All of this has made me think about relationships and what they really mean.
Valentine’s Day Selfies
We’ve all seen couples posting impossibly idealistic, airbrushed selfies on social media, making us believe their lives together are perfect and they couldn’t want for any more in a partner.
Ha! Who are you trying to kid? (Call me cynical).
But the truth is, when you live with someone, whether it be family, friends or a partner, you will inevitably, at times, rub each other up the wrong way and fall out. To think otherwise is, frankly, naive.
They may be senseless, petty disagreements or more serious conflicts. The important thing to consider is how you react and resolve such issues.
As the saying goes, never sleep on an argument. It may seem daft, but it’s true. An unresolved argument will just fester away.
It’s Good to Talk
Some people, somewhat understandably, choose to avoid any sort of conflict and refuse to acknowledge tension within their relationships; sweeping it under the carpet. This isn’t a healthy approach.
If you have a grievance, talk about it calmly and reasonably. Share your worries and concerns with friends, family and loved ones. Don’t bottle things up. Again, it will just fester away resulting in bitterness and resentment.
It’s Really Okay to Disagree!
We can’t all be the same. If we were, life would be very boring. You don’t have to like all the same things or agree with everything those around you think and feel in order to love them. I repeat; to think otherwise is, frankly, naive.
Kindness isn’t agreeing when you don’t, or avoiding potentially difficult conversations just to keep the peace. Kindness isn’t pretending to enjoy things you don’t simply to please others. Kindness isn’t inflating another person’s ego to make them feel good.
Kindness within relationships is about respecting each other’s views, differences, individuality and needs. It’s accepting that we are all flawed and forgiving sincere mistakes. Kindness is about caring enough to keep each other safe, supported and grounded.
This is not to say that the disability/impairment, whether temporary or permanent, is the primary cause of the mental health issue. It could be a contributing factor, or they may be completely unrelated. You might just be super lucky and have been blessed with both – Double whammy!
Equally, those struggling with their mental health will often (if not always) experience physical side effects, such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, nausea and chest pains.
Essentially, what I’m saying is, the mind affects the body and so the body affects the mind.
My Disability & Point of View
I was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy – a physical disability – that has progressed over time. I am now a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user, having lost the ability to walk at age 10.
My condition has a considerable effect on my body and physical capabilities. With the best will in the world, there are many things I cannot do.
For example, my older brother is very fit and able-bodied. He has travelled the world and often goes trekking through the countryside and climbing mountains.
I often wish I could be out there with him. It might not be everyone’s cuppa, but it would be nice, just once, to experience that sort of thrill and adrenaline rush. A real physical accomplishment whilst being in the midst of nature.
But, I can’t. And I never will. Of course, this gets me down and impacts on my mood. Yes, I wish I could walk, run, dance, be completely independent and spontaneous. But I can’t. I am limited and reliant on support from others to live my life. This is something I have no choice but to accept.
There is no treatment, no cure, and no pill I can pop to help the situation. For lack of a better phrase, it is very much a case of, deal with it!
I cannot control my disability or how it affects my body. Therefore, it is important to focus on the things I CAN do and control.
I can’t dance, so I like to watch the dancing (yes, I’m a sad, old Strictly fan. Don’t care!)
I can’t drive, so I have a passenger WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle), which allows me to get out and about.
I can’t walk or run, so I roll (with style)!
Admittedly, I’m pretty crap at sorting my own problems out. So I tend to focus on other people’s 😂 Not necessarily a good thing, but there ya go!
Living with a physical disability is a way of life. It is inflicted on us – we have not chosen this path. Similarly, living with a mental health illness is a way of life. So what you gonna do? ADAPT or Die!
People who know me well often describe me as incredibly private and somewhat closed-off. They’re not wrong. But I have my reasons. That said, I’ve been trying to open up a little more and share a closer insight into my everyday life in recent blog posts.
For me, 2019 really has been a year of major highs and lows.
The summer was genuinely the happiest time of my life. Everyone noticed.
Now, I’m the type to roll their eyes at the mention of people “glowing with happiness”, sceptical old bint that I am, but apparently it is a thing.
