#ThingsILearnedtoAccept

The above hashtag has been trending on Twitter today. I soon as I saw it I knew that I just had to contribute. The differences between how I think and feel about my disability, and perhaps more importantly, how I thought others think and felt abut my cerebral palsy, have changed drastically over the past two years since I started filming Employable Me.

It’s been a year since the series aired now (yes, really) and people still stop me in the street to tell me how watching my journey impacted them. Yes, the series ultimately led to me getting a job, but it changed my life in so many other vital ways that there is no way I could do them justice in a single tweet, so I thought I’d blog about them instead.

The only person who expected me to be at my physical best all the time was myself

Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that no one expected me to have my ‘best days’ every day. People know that there are some days that I might need to move around less than others, or stretch more. They are okay with that. I was the person who wasn’t. And by trying to keep my pain to myself; to struggle doing things on my own just because I can usually, was just making my life more difficult unnecessarily.

No one actually minds if I take stretch breaks in the office

I used to worry that people would think I was being lazy or weak if I took a stretch break in the office. No one does. They prefer it because then I can concentrate better and actually perform better because of it.

Asking for help with the little things whenever I can actually makes life easier

Guess who actually asks bus drivers to get the ramps down on the bus if they don’t offer themselves? This girl! Guess who doesn’t feel guilty about it? Me again! And, best of all, guess who can actually admit that it annoys her if they don’t automatically ask me?

I know this sounds utterly bonkers now, but I never used to feel like it was acceptable to feel annoyed when things like this happen, or when a building doesn’t have and lift or ramp, or when there isn’t a dropped-kerb on the road so I can cross without having to lift my walking frame.

I used to feel like there was pressure to just accept these things without complaint. It turns out that vocalising these feelings in a polite way actually helps people understand the challenges I face in day-to-day life and the help I, and a lot of other people in similar situations, need.

My anxiety is something I’ll have to manage for the rest of my life, and that’s okay

I’ve struggled with anxiety, that often manifests itself as being afraid of germs, since I was about eight years-old. I’ve been in and out of therapy for it since I was about 10. I used to get incredibly frustrated that it was something that I couldn’t get away from, or ‘cure’ myself of completely.

Just when I thought things were simmering down, something would happen to trigger it again, which in turn would make me even more anxious to the point where even sitting still became impossible and I’d just pace the house muttering to myself and crying because I was worrying about so many things it was the only way I could focus on one thought at a time.

Accepting that flare ups are just going to be something that happens to me every now and then takes away that extra layer of anxiety, and ultimately, makes me it easier for me to manage my mental health the rest of the time.

There are so many more that I could mention, but I think this post is long enough for now, don’t you?

2019: A new year, a new job and a new wheelchair on the way

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year. I actually meant to write this post way before now, but those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a few years will know that New Year is a massive anxiety trigger for me, what the all the pressure to become a better person, achieve more, eat less chocolate, blah, blah, blah; so I decided to lie low on social media until all the fuss had died down.

Anyway!

Things have been pretty busy in Nicland over the last couple of weeks. My family and I made it through the festive season without any arguments, I finished in one role at work and started another, I officially got another year older (happy birthday to me) and I have a new wheelchair on order.

I’m not sure how long it will take for my new chair to actually arrive, but I’m already thinking of new names, and wheelchair services has give me new wheels and brakes on my current one to tide me over.

2018 was a busy one too, and in amongst it all I said goodbye to my walking frame Ivy and am now the proud owner of an identical one called Netta. It took me a long time to settle on a name for this one, but people at work helped me choose and now I’m pretty pleased with it. She moves so smoothly compared to Ivy, whose wheels were starting to hang by a thread, that I feel as though I have to practically jog to keep up with her.

In other news, I’ve also renewed the domain name and re-mapping on this blog too, so it looks as though I’m sticking around for a while longer yet!

Getting on my soapbox about why attitudes towards sex and disability need to change. Again.

Yet again I’ve found myself getting on my Twitter soapbox about why attitudes towards disability and sex need to change.

You’re probably all bored of me talking about this by now, but if you’re not, you can head on over to my profile to see the whole thread of tweets I made.  Here’s the first one for you:

Believe it or not, I’m actually sick of talking about this too. I’ve mentioned it on this blog and I’ve even blogged about it for the charity Scope too.  Yes, my mother read it and no, I’m not embarrassed. My dad chose not to read it, but if he had, I still wouldn’t have been embarrassed because why should I be?

