after the ones we have, isn’t the control we seek in keeping our bodies away from harm?

So when I got home today and learnt that an acquaintance of mine had been self harming I was alarmed, worried about this person, slightly frustrated that he would harm is own body when a girl lie in a hospital fighting to regain the control he has abused. I spoke with him, told him I was there for him, I feel I was sympathetic however it was then he asked if I would like to see the scars the following day, I was told that he would show everyone in our class…alarm bells. Was this acquaintance abusing his body for control or attention?

I have had many operations to make my body ‘normal’, to improve my lack of ability. When I was young I didn’t understand; it has only been in recent years in which I have become offended by the constant stream of doctors telling me what is wrong with me and what needs to be improved. This has made me more determined to keep my body the way it is, the ironic thing being that it was the problems which followed my many hospital visits which made me self harm in the first place.

This makes me wander, should children/young adults be told what there is to lose if they self harm/starve themselves into anorexia or should they be told what there is to gain in taking pride and control of their own bodies?

Ali x

For more information on self harming:

http://www.mind.org.uk/Information/Booklets/Understanding/Understanding+self-harm.htm

For help:

http://www.thesite.org/healthandwellbeing/mentalhealth/selfharm

If you are offended/affected by the content of my blog please contact me or follow the above links.