I was kinda hoping it would last longer than it did. But hey, that’s life.
Soon after my birthday came a swift punch in the gut (not literally, fear not!) and that marked the beginning of one of the unhappiest periods of my life. These things come to try us!
I’m not going to lie, this past month has been pretty crap.
Yeah, Christmas is a time to celebrate, have fun and be with those you love most. But it can also emphasise and remind you of what you’ve lost. And who you’ve lost.
I have some amazing people around me – family and friends. Thanks to those of you who patiently put up with me being a miserable fecker!
Some have offered wise words and advice, some have made me laugh when I really needed to, and others have simply been there to listen. You lot are what life is about (Ooh, deep!).
Let’s get this year out of the way and I promise, in 2020, I’ll pick myself up and get back to “the old Carol” ~ generally pratting about, laughing at inappropriate things and maybe even smiling occasionally 😱
A final word for anyone struggling for whatever reason…
I don’t want to get too serious. After all, it is Christmas – oh, joy!
Life ain’t all shits and giggles. I really wish it was. But it just isn’t.
Sometimes life gives you lemons (bastard lemons!) So what you gonna do? Throw ‘em back even harder, I say.
I may be pixie-sized but I’m pretty damn defiant. I’ve faced a fair few battles over the years. Truth is, the battle never really ends. But you gotta trudge through. What’s the alternative?
When I was 8 or 9, I fell off a horse. The horse decided she’d had enough of this trotting bullshit, and wanted to play silly buggars. She bolted downhill then stopped abruptly, throwing me forward.
I landed with my arse in a muddy puddle and lost my bloody boot. Yeah, I was a bit shook up. But I could either sit in that puddle and sulk (well, I couldn’t get up and walk off!) or get back in the saddle. So, I got back on psycho Sally!
Point is, life can be a bitch, but you gotta carry on and you gotta help yourself. Find what makes you happy and go for it!
I have a few things lined up for the new year, including some truly thrilling blog posts (I can sense the excitement already!).
Merry Christmas, folks. Take care! See you in the new year.
I was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, affecting my body and physicality. I have a severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) which, for various reasons, is not surgically corrected. This causes asymmetry and a shortened torso. Joint contractures mean I am unable to stretch out my arms or legs. Furthermore, the muscle wasting nature of my condition results in extremely thin limbs.
Now 31, I look very different from other women my age. My pixie-sized stature is emphasised by the scoliosis. In place of womanly curves, are unwanted and abnormally crooked humps and bumps. This visible contrast negatively impacts my sense of self and makes me feel odd, weird, and self-conscious.
I love fashion but fashion doesn’t love me
Over the years, I have desperately sought to hide my body with shapeless, baggy clothes. Anything resembling a potato sack is a winner. I live in leggings because jeans are a no-go and frankly, they are the next best thing to pyjamas!
Clothing manufacturers don’t cater for my body since it doesn’t meet standard criteria. Shopping is not an enjoyable experience. It is a frustrating and disappointing struggle to find anything at all to fit, let alone look flattering. Most of the clothes I buy have to be returned which makes me wonder why I bother at all – well, simply because I can’t roll about naked!
Accepting my unique body
Do I love, embrace and celebrate my unique body shape? Hell, no! BUT – I have slowly and gradually learnt to accept it. After all, there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change it. So why stress myself out over something I cannot control.
Exercise isn’t an option for me. I can’t go to the gym and buff-up. And why should I resort to cosmetic surgery? Why put myself through pain, trauma and financial strain simply to conform to societies high and unrealistic standards of beauty? Okay, it might make me feel more confident to look a little more like the average woman. Then again, it might not…
Societal standards of body beautiful
Our perception of body image and beauty is arguably increasingly influenced by social media, particularly Instagram. Heavily airbrushed, edited and filtered selfies are everywhere to be seen. With a smartphone, we can all look like a celeb from a magazine spread!
But this is misleading, unrealistic and unattainable. I can’t relate to the pouty, posers of Instagram. Honestly, can anyone?!
Diverse bodies are sadly under-represented in the media. This is starting to improve but there is still a long way to go before the presence of disabled bodies on our screens becomes mainstream.
This morning, I had a conversation with a friend about anxiety. (It’s good to talk, folks!)
We all experience anxiety to some degree. I know I do. I worry about certain situations and often place far too much emphasis on what others think of me. But I’m gradually accepting that these things are out of my control. So why worry?
My friend, (let’s call her Brenda!), was absolutely fine when she got to mine, though her anxiety had flared up earlier causing her to overreact and behave irrationally. As she put it, she “catastrophized”. The fact she’s aware of this is, in itself, a positive sign.
Brenda has various mental health issues resulting from personal trauma. She takes antidepressants, antipsychotics and is undergoing counselling.
For a LONG time she buried her issues and tried to carry on as usual. This culminated in Brenda becoming very ill and unable to cope with everyday life. It was only at this point that she sought medical support and realised that what she was experiencing isn’t “normal”.
I asked Brenda what happened this morning to cause her to overreact. Her parents have bought a wooden toy kitchen for her son, which wasn’t in the plan. It’s a Christmas present Brenda specifically told her mum not to buy. Not a big deal, you might think. So I asked, “why did it bother you so much?”
Control. The situation was taken out of her control and this triggered Brenda’s anxiety.
She worried her son wouldn’t like it.
She worried he would like it too much.
She worried he might be teased/judged for receiving a stereotypically girly toy.
She worried about the cost.
She worried that he would prefer the toy kitchen to the gifts she has bought for him.
She was overthinking the whole situation. But she knows this. So once her anxiety subsided a little, she removed herself from the situation, went home, shut herself away and had a nap. Anxiety is mentally and physically exhausting!
It’s only through therapy and counselling that Brenda is learning to recognise her triggers, symptoms and manage her anxiety. She can better organise her thoughts, respond to her feelings and differentiate between what is real and unreal.
She summed up her anxiety in one simple phrase ~ fear of the unknown. I’d never thought of it this way. But it makes a lot of sense!
I think most people living with a chronic illness, disability or mental health issue can relate to this quote, at least to some extent. I know I do.
I am limited by my physical disability (congenital muscular dystrophy), despite the claims by some that you can do anything if you just try hard enough. As a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user with a muscle-wasting condition, I’m afraid there are certain things I cannot do.
I am heavily reliant on others to carry out daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, locking doors, opening and closing windows and so on. I also need help with personal care tasks like getting in and out of bed, dressing and bathing. This can be undignified, thus affecting my confidence and making me feel incredibly self-conscious and utterly undesirable. After all, who wants their boyfriend to shower them?!
I HATE asking people to do things for me, as I then feel a burden, a nuisance, an annoyance. Having to ask people to simply open a bottle or a can at the grand old age of 30 is frankly embarrassing (for me).
Sometimes I refuse to speak up and request help. Call it pride or sheer stubbornness. But there are other times I have no choice. Like it or not, I have to ask, to instruct, to explain.
For the most part, I’ve managed to conceal the extent of my disability from those around me. Many people, friends included, think I am much more able and independent than I actually am. Again, put it down to pride. But there are some people I can’t hide this from. Family members, of course, but also anyone I am romantically involved with.
Due to the nature of my disability and all the added extras – care requirements, dependency, restrictions, the inability to be spontaneous – I always believed myself to be undeserving of love. I genuinely thought *think* of myself as an unnecessary burden. Why would anyone put up with me, my weak, crooked body and all of my baggage when they could choose to be with someone else?
As a result of this and a lifetime of rejection, I put up barriers and distanced myself from society; a form of self preservation. Being told repeatedly that I’m not good enough, I’m “no one’s type”, and “too much to take on” has made quite a negative impression on my self-esteem.
Now, I don’t want to ramble or get too personal. But I am slowly starting to trust and believe I am worthy of love and companionship.
They say there’s someone for everyone. The cynical part of me still questions this. But maybe, just maybe, there is.
It takes an extra special person to accept me and my care needs. To take on, without question, a pretty drastic lifestyle change. To see past the wheelchair, the crooked body, the medical equipment and the disability itself, and simply love me for me, unconditionally. To try to convince me every day that I’m not undesirable, unloveable or a burden. People like this are rare, but they are out there!