Rob and I were together for 10 years and it took me a long time to stop feeling like I was doing something ‘bad’ by having a physical relationship with him .

(Yes, things are rocky right now, but we’re working on them and we’re in a good place. That’s an update for another time. Maybe.)

I spent far too much of my teenage years feeling ashamed, afraid and embarrassed. In fact, I used to wish that I wasn’t attracted to anyone, either sexually or romantically, because of society’s attitudes towards sex and disability. I felt like it was somehow wrong of me because I was always made to sex and relationships weren’t supposed to be for

But I’ll keep talking about it until we manage to end the stigma, because we will. One day.

Back on the job hunt

Well everyone, after almost a year of full-time employment in digital communications I’m back on the job hunt again. My contract with my current employer has always been fixed-term.

My initial contract was only supposed to be for six months at first, but, by the time it ends on the last day of December, I’ll have been there (as a paid member of staff) for just two weeks shy of a whole year. I’ve actually been there a little long than that though, because I started as a volunteer before that.

I’m trying my best to to freak out too much. This time last year I was in my fifth year of unemployment after graduation, the BBC documentary that I took part in (Employable Me) hadn’t aired yet, and I was in a very strange kind of limbo between knowing that it wouldn’t be far away. My depression was so bad that I found it difficult to bring myself to get dressed every day.

Things have changed so much and I’ve mentally come a long, long way. I like to think I’m good at what I do (mostly social media-based things), and it turns out that I’ve become pretty confident at writing analytics reports, which is something I never thought I’d say. The sight of numbers usually makes my brain cry, so I’m actually, if I can be very un-British for a minute, pretty proud of myself.

There. I said it.

So yes, I’m back on the job hunt. I’m hoping it will be a bit easier this time around, now that I’ll have a year’s worth of experience under my belt.

Wish me luck,

Nic xx

We Broke Up

Rob and I broke up.

There, I said it.
I’ve actually been meaning to say it for the last couple of months but I haven’t known how. I’ve been hiding from it, and So, I’ve been hiding from this blog, and, I suppose, all of you. I haven’t wanted to carry on as if nothing had changed, because that didn’t seem fair, but neither did writing about it as soon as it happened. Which is, of course, what I really wanted to do.
Really, what it comes down to is:
1: Yes, he broke up with me
2: No, I didn’t see it coming
3: Yes, we’re trying to stay friends.
4: And Yes, it’s really flipping difficult
So that is where I am right now, but it’ll be okay. I got a new walking frame last week (new name to be revealed soon) and I have Botox in my legs again next week.
The world is still spinning and I’m still here. I’m not thinking about dating yet, other than thinking about how I never actually want to think about it, let alone do it.
Here’s to a more regular updates from now on, if I can stay awake long enough.
(Turns out working full time and commuting around 3 hours a day is also really flipping difficult!)
Love,
Nic xx

Employable Me is airing in the Netherlands

This morning I woke up to a comment on one of my YouTube videos informing me that Employable Me is currently showing on TV in the Netherlands! Then, when I got home from work, I saw that people had e-mail this blog’s e-mail address to send their good wishes too.

If you’re here from the Netherland, Hallo and  dank je for taking the time to reach out to me. (I don’t speak dutch, so I’m going to trust that Google Translate is accurate. Sorry if I actually just offended you!)

It’s all a bit surreal. I always knew there was a possibility that something like this could happen, I just really didn’t think it would. Or I didn’t think anyone would be interested enough to track me down online to tell me, although I’m very glad you did.

This is what Employable Me is all about; spreading  the message as far as possible that disabled people can, and do, have jobs. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, with the right support, it will be possible.

Thank you for taking the time to watch the show and allowing me to share my journey with you.

Love, Nic (and my blue walking frame, called Ivy)

xx

What a difference the right chair makes

Something exciting happened to me this week!

My new, made to measure work chair that was recommended on the back of my Access to Work office assessment finally arrived at my office, complete with a beast of a footrest that moves up and down as my feet do.

This might not sound very exciting to you, but it was for me and all of colleagues. We were all hoping it would reduce my pain, and you know what – it has. Way more than I dared to hope it would.

I would say my hip pain levels have improved by 80% across the board, by which I mean not only while I’m actually at work. I’ve been in a lot less pain in the evenings and on my commute too!

My back pain is also much better during work hours, and I haven’t felt like I am going to spasm and spring out of the chair once yet. I know it’s only been four working days, but I am so happy and grateful to my employer for investing in me like this that I could cry.