The Flawesome Award.

A few days ago I was kindly nominated by The Invisible Vision Project for the Flawesome Award, an award created by Sophia Ismaa, to be awarded to bloggers by bloggers who have overcome their personal flaws, and used them for good in their writing. I was incredibly flattered by the nomination, not least because this now makes me a 6-time award-winning blogger after only 2 years of Diary of a Disabled Person.

In order to accept the reward, you are required to acknowledge the award’s creator, Sophia Ismaa, and also the blog who nominated you, in my case the Invisible Vision Project. You must then list three flaws and demonstrate how you turned them into strengths, before nominating another 10 bloggers for the award.

It took many hours of intense thinking to come up with three personal flaws, as they are so few and far between. Nevertheless, I persisted for the sake of my art, and managed to come up with the following:

I’m reluctant to compromise.

There is an old idiom that says “You can tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much”. Now I’m no man but I’m very Yorkshire, and while I tend to dislike stereotypes, this is one which cannot be denied. As my parents and now my husband will tell you; I’m really fricking stubborn.

This little quirk has caused much trouble in the past, predominantly when trying to forge friendships with peers and colleagues, and also when it comes to knowing when to relent and be grateful for what I had already achieved.

However, there are also plenty of occasions when compromise isn’t an option. Accessibility is one such example. There is no halfway-house with accessibility; either something is accessible or it is not. This extends beyond simply having ramps, lifts, toilets, & hearing loops etc., but actually having them available for use, not blocked, not impeded, and not hidden behind a staircase that someone else must climb to get the assistance you need. Something as simple as blocking an access route or forgetting to put out the ramp is all that is needed to render something inaccessible. I’ve tried being nice with the people who do this, but my protests fall on deaf ears. It’s only when I put my wheels down and refuse to compromise that I am listened to, and I know that this is the same for many other disabled people.

I don’t take things as seriously as I should.

If something goes wrong my instinct is to laugh about it. This is fine when, say, a pigeon flies into the window and you spill your drink, but not so much when something goes really wrong. It frustrates those around me no end when I simply don’t recognise certain situations are wholly inappropriate for a joke. It can make topics such as moving house or changing jobs an absolute nightmare for anyone working with me, as instead of getting the paperwork done, I’m sat in the corner mocking the situation.

Fortunately, I have been able to put my ability to laugh at anything and everything to good use. I have only coped with my long-term health issues because I have been able to laugh at them, including when I needed emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder (although laughing really did hurt then). Similarly, I have used it to educate others about life with disability, and to normalise and humanise disability to make it easier for others to cope with. There’s nothing like making a corny pun about the wheelchair to set a stranger at ease, meaning they can focus on the conversation we’re having, instead of panicking about what they should say to me.

I don’t like to let my feelings show in public.

The general public’s reaction to seeing a wheelchair user out and about is to ignore me so hard that I know they’ve noticed me, and that they’re simply pretending I don’t exist to avoid an awkward interaction. Sometimes people will physically push past you while still pretending they hadn’t noticed me, despite the fact that deciding to push past is a decision made based upon the fact that they’ve seen me. On other occasions I get comments from strangers, most commonly about how fast “it” goes, and whether I’ve got a licence to drive it. From time to time, I simply get blank stares.

Perhaps though, if I showed my displeasure at such occurrences, the public would take note. Perhaps they’d realise that their words and actions are upsetting, and try to make changes to their behaviour around disabled people. Perhaps they would take notice of all that disabled people report on social media, and to the news.

This characteristic, though, serves to protect me. If I stopped to challenge everyone who made my life more difficult than it already is, I would never get anywhere or do anything. I would also be exposing myself to torrents of verbal abuse, and even on occasions threats of physical violence. Keeping a stony face, helped out by headphones that can block out the comments, has allowed me to go about my daily business and live my life.

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Once again, I’d like to thank The Invisible Vision Project for their kind nomination, and without further ado, here are my nominations:

Seeing ME In Reality.

The Disability Diaries.

Wheelescapades.

The Life Quadraplegic.

A Backpack, A Chair, and A Beard.

My Fitness Journey with Fibro.

KimiBlack.

Thinking Out Loud.

Being Aunt Debbie.

Cane Adventures.

My congratulations to you all.

A Broken Record.

“I don’t know how you cope.”

“I couldn’t do what you do.”

“How do you manage? It must be so difficult.”

