There are many misconceptions and assumptions about disability in society. Some people believe that disabled people are unable to be parents and be in relationships let alone have a partner who is able bodied.
In this blog post I wanted to write about the misconceptions and assumptions disabled women can face. Disabled women may do things differently but this should not prevent us from embracing all aspects of womanhood if we want to.
Below are 5 misconceptions about disabled women that stand out to me, from my own experience and what I’ve heard and seen.
I often get surprising comments and looks when people see that I’m wearing makeup. I have gotten comments in the past which are along the lines of “ I didn’t know disabled women wear makeup”. Just because I’m disabled that doesn’t make me not want to dress up and experiment with looks. A lot of disabled women also love fashion. However for many women the clothing out in mainstream fashion houses are not accessible for us and we may need to shop else wear or make our own clothes. But this doesn’t mean we’re not into fashion in fact a lot of us love it but want the industry to be more diverse which I believe is starting to happen slowly. A big dream of mine is to model for high street clothing brands. Our differences need to be celebrated not hidden . Life would be boring if we were all the same! Disabled women should be able to feel sexy and on trend just like everyone else.
It is sometimes assumed that disabled women can’t have relationships. Dating is the chance to get to know another person, see what you have in common, maybe find love. Being disabled doesn’t stop a person from experiencing this. Sometimes disabled women who have partners others often assumed that their partner is also disabled or the women’s carer.
Disabled people are often seen as needing to dependent on others. Therefore not able to care or be in a motherly role. Their is no rule book on how a family should look. Families come in all different shapes and sizes which is filled with love.
Disabled women still need to be part of the conversation around the topic of women’s rights just as much as able bodied women. We still face the same challenges, stigmas and inequalities that mainstream women face. This is often harder to see as the disability is seen first. All women need to come together regardless of the label’s society gives us.
Their are certain disabilities that are perceived as ones women can’t have. This means these disabilities get undiagnosed, leaving some women unsupported. An example of a disability like this is Autism . Autism is more diagnosed in men than in women. Many women find it hard to get their autism recognised. The National Autistic Society says a possible reason for this is because women “ are often better at masking or camouflaging their difficulties”. However it did say that diagnosing the disability is getting better!
Down Syndrome is another disability which is more common in men than women, Source- disability scoop.
Please note that every person may feel differently about this and their is no right or wrong way. These are just things that helped me personally. I am not a medical professional and cannot give medical advice!
Getting a new diagnosis can come with many mixed feelings and questions. It can make you feel relieved or nervous about your future. Also when your finally told you might not feel like you imagined you would feel like when getting the news. And this is totally normal and ok!
Don’t feel you need to rush back to “normal life”give yourself time to process this important news. You might need time to let you make adjustments like getting home aid equipment to help you round your home when doing tasks such as cooking.
I decided I wanted to write this so that I could share with you some tips and to tell you about the things that helped me when I was newly diagnosed.
This first step is very important to find a professional you trust and feel supported by. If you have already found a medical professional you feel you can trust this is great! Maybe the person who first diagnosed you is the right person. Or maybe you see a variety of several health care providers over the last few months or so and your trying to find out the next steps.
Sometimes when we are on the journey of being diagnosed with a condition we may see many different doctors and health care professionals. Getting referred to different doctors and having tests done. This can become very overwhelming, confusing and tiring tiring. Sometimes we can get diffrent opinions from all the medical professionals you see it can be really hard and frustrating to know who’s advice to follow and leave you feeling unsure and anxious.
My advice is :
Find one doctor you really feel you can trust and feel supported by. Listen to your gut. This could be a doctor you’ve seen for years or a doctor who diagnosed as an example.
When trying different therapies that could help you with your journeyto understand and know how to adapt to your “new normal” iris important thatthis person makes you feel comfortable so that you can ask any questions or raise any concerns you may have. As well as this it’s very important that they have an overall understanding and over view of your case.
When newly diagnosed with a conditions things may start to feel very overwhelming unlike before. You may start to feel that you are alone and no one understands you. Especially if your condition is rare. You may start to see a change in behaviour with becoming more isolated with the outside world. But know you are not alone.
Finding people who understand what your going through can be a huge help.
Not only can others offer you emotional support and help you feel less isolated they may be able to give you practical advice like coping skills. Of course when it comes to medical advice ,your doctor should be offering you advice.
Getting emotional support can be massively valuable. Dealing with a diagnosis and condition can be really diffcult and sometimes by talking to others who have the same or similar condition to you can feel like a weights been lifted as you are talking to others who know what’s it like to live with the condition first hand.
There are so many Facebook Groups out there, some are for specific ones for diffrent medical conditions. You may find some that are local to you but don’t worry if you can’t their are others that are open to everyone and you can live anywhere. If they are well-moderated as a member of the group you will hopefully find the group a safe place where you can interact, ask questions and support each other.
However please beware that sometimes these groups can be a little too much and overwhelming. You can put the group settings on “mute” so that you don’t constantly see it but you’re still stay part of the group. Remember you can also leave a group completely. Looking after your health and well-being comes first even when your on screen.
Instagram is also a really good platform to use when finding support. Their are so many pages/ group communities for chronic illnesses, disabilities both in general and condition specific. I follow some on my Instagram so be sure to check my Instagram @defeatingdisability to help you get started with funding pages and communities which offer support.
I’n the beginning everything will feel a bit confusing and overwhelming especially when you are working with your medical professional to find the best medication or treatments. When going to medical appointments it is very likely your doctor will want to know how you are reacting to treatments. This may look like an easy question to answer but it isn’t really. You may have a condition that is not easy to keep on track with remembering changing information as it fluctuatios.
This is where a journal may help it helps you to not only remember important information but also allows you to store this information in one place which helps you to access all the information you need quickly. You don’t have to do it perfectly know one is going to judge its simply a space which helps you to store relevant and important information with no judgment.
Keeping track of medication, symptoms and activities may help not only helpyou but your health care professional look for any patterns that maybe recordingand being able to manage and have a plan in place if other symptoms indicateother health issues you may have. By doing journaling can help youfigure out certain patterns that you may otherwise not be able to see. For example “ if I don’t have a glass of water or tea beforedoing my day jobs I find it harder to stay calm.Or when I feel scared and anxious a get a “blood metal”taste in my mouth.
My doctors gave my mum the task of writing down my sezuires. My mum wrote down the following: the date, the time, what I was doing before the sezuire, big, medium,small, any warning before and any other comments .Medical Professionals wanted us to do this to see if they could see a pattern and maybe be able to see what was causing my seizures. At college they now keep a record of my seizures which they get from my 1:1 support worker as she writes my seizures down.
On reflection journaling this information also helped me to understand my new condition more which is now really helpful because with support now I can still try and do every day things like my peers but my support worker and parents also make sure I’m safe. Alternatively if you find writing in a journal is not your thing their are apps you can use tostore this information which is brilliant when your on the go as you just get your phone out and store the relevant information quickly.
Now it’s time to think about what would help you?. Everybody is diffrent. While some things are helpful to one person this doesn’t mean it helpful to everyone. When it comes to health everyone’s journey is different and that is ok. Each one of us is individual and so is our health. You could use your journal to keep a record of things you felt were helpful. From this you could create an “action plan” with your professional and support team around you.
You have just been recently diagnosed so it is really important you focus on your well-being and mental health. You may now start to feel under a lot of pressure from the outside world to get better quickly. Know that it is ok to ask for help. If you struggle with this question ask yourself what would I say if someone I cared about asked me for help.
Through my own experiences I have found out who the realfriends in my life are. I found that my relationships with true friends grew to be stronger as well as showing me that not all relationships I had were as solid as I thought. Though this hurt at times I now have astrong supportive bubble that is growing as our relationships are growing stronger and stronger every day.
I’m not going to lie to you being newly diagnosed with a condition can be challenging. You may feel that your feeling up and down thousands of times in a day. With thoughts and emotions rushing constantly the fears you have. But know this it’s ok to take time out. You are loved, You are valuable, Your journey will make you stronger and help others feel less alone.