In Sanatorium, Abi Palmer likens illness to a ‘lack of access’ to the world. But could we view this feeling of being ostensibly unmoored from reality as merely a different manifestation of it? Ableism is a prerequisite for the doctrine of optimum productivity and consumption endorsed by capitalist ethos, rendering healthcare essentially meritocratic. For women, BAME people, marginalised genders, queer people and anyone lacking cultural capital, who consequently struggle to be taken seriously by medical professionals (an experience that Palmer vividly evokes), performative illness becomes a grim necessity.
Ten years ago, I was in my first year of University at Aberdeen, studying to be a Primary school teacher. It was a daunting, but exciting time. I had plans for my future and much to look forward to. I decided I wanted to be a teacher to help learners, like myself, that struggle in the education system. After achieving my degree, I planned to establish myself as a teacher before going back to University to gain the qualifications I needed to become a Special Educational Needs teacher.
I had always wanted a family and so my plan was to enjoy my early 20s, find someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, get married and have two children. A teaching career seemed like a good match with the challenges of having a family. In my mind I had it all worked out. I’d decided that by around my 30th birthday I would probably have given birth to my last child. I’m going to have my 30th birthday this year, and my life didn’t go to plan.
When I think of the word survival, it conjures up many images. More often than not it’s an image of a character in a horror, thriller or zombie narrative, where the individual does everything physically or logically possible to live through the trauma and make it to the end of the film, or to the next episode. A person’s strength of will to keep living is what drives them to survive the zombie apocalypse, murderer or demon. These surviving characters are always physically and/or mentally strong, or become so quickly. Their motive for survival? They have future plans, information they must pass on, people that rely on them – in some way, their life holds value. Once this traumatic episode is over, they can get back to those lives. They survive in order to find peace, joy, fulfilment, happiness. To reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
CW: mentions of death
Pain. Nearly all of us experience it. We all have a relationship with pain, even if we’re not aware of it. Pain allows us to avoid or reduce injury – but sometimes these signals to the brain that are supposed to help can instead go very wrong.
The language we use can offer us a glimpse into our core values. Words can be loaded with deeper meaning that demonstrate the true beliefs of a society or individual. This is why, when we use the word “disabled”, it’s worth noting that we tend to veer towards negative language. When looking up synonyms of the word disabled, I was surprised by the loaded and emotive language I found – words like weakened, incapable, damaged and powerless.
The term “minority group” invokes the image of a very small percentage of people. When I was a teacher, I had a minority group in my classroom consisting of a small number of children who needed different support and teaching methods to the rest of the class. In an ideal world, every child’s individual needs would have been met, but this was not the case. Time, resources, space – these resources affect the treatment of minority groups on a much larger national scale as well. The ‘majority’ have their needs met, while smaller groups who don’t fit into the majority box are often left behind, mistreated, or ignored.
Dating has changed a lot over the last few decades. In the time before dating apps, people would meet at work, in cafés, or via friends or family. It may seem like a simpler time, but it did mean that the variety of people for you to meet was limited to your direct community. I think you would be lucky to find ‘the one’ when there is a world full of possible ‘ones’. As Tim Minchin so eloquently said, “If I didn’t have you, I’d probably have somebody else”.
There are so many terrible things going on in the world. I could talk about any number of them – but everybody else is already doing so. What has always been my concern about things like Brexit is that the aspects of life that were already difficult are going to be forgotten in favour of this new event. So many people are going to be left behind as the government puts all of its focus on negotiating our split from the EU. And so my article today is not going to be about any of the ‘big issues’. It’s going to be about a very small one. It’s one that really gets my goat, but it’s often forgotten. Well – not just forgotten. It doesn’t even register to most people.
I’m talking about toilets.
I moved to Norwich five years ago. Well, actually, I didn’t move to Norwich at all. When I relay the story of how I came to live in Norwich I always jokingly say I came to visit and never left. For me Norwich was great – love at first sight. The reason why I came to stay in Norwich was a lot less great and a lot more painful. I came down for a week to visit my mother and celebrate our birthdays (they’re six days apart). I was living in Aberdeen at the time, so at the end of the week my mum drove me up to the Scottish border as planned. She was going to see friends, and I was going to carry on my journey from there. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. The prospect of continuing my journey filled me with crippling fear. It became obvious to my mum that I couldn’t go home. And so we turned around, and came back to Norwich. I ran away.
When it comes to health treatments, people like myself will try almost anything once. And I have. Living with chronic pain, fatigue and joint instability as I am, I will do many things to seek relief from my symptoms. I’ve tried reflexology, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, medication, TENS, reiki, acupuncture, chiropractics; the list goes on. All of them have their merits, but they don’t always have the desired effect.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my body recently. In the last month I’ve been pushing it pretty hard, so I have a lot to reflect on. I talked about going to the March for Europe in my last article, and the preparation I put in beforehand to make sure my body would survive. Since the march, I have been doing a lot of walking and swimming. This brings feelings of terror and excitement. I fear I will dislocate and put myself back in my wheelchair. But I’m excited to feel the freedom my body hasn’t experienced in over five years. My current mission is to make myself stronger, stable, and resilient.
We’ve all heard it said that dogs are man’s best friend. It appears to hold true – in the UK one in two households owns a pet and in 2015 it was estimated that the pet population stood at 8.5 million dogs and 7.4 million cats. With so many of us owning and loving our pets, the idea that dogs can be more than faithful companions isn’t that surprising. The ones who know that the best are likely the 7000-plus disabled people in the UK who depend on assistance dogs for care ranging from alerting those with epilepsy of an oncoming seizure, guiding the blind, or helping someone with limited mobility to perform daily activities. They are even used for therapeutic needs, often for those suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety or depression.
(Content warning: discussion of ableism & ableist slurs)
The summer of 2016 saw outrage in response to the film Me Before You and its portrayal of disability. The film, directed by Thea Sharrock and based on the book by Jojo Moyes, is a romance following the lives of a young man (played by Sam Claflin) and woman (Emilia Clarke). Where’s the controversy in that, you ask? Well…
For many, the festive season can be a stressful time of the year as well as a joyous one. There’s all the gifts you have to buy, making sure to post presents and cards in time for the big day, getting the whole family around a table on Christmas day – and these are just a few of the many things you have to deal with. There are many people who don’t celebrate Christmas, of course, but for a number of those who do Christmas can actually be the loneliest time of the year. They might not have families or friends to go to. Amongst these were the 300,000 elderly who spent Christmas day on their own last year – but loneliness and isolation can be one of the hardest things to overcome for other people too. For someone with a disability or a rare or invisible condition that others struggle to comprehend, loneliness can be exceptionally hard.
It’s a beautiful sunny day in August. A young woman named Jennifer and her mum go to the beach to soak up the rays. On her way into the water, Jennifer’s right wrist starts to hurt, and then her left wrist does the same. The pain is excruciating. She doesn’t know it, but they have dislocated. She and her mum can’t understand what has happened. It makes no sense. Distressed and confused the two women go home. Jennifer’s mum drives the car, and while sitting in the passenger’s seat, Jennifer dislocates her ankle. She doesn’t know that is the reason for the agonising pain. The two try to make sense of the situation.