Like a broken record I hear these sentiments on an almost daily basis, and while they are a compliment of sorts, what strikes me most about these statements is the apparent lack of faith the person saying them has in themselves. This is by no means a criticism, as I was guilty of doing this myself prior to becoming disabled, although it can get a little awkward when a total stranger approaches me to express this sentiment in the middle of the street. Contrary to popular opinion, disabled people still have places to be.

If someone had told me that I would get meningitis, develop CFS, become increasingly dependent on a wheelchair, become very depressed, have to fight for my education, and then to have gall stones and surgery during the final year of university, I would have panicked. I would not have been able to comprehend going through all of that and still managing to have some semblance of a life, and what’s more, actually be happy about it. Yet here I am, spread-eagle on the sofa eating chocolate chip cookies, writing about it. I’m not exaggerating.

Image description: a selfie taken wearing a black t-shirt, with a chocolate chip digestive in my mouth.

It is our resilience and adaptability that has allowed humans to become the dominant species on Earth, and it is those same traits that have allowed people with chronic illnesses and disabilities to live fulfilling lives. It is pretty difficult at times, I won’t deny, but I’m not special for being able to withstand it. Most people would be able to withstand everything I have dealt with and more besides, especially if they were supported by a few friends and family members like I was.

It isn’t just illness either. People have the same reaction to all sorts of difficult scenarios; miscarriages, being a single parent, going back into education while raising a family, surviving a string of bad luck, the death of close ones. They express how they couldn’t cope. While these situations are troubling and difficult, I have watched those around me go through trying times and even if they need some help to do so, almost without fail they cope. What first-hand experience has taught me is that humans are essentially the mammalian equivalent of cockroaches; stubborn.

The Blogger Recognition Award.

The Blogger Recognition Award is used to celebrate high-quality, well-written blogs and was deservingly won by Being Aunt Debbie a few weeks ago. She has since nominated me for the reward for which I am very grateful. Her blog can be found here: https://beingauntdebbie.com/.

In order to accept the reward the nominee must produce a post thanking the person who nominated them, describe how their blog started, give two pieces of advice to new bloggers, and make a few nominations of their own. This slightly different approach to accepting an award provides a refreshing and insightful glance into the world of blogging itself, and what it is actually like to be a blogger.

blogger_award

How This All Began:

I had been toying with the idea of starting a blog for some time, aware that I could do so for free and in a relatively short time. Jarred spent a great deal of time encouraging me to do this, boosting my self-esteem and offering support, particularly of the caffeinated kind. Thus, one afternoon after the January exam season, I decided to set up Diary of a Disabled Person, a name that had sprung into my mind in the shower the night before.

I wanted my blog to be distinguishable from other blogs that discussed similar topics, in particular taking a humourous approach to interest readers who hadn’t had experience of disability themselves, or hadn’t encountered it frequently in those around them. After all, wheelchair users don’t need to tell other wheelchair users what it’s like to be in a wheelchair. I wanted to educate, discuss the areas where ableism still exists in the world, and to make people laugh at the many mishaps and scrapes I found myself in on a daily basis.

As I began to publish content I noticed that I was receiving a lot of positive attention from other wheelchair users, which meant that these people felt I was representing them well. This gave me a massive boost to self-esteem, giving me the confidence to pitch articles to Cracked.com.

Perhaps the biggest positive of writing this blog, though, is not the support and self-esteem boosts I have encountered, but is the fact that writing about the negative events in my life that lead to disability and depression helped me to emotionally process these situations. While still very much depressed, I have found that writing enables me to think logically about my emotional response to various circumstances, and I have been able to focus on the things that truly matter.

Diary of a Disabled Person has grown and developed significantly over the past 18 months and shows no sign of stopping. I am here for the ride as much as my readers are.

My Advice to New Bloggers:

Don’t be afraid of negative feedback: I try not to be offended if someone offers me genuine, constructive criticism on my blog. These sentiments can be used as guidance to improve your blog, make it more readable and inclusive, and increase your readership. At the end of the day it isn’t you who reads your blog but your readers.  I also try not to take offence to anyone who trolls my writing, making negative comments for the sake of it. Often enough they will make a mistake proving that they haven’t so much as glanced at your actual work, and therefore there is nothing constructive to be drawn from their comments. There are people out there who live to troll; let them – it’s usually all they have in life.

Blogging is a commitment: an essential aspect of blogging is the ability to maintain the blog over a long period of time. This might take some money to cover the costs of a web domain and some basic advertising, but most of all it takes time. Producing content, advertising, and updating a website all take time, and even though you might have time when you set up the blog, be aware that changing demands may limit the time you have for blogging in the future. Ultimately blogging whilst keeping up other aspects of personal and professional livelihoods is viable, but is more difficult than most people assume.

My Nominees:

Seeing M.E In Reality: https://seeingmeinreality.com/

The Disability Diaries: https://disabilitydiaries.com/

Thinking out Loud: https://www.thinkingoutloud-sassystyle.com/

KimiBlack: https://kimiblack.wordpress.com/

Wheelescapades: https://wheelescapades.com/

My Fitness Journey with Fibro: https://myfitnessjourneywithfibro.wordpress.com/

As you may well be aware this now takes me up to a total of 5 awards received by Diary of a Disabled Person in the last year! Let’s hope I can continue to expand my readership and fan-base, taking my writing to ever new heights.

4 Awards; Oh Wait, Never Mind – Make That 5!!!

It appears to be some kind of blogger award season, because in the past week I received to nominations for different awards, but two separate bloggers.

The first nomination came from My Fitness Journey with Fibro (https://myfitnessjourneywithfibro.wordpress.com/), and is the Sunshine Blogger Award. This recognises positivity and creativity in a blog, and I will accept it this weekend.

Image description: the Sunshine Blogger Awared logo. A white circle with the award's name placed over a field of sunflowers.

The second nomination came from Being Aunt Debbie (https://beingauntdebbie.com/), and is the Blogger Recognition Award. This award highlights high-quality, well-written blogs from across the internet, and I will accept this one in a couple of weeks. I want to keep my content varied; I wouldn’t want you getting bored of acceptance speeches!

Image description: the Blogger Recognition Award logo. The text is in the centre of a simple wreath, all black & white.

I offer a big thank you to both of the above; keep an eye out for the upcoming posts!

With Great Literature Comes Great Writing.

Every writer has their inspiration and aside from the whole disability thing I have going on, my main muse as a writer is other writers.

Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; I even had waterproof bath-tub books as a toddler. Before school I had the entire bottom shelf of my parents’ bookcase filled with my own books, including ones that had been bought, and others that had been passed down through the family. Apparently I used to run to the bookshelf, grab as many books as I could possibly carry, and then plonk myself on my mum’s lap to read for the afternoon. On more than one occasion our beloved cat came to join these reading sessions.

I could actually read before I went to school; not because anybody pressured me to, but because I wanted to. I wrote my name in the sand pit when my parents were viewing potential nurseries for me to attend, which mum hastily erased to avoid any allegations of putting too much pressure on me. She even had to sign a consent form saying that I was allowed to read the books in the nursery, which were meant to be read to us at story-time, after they found me in the corner under a pile books quite happily reading them to myself.

Once I got to school I got a small bookcase in my bedroom, which was placed at the end of the bed to make it easy to reach. I got into the habit of reading before going to sleep, something I still do sometimes, usually with the cat curled up on my feet.

The books changed as I grew older but my love for them did not. I soon had favourite authors, first Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, then Charlie Higson, and as an adult Charles Dickens and Jeffrey Archer became firm favourites.

As I aged I started to find an unexpected joy in writing my own stories, and probably levelled an entire rain-forest in filled notepads. I tried to combine the detailed character development of Charles Dickens with the exhilarating action sequences of Jeffrey Archer, and the friendly, easy-to-read style of Michael Morpurgo.

As for the more humorously autobiographical style of Diary of a Disabled Person, I took inspiration from the likes of Gervais Phinn (a school inspector from the Yorkshire dales), James Herriot (the infamous Yorkshire vet), and Jennifer Worth (Call the Midwife). All of these writers presented their work as short, funny, but insightful anecdotes about one aspect of their lives; something which I strive to emulate in my own work.

In all of this it is of course impossible for me to ignore the influence of my English teachers at school, particularly during my GCSE years. I was universally encouraged to keep writing and to develop a unique style of my own. They pushed me to be the best that I could be, and my efforts were rewarded upon receiving the English award for my year group at the end of my exams.

Image description: the English trophy I won for my GCSE English marks. It's glass & engraved with the school logo.

(Coincidentally, this trophy is now being used as a weight to stop Tribble the hamster escaping from the top hatch of her cage.)

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t believe in concepts like fate and destiny, but I can’t help feeling just a little that perhaps I was born to write.