Now What?: A Guide for anyone with a new diagnosis

disability, mental health

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.

Facebook

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

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.

5 things I want non-disabled people to know

disability

Recently I was having a chat with someone and they were surprised by how I spoke and portrayed myself as they were expecting me to be and act different because I have a disability. So I thought I’d share with you 5 things I want non-disabled people to know from myself as a disabled person.

This post is not meant to cause offence, it is simply done to share my thoughts. I know my thoughts, feelings and options do not relate to everyone in the disabled community. It’s important to remember that no one is the same regardless of if they have a disability or not.

I hope this post is informative and raises awareness of some misconceptions that can be surrounded by disability.

As a disabled person their have been times were I felt that the world was just not made for people with disabilities. Therefore I often face barriers in our everyday life that my peers don’t. This can make me feel excluded in certain aspects of society. It’s important to remember that making adjustments for disabled people is vital and can make a huge difference. These adjustments don’t always have to be “big” it can simply be needing extra time to get off a ride at the theme park.

There are many misconceptions surrounding the subject of disability. One of them being that having a disability can have a negative impact on someone’s life. Don’t get me wrong their have been times when I wished I wasn’t disabled and that I wished I was like everyone else. Maybe I wouldn’t have got extremely badly bullied. However having a disability has helped me think outside the box when problem solving. I wouldn’t have met some of the amazing people and animals I have in my life if I wasn’t disabled I can’t imagine a world without the charities Riding for the Disabled and The Theatre Shed. Also my disability has lead me to opportunities that I believe I would have if I wasn’t disabled for example starting this blog.

People sometimes tell me “ you don’t look disabled” and I know they mean it as a compliment but it doesn’t always come across like that. Sometimes it makes me have thoughts like “ what did you expect me to look like?”. My disability looks invisible so I also get people telling me that I’m “your so lucky your disability is invisible”. However having a disability that is invisible can be hard as people think your stupid and slow but that’s a blog post in its self so I’ll write about it in more depth in a future post.

We may not always share it but disabled people and their family and careers are usually fighting some sort of battle weather it’s to do with education, funding, transport or employment to name a few. We may need adaptations to help us but these don’t take away the barriers we face. Adaptations help us to carry out everyday tasks like everyone else. Funding for people to help us like support workers is also vital as this allows us to be more independent but still safe as we don’t always want to do activities with our parents supporting us 24/7. We want to grow and feel like our peers but with the extra support we may need from someone who is not related to us instead.

Just because someone is disabled that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be happy, achieve things. having goals and ambitions. We may need to do things slightly differently , it might take a bit longer and we may need a bit more support along the way to do what we want to do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t, we will get where we want to be. If you can dream it you can achieve it!

Medical Appointments And The Anxiety

mental health

Feeling The Feelings And The Mind Rushing

Medical appointments and anxiety have come hand in hand for me since I can remember before appointments I feel really anxious, worried and sick. I’ve had a lot of medical appointments in my life some to do with my disability and others to do with my mental health. Throw in the pandemic and having to wear a mask and then see others with face masks is something I find really scary. I’m not the best with needles either.

Growing up I noticed I would have more hospital appointments than my peers. I’d have to leave school early for appointments. I still do now even as a college student. At school I than began to realise I needed aids like a splint on my leg whereas my peers didn’t have these. I would often have to explain to other kids what it was and why I wear one.

Even know I still explain to peers what my conditions are. When I was first put on medication for my mental health it was in liquid form. However this then changed to tablet form. I found this really scary thoughts would rush around my head.

What if I can’t swallow it?

What if it gets stuck?

Will it make me sick?

Now I find taking tablets ok most of the time but I still get these questions running through my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to incorporating medical appointments into my life as they still cause me stress in different ways but in a way it feels like a routine I just have to go with.

The past year however I have had my medical appointments on the phone and not in person due to the pandemic except for when I had my first vaccine for COVID. After my jab I had to lie down as the felt dizzy. Me and needles aren’t the best of friends.

As someone with anxiety I found doing appointments by phone call were actually better yes I still felt a bit anxious for the phone to ring. But I didn’t have to go through sitting in a waiting room waiting for my name to be called with about a million things going through my mind preparing myself into knