Saturday, 18 February 2017

Assignments, social attitudes and a lot of coffee!

Now you wouldn’t class this as your typical ‘student Saturday night’, but here I am writing a blog post and in all honesty it is probably a better option considering how busy my week has been! Halfway through the second semester of university can only mean two things, reading week (AKA no lectures for a week) and assignments.

One of the assignments that I completed this week was about social attitudes, more specifically the attitudes around disability, which actually made me stop and think. We live in a world where disability is often betrayed as a negative, it is seen as a weakness. When in reality is that really true? Yes, it may cause a weakness in some respect, for me that is a physical weakness, but is that a weakness of character or make me any more human than the next person- of course not! Yet when searching ‘stereotypes of disability’ this is the first thing that came up: “Tragic figures whom society should pity. According to them, the burden of disability is unending; life with a disabled person is a life of constant sorrow and agony and that the able-bodied stand under a continual obligation to help them.” Let’s stop there before this all gets entirely absurd!

When in fact, attitudes towards disability can be positive. Not only that, but it has been proven that if the individual has more interaction with someone who has a disability then their attitudes can only improve. All of this can be extremely useful for inclusion and continually demonstrates the need for including disabled children and adults within the community and allowing more mainstream schools to take on pupils with SEN. By doing so, this will not only mean the general public have a more positive attitude towards disability but also provide the disabled individual with a positive self- image, which surely is just as important.

I believe change is just around the corner.

Diversity is becoming more and more accepted within society and it is just so exciting to be the generation to be at the front of this revolution. Slowly people are learning that I am not an inspiration for getting out of bed, that it is not incredible if I leave the house and that it is not a shock if I don’t know your friend who happens to use a wheelchair. That change may be small in all of the world’s problems, but it is a change that will lead onto a fully inclusive place to live- now wouldn't that be wonderful?!

I certainly consider charities like Scope have allowed this to progress over recent years. They have been running ‘End the Awkward’ campaigns for three years to promote a more positive attitude towards disability. These campaigns have ensured that all blog posts, adverts, YouTube videos and pictures follow a positive message about disability, as well as making the disabled individuals relatable and showing how this kind of interaction should not be awkward. I have been so fortunate to be one of those individuals who has been allowed to be part of this. I have had the chance to be part of such a positive movement within Scope and be someone who can change the attitudes that people have about disability. I may write a blog about Cerebral Palsy, and yes this blog is a very big part of my life (because what else would I do on a Saturday night?), but I hope you see me for more than that.

I hope you don’t just see me as a disabled person, but as a writer, a friend, a psychology student, as an individual who probably owns way too many floral dress… yet will most definitely buy more. People are way more than the conditions that they have, the fact that this is starting to be known by society makes the future even more exciting.

Anyone want to finish my other assignment for me? No, don’t blame you!

~Chloe x

Thursday, 2 February 2017

An open letter to disability hate crime

This is not a negative blog post, it is an empowering one.

I was involved in a disability hate crime 8th October 2015 at about 10:30pm.

This letter was written in July 2016 after I finally was able to put together some of my thoughts about how I actually felt.

Now in 2017 I would like to share this with you all, not to serve any great purpose, but we all like a new year to be a fresh start, don't we?

"Dear disability hate crime,

I don’t think you quite realise the consequence of your actions, it has been nearly 9 months and it still can affect me. Who would have thought that a few seconds could cause such strong emotion of anger, hopelessness and vulnerability like it did. How would you feel to be stuck in one position and out of nowhere something comes into your personal space? I was trapped and you, as an acquaintance, decided to take advantage of this- I want to know why. The evening you choose to be immature was 8th October at about 10:30pm and I had just been on a night out into Leeds with a group of friends. Due to my complex health needs, I actually find it incredibly difficult to go out for longer periods of time. With my chronic fatigue, it can leave me feeling like I’ve been awake for days at a time when it has actually only been a matter of hours, when this is mixed with chronic pain I ache from head to toe and at times it can be hard to simply function. On 8th October it was the first time that I had been out on a proper 'night out' since my health has gone downhill and was such a massive step for me to take.

Actions speak louder than words and I guess in this instance that is true. After what you decided to immaturely do it has had a large impact. Some of my friends are now distance and hesitant to go anywhere with me. I know for a fact that it has been hard for them to come to terms with my health conditions over the years and this has been extremely hard to see. How am I supposed to accept the diagnosis if other people around me cannot? - and it is people like you in society who make this happen. This cannot be said for all my friendships but certainly enough people, yet they cannot be blamed for their actions, I understand the extra pressure that things like this can have on a friendship. .I have seen myself get less mobile and in more pain and it seems with every event and every progression within my diagnosis they have taken another step backwards. People like you who see it as a negative and choose to follow the views held by society about how we shouldn’t have the same respect as others and be seen as less should be extremely ashamed.

 People say that there is equality in this world, well you obviously don’t and that needs to change. How dare you think that I am any less, or imply so. Just because you had the added advantage of mobility and could run away from the situation doesn’t mean that you are any better. Adjusting to life using a wheelchair part time is one of the hardest things I have ever done and it is the inconsiderate people like you who make this harder than it already is. Targeting me for such an irrelevant part of myself is entirely disgusting. To take a small part of me (which you may have seen as an advantage) and then to see me as nothing more then that is ignorant and uneducated in what a disability actually is. Yes, I may have cerebral palsy but do you actually know what that is? It means that my muscles don’t respond the way they should, either being too tight or too loose due to slight brain damaged caused at birth- and that it is. The rest of my brain is fine, my intelligence is fine, my ability to become hurt and angry is not affected. My ability to go out and have fun is not affected by any condition I may have, but affected when people like you choose to do something stupid and fail to be kind, fail to just show a little consideration for other people. People like you who target others based on such a small aspect of their life.

I am a positive person and I will look for the good in any situation regardless of how small that is. As a result of your actions it actually made me look into hate crime a lot more than I had done previously, it made me research and more motivated to make a change. On the other hand, I am not going to lie to you and say that makes it okay.


Now in 2017 I would like to share this with you all, not to serve any great purpose, but we all like a new year to be a fresh start, don't we?

This letter was written in July 2016 after I finally was able to put together some of my thoughts about how I actually felt.

I was involved in a disability hate crime 8th October 2015 at about 10:30pm.

This is not a negative blog post, it is an empowering one. 

~ Chloe x

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

University updates...

So, how is university going? The simple answer to that question would be that it is going very well! With the run up to Christmas being surrounded by assignment deadlines, coming to the end of my first modules and buying presents, the thought of how it was all going totally slipped my mind. 

As you can imagine the Christmas period was a great time to meet up with friends who I hadn't seen since we all parted in September, going our separate ways and starting a new journey. Now I find myself just about to start the third week of the second semester, where on earth has time gone?! Unfortunately, I have recently just got out of hospital (again) after another cluster of uncontrolled seizures and damaging my hip- which probably won't help with trying to remember the timing of things! Hopefully in a few weeks that will have settled down a little bit more and allow me to continue with university, meeting up with friends and the other things, like blogging, that I usually get up to. I actually do have quite a few blog posts that are half written so I hope to be posting more in the upcoming months to get 2017 started and get back into the flow of giving you all regular updates, so I apologise if post have been a little thin on the ground lately- all a working progress!

If I think back to last semester it seems so long ago, with the lasting memories being the madness of getting assignments all completed and submitted so Christmas could be enjoyed. Apart from the hectic final two weeks it has been such a good experience. Making friends with people who consider a cozy night in to be watching Disney films is the way forward and definitely something that needs to happen more often this semester, as long as the cocktail nights happen as well! I haven't received all of my assignments back just yet but the one that I have back was a high first that I was extremely happy about! Fortunately, I am still loving studying psychology and actually prefer the modules the topics that are been looked at this semester- just so much to take in during a relatively short period of time. I believe that staying out of hospital will most certainly help with the ability to stay on top of my workload...

This year has already been successful, when on 7th January I was lucky enough to go on to BBC Radio Leeds and talk about this blog, along with some recent achievements of mine and generally raising awareness about Cerebral Palsy (what else would I want to be doing first thing on a Saturday morning?!). If you would like to listen to my interview then click here. This was such an amazing experience, one that even got me noticed in a local coffee shop later on that day! There was me thinking that I would be hidden as it was the radio, then an old lady goes and recognizes my voice. Talking of raising awareness, there are several magazine articles that I am in the process of writing which is another opportunity that I hope to expand on in the next few months and can't wait to share with you all- one of them being a guest blog for my university which should be published in the next few days!

I may have only just started my second semester at university, or so it seems, yet I am currently in the process of looking at houses for my second year of studying. I know for any university student (especially first years) that this can be an exciting, but daunting task that can take a lot of planning and communication between the people that you will be moving in with. Trying to get the balance of being near to the university campus so you will actually attend and near public transport, town centres and leisure activities (coffee shops). Throw a wheelchair at the situation and it actually becomes a lot harder than it already was! Firstly, I would like to thank the people who I am moving in with for doing a lot of planning and explaining on my behalf as I was unwell in the crucial week of trying to explain our needs to estate agents and looking around some properties in the local area. Things like having a downstairs bedroom/ bathroom all seem pretty straightforward, and luckily in student accomodation this is quite common with tenants trying to get more people into one house. Yet the concept of having narrow corridors in a house won't cross your mind unless there is the high chance that a wheelchair would need to fit down them, even smaller door frames which might mean that I trap my hands everytime I go in and out, and did you think about having a shower door that opens enough to allow a chair to be put in there? I know for a fact that a few years ago none of these would have crossed my mind! Yet it is often the small things, like having an open house (allowing someone who uses a wheelchair to turn more easily) that would have such a huge impact. I am sure it will not be much longer until we find the one for us!

Off to go and write up some lecture notes, might even open a textbook or two! Why are they always so big?! and hopefully work on some further pieces of writing for you all!

~ Chloe x

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016, what have you meant to me?

It's pretty normal to get to this time of year and reflect on the last 12 months, but what has 2016 meant to me? This year is actually extremely hard to put into words. I hope you just continue to follow this journey and have enjoyed reading my posts throughout the year!

I've been hospitalised more times this year than I have in my life, going from one extreme to the other with my health. While things have improved I've certainly had my fair share of knocks to slow down this process. I'm sorry for starting with such a negative topic, but these things happen, it's been a big part of my year- just not the only factor of my year. It's even been suggested that hospital appointments should be an added module for my university course! Although physically I may be struggling at the moment, earlier this year I was walking the best I have in a very long time and know for certain it is possible to get this back in 2017- hopefully keeping it up for a little longer this time! Medically it has also meant that this year I had the transition from child to adult services (in most things) and in others seemed to be left floating in the middle. This year I've been through a lot of different health departments, some being able to provide answers and some not. Yet their favourite phrase has been "your case is too complex for me, I'll refer you to the specialist", trust me when I say this gets boring pretty quickly! Some answers have been found in 2016 and I would definitely say they are closer to figuring out things like pain and seizures, yet this is something that will continue to be part of 2017.

However, it most certainly has not been all doom and gloom, in terms of education I don't think I could be happier. Gaining better A- Level results then I honestly thought I was going to get and starting a brand new chapter at university. This in itself was a massive step, moving away from home, starting a new course- hiring PA's to ensure my independence and safety. My Sixth Form gave me so much confidence which has only helped me on my university adventure. Despite only starting this September I've managed to settle in really well and made some great friends who I cannot wait to spend the next few years with. Managing education along with everything else that is going on has never been the easiest, did you know people with cerebral palsy use 3 to 5 times more energy than everyone else? I am not surprised we are all tired! When looking through my past posts I know that I said (many times) that I wanted to be an occupational therapist. When it came to applying to university I changed my mind, not only because I wouldn't pass health exams, but also due to studying psychology at A- Level. This is why I cannot think of a better course than psychology and child development for me to study! Although I know I want to work with children, the fact that it is all very open at the moment is great- who knows where I will end up!

Another big part of my life is this blog, and the vast number of opportunities this has provided over the last few years, with the last few months being the best yet! Did you know that over the last 12 months I've been able to DOUBLE my page views from 13,000 on 1st January 2016 to 26,000 December 2016? This alone is unbelievable and actually leaves me speechless. I write because I love writing, I honestly couldn't imagine not writing a blog anymore. It's become the norm to educate, to bring about change and to be honest about my own experiences, but that's fuelled by a passion for understanding. That understanding could be through educating people who have no idea of the medically challenges I face, or getting others to understand that they are not alone in their journey. Why do something alone when you can do it together? It can't get much simpler then that.

When thinking of the opportunities I have been given this year I'm completely blown away. One thing has led to another and it's snowballed more than my wildest dreams. I became a writer for an organisation called 'The Mighty' and have had three pieces of work published for them as well as continuing to work with Scope and having four pieces of writing published across this year. As well as continuing to work closely with CP Teens UK, an organisation that means a great deal to me! Also, over the last 12 months I've gained five awards, two being at a national level!!! Chances like these have meant I've been able to expand my work so much further than before, yet this is what has made this year truly special. I didn't expect to achieve this in a lifetime, not to mention one year! I've been to some pretty fancy award ceremony's this year, any excuse for a new dress, right? It is these evenings that have meant so much. It is these evenings where you sit back and appreciate life. You become so inspired by people in that room who have faced so much, who have achieved so much, who have so much wisdom to give.  I love hearing about what they have done, what positive changes they are putting into the world. To be in a room with other people who have such passion about life, and the stories they have to tell- it honestly is a feeling like no other. 

This year has shown me that anything is possible. Don't take things for granted because you don't know how long it will be there, but enjoy! Enjoy every single moment that you can, and carry on doing what you love. 

Wishing you all the best for 2017!

~ Chloe x