“Yes, we’re fully accessible” – but are uyou?

If disability is more than just wheelchairs, then access is more than just ramps

That was something I tweeted some time ago, and I used it in a conference presentation, because I knew it was one of the most profound things to ever come out of my mouth.

If disability is more than just wheelchairs-

Disability is more than just what walking aid a person uses (if any). Many are invisible, and yes, under the social model of disability, things like mental illnesses and chronic illnesses are impairments that cause the person to experience disabling barriers.

Let’s take me for example:

My impairments are:

– Anxiety (a mental health issue)

– Dyspraxia (a neurological impairment/ specific learning difficulty)

– Joint hyper-mobility syndrome (joint problems and chronic pain)

All of these are impairments that make me a disabled person, and – surprise- I don’t use a wheelchair, and most of my impairments can’t be seen to the naked eye (I use a crutch because of JHMS on a regular basis)

Access is more than just ramps

So that leads us onto the next part- if disability is more than just wheelchairs, then the scale of access issues people may face goes beyond just having a ramp to get into the building, and a disabled toilet.

What happens if the environment is too loud?

Or the signs showing you what room to go to are absolutely terrible or non existent?

Even at the level of getting in, can the disabled person access all floors/areas of the building?

If the answer is no, then it’s not accessible!

I don’t just want this to be another long angry post, so if you think what I’ve said makes a good point, please consider taking a few moments to review a place you usually go, thinking about it’s access, via Euan’s Guide.

The website is great, but it relies on people reviewing the usual places they go everyday! Consider yourselves recruited!

Click here to go to Euan’s Guide

Until next time.

Becca 🙂

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Imposter syndrome – my new arch nemesis

(Written as part of mental health awareness week!)

So it’s that time again- it’s mental health awareness week!

I’ve documented on this blog my previous, and some persisting, mental health issues on this blog.

But this year something new started.

It’s called “imposter syndrome”

And at first, it hid as being a humble person

“Yeah I know my mum is proud of me”

“No I’m really not that clever, honestly”

“Yeah uni is going alright”

In reality uni is going extremely well for me. I’m on track to start my PhD in September. But I still struggle to be proud of my achievements. I’m still shocked when I get a good grade. Every tiny mistake brings the fear of being “found out” by my peers or lecturers, that I’m not as great as everyone thinks I am.

It’s a common problem, I suppose, with the way our systems of social mobility are structured.

You started at the bottom, and you could quite easily end up back there with one ‘wrong move’

I’m having to teach myself to be proud, and actually talk about my achievements without passing them off as nothing.

University is hard- especially as a disabled person.

And it’s about time I acknowledged that.

I’m not an imposter. I’m a disabled, bisexual, passionate academic woman (who really likes cats and live music)

Becca 🙂

This is a disability assessment 

This is a disability assessment
This is for Personal Independence Payment
This is death
This is humiliation 
This is judgement day 
This is the fine line between scrounger and innocent 
This is the difference between food bank or a food shop
This is being able to heat your home
This is the key your freedom 
This is the key your destitution
This is your fate- decided
This is a prompt for a UN enquiry
This is a test 

This is a trial 

This is ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘sometimes’

This is the way the government defines disability
This is wrong 
This needs to stop 
This kills disabled people
When will that be enough?

Image credit: http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2013/03/29/our-last-good-friday-easter-monday-beginning-of-the-end-for-uk-poor/

Mental health awareness week? Hold my beer…

(I actually prefer cider or amaretto liquor, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it)

So this is my first 100% open documentation of my mental health issues.

I’ve been in and out of some form of talking therapy since I was 15.

My anxiety, and in my early adulthood, my depression have been probably the worst experiences of my life.
My anxiety still rears its ugly head now. Example: talking on the phone, or meeting new people. On really bad days people can just look at me (which happens a lot because I walk with a crutch now) and I just know they were talking about me (they weren’t- sometimes they do coz it’s unusual to see a young person with a walking aid)

It surprises my friends when my family say how quiet I am.

Because once of a day I spent my days hating myself and never leaving the house. Ever.

When I was 15, I actually decided to seek help my anxiety. GCSES we’re approaching, and as far as I was concerned, I was completely and utterly stupid.

[it later transpired in adulthood that I had a learning difficulty]

So I went to knock on the school councellor’s door, ran away and cried to my form tutor that I needed help. I was ashamed. 

So I was talked through some stuff, and taught that if I faked confidence long enough it would become second nature.

Now I’m a pseudo-narsastic comedic arse hole of a young adult, so I suppose it rubbed off the wrong way.
Anyway–

I basically hated high school. Not so much the learning- I love learning new stuff- but the social side of high school was horrible. I was bullied, both in person and cyber bullied, and had friends who actually turned out to want to make my life Hell (and some good friends too) I just didn’t fit in and did not belong. It wasn’t cool to be geeky.

So I saw two councellors in this time and survived.

I went to college. College was worse.

I felt like I was getting no where- everyone seemed to know what they were doing. Except me. My work placements weren’t going well either. I was too quiet and shy, and even stammered while I was there.

“Lacks common sense” was a really lovely example of some of the feedback I received.

In this time, I started to despise being a home, or around anyone. I started seeing the college’s mental health nurse. I saw my GP and got told to ‘Get out more’ but that’s easy to say when it’s only anxiety that drives you to even attend college, nevermind go anywhere else. Eventually I dropped out.

And that’s when I hit rock bottom. 

I stopped caring about myself. I actually hated my life and just wish I didn’t exist anymore. To me, my whole life had been a massive failure. Sometimes I’d try to do myself up a bit, just to walk 15 mins down the road to my grandma’s. I’d stick my key in the front door at home, take the key out and bury myself under my duvet and cry until my ribs hurt, because I just could not face leaving the house, and the Black dog would bark that no one would want me there anyway.

I started CBT and was put onto the antidepressant Flouxitine. I was 17.

After a few sessions I became angry that I hadn’t done well at college, partly because, I felt the support wasn’t there.

So I kept saying to people “yeah I’ve dropped out, but I’m going back” 

I just didn’t know when, or to do what. But at the time I was more concerned with just actually physically feeling happy again, instead of numb to even stuff I used to like doing.

It wasn’t straight sailing,

There were times when my mum would find me rhythmically lightly banging my head against my bedroom wall

The odd occasion where I’d hold a razor blade over my arm and not go through with it because I didn’t want to hurt my family even more than I was by even being here.

If there’s one thing I know people have said they admire about me, it’s my determination.

So after a few months of CBT I started volunteer work, at my mum’s advice, to give me something to do while I figured stuff out. It was once a week for 5 hours. I was quiet there too, but now they can’t shut me up.

And eventually I took myself off the antidepressants. I’d never liked the idea of being pretend-happy via drugs, and when they’ve been offered to me since, I’ve turned them down. But they did help me in the time when I was desperate.

The following year, I wrote a list of pros and cons for college courses I wanted to go on. 

In the end I chose to do my A levels. I didn’t feel clever enough for them at high school but I decided to revisit my old high school subjects would be a welcome leap back into academia (I’m a history nerd, basically) and this time I wasn’t forcing myself down another vocational route.

So off I went. I already had my GCSES so I was offered an unconditional place. It felt so good to be interviewed and have someone actually talk to me beyond just why I wanted to do the course.

So I started again. I was 2 years older than everyone else, but it made the icebreaker sessions (that I still hate) much easier.

Two weeks in I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia. That was a load off my mind

I wasn’t doing too badly. I had really supportive and encouraging tutors, so if I did feel unsure, I was reassured about how bright I was, and how hard I work.

 If I felt my anxiety creep up I went to speak to the mental health nurse who I saw before, and we’d have a quick chat. I’d normally solve my own problem, because despite all the irrational thinking of mental health causes, I’m actually quite the rational problem solver if I really try.

In the second year of my A level studies, my parents seperated. I don’t blame them at all. I went to see the mental health nurse again, because my dad went the day before I was off on a trip to a university fair. I couldn’t see past how I was going to apply for courses and think of the future when I was still trying to deal with the present.
So that’s how I ended up in the councillor’s office. Again. At this point, in our first meeting, I said “can I just point out that I know I don’t like bananas, before you say I should have one because they give you endorphins or whatever?”

So we talked about my dad, and his slight drinking problem, and my mum and sister. And also the one toxic friendship I had developed in college.

With support, I came out the other side of that. I started university.

And then the pain started. Over summer I’d been getting horrible shooting pains in my back and hips. And I got diagnosed with joint hypermobility syndrome. No cure, just pain relief for now.

Fine.

First year was tougher academically than my A levels- moreso than I expected. For a dyspraxic person, now being given high doses of codiene by the doctor when the pain got bad, trying to stay organised and top of everything at home in halls, and at uni, got too much.

Back to counselling I went, reluctantly this time. Because by this point I’d had 4, and was starting to think there was no point.

The scareiest thing, besides my head banging days, that has ever happened was when the voice inside my head wasn’t my own.

It was a collection of about 5 of them. All saying absolutely horrible things.

Luckily that’s only ever happened once.

My absolute rock throughout my degree, besides my mum has been my learning mentor + (the plus is for mental health) she’s amazing. I could tell her anything that was going on and they’d be no gasp of horror or panic to pack me off to more therapy. We’d simply sit and talk for an hour- if I needed to vent for the full hour, I did.

So, second year pretty much went by (it was stressful because my pain intensified, and second year is though for any university student) and I could feel myself sinking into familiar patterns.

My mobility had/has become restricted by pain. So, this time the depression wasn’t keeping me in. But each time I went out, it felt more scary. And then it got to the point where I grieved for my old life and all it’s wasted opportunity. If I’d have just said yes to going to x, y, z or made more an effort with a, b, c. I was also growing tired of people suggesting pseudo-miracle cures for what was now fibromyalgia and joint hypermobility.

So I got pretty depressed again. It was too late by the time I’d noticed, how many friends I’d isolated. I went to my usual pain clinic appointment, and- with gritted teeth- I asked to see a clinical psychiatrist.

We went through everything- everything I’ve pretty much written here, we talked about. Right from my painfully shy childhood to present. Including the bits in between college. I told him I didn’t want to talk about it, explaining that my very rock bottom contains memories I hate to revisit. So when I came back the following week, after a long think, I decided it was time I talked about my first long walk with the black dog.

I was discharged from psychiatry a few months ago. And with all the, I suppose trauma, mental health caused in my life addressed, this year’s mental health awareness week is a very poignant one for me.
I’m still not without days when I have to battle through- the fibro and my anxiety are definitely here to stay. But if I hadn’t have been through what I have, I don’t actually think I’d have ever dreamed of having a future as bright as I do now.
#mentalhealthawarnessweek
*hits publish and gets super anxious about being judged- I can’t help it*

 

My attempt at a poem about disability …

Society Still Judges me 
I was born premature

3 months early 

Tested for disabilities

And society judged me

I was fine

I’d struggle in life 

At school 

But I was doing fine, considering 
I had Physio until I was 7

To strengthen my legs 

I was given insoles

And society judged me

I was discharged 

A wobbly walker

But it was better 
My mum raised concerns 

With my primary school

That I was needed help

And society judged me

And she was dismissed 

Rebecca isn’t a naughty child

Rebecca is fine 
I got to high school 

Quiet, shy, and self loathing 

I went to councelling at 15

And then society judged me

I needed self esteem 

I was clearly just stupid 

Because I couldn’t keep up with learning at the pace school wanted me to

I went to college

Child care BTEC

It was overwhelming 

And then society judged me

‘You aren’t cut out for this’

‘Lacks common sense’

Heavily disorganised and a mess
At 17, I dropped out of college

My stupidity was proven 

I just could not keep up: I’d failed

And then society judged me

I was mentally ill

Depression, they called it

Drugs and CBT
At 19, better now, I reapplied to college 

I did A levels

And then society judged me

I wasn’t stupid

I had Dyspraxia and would get help

I was bright 
I passed my A levels

I went to university 

Things started to get bad again

And then society judged me

Councelling 

Failing to meet my own academic expectations 

A void of extreme homesickness and loneliness
At the same time, I was in pain

Physical pain 

‘Joint hypermobility syndrome’

And then society judged me

Here’s a leaflet 

There’s no cure

The best of luck with your studies 
In the middle of this

Were a few women

My study coach, my mum, and my friends 

And then society judged me

But they did not 
‘You’re too young to be disabled’

People would tell me

As I stood with my crutch in hand

And then society judged me

But you aren’t in a wheelchair 

But it’s not like you have cancer

And society still judges me
But I’m chronically ill 

But I have a specific learning difficulty 

But I battle with my demons daily 

And yet society still judges me

How does your disability affect you?

Asks the PIP assessor 

I’ll pray for you 

Says the total stranger 
You work so hard, you know you best

Says my support network

Who fight my corner when I cannot

And yet society still judges me

But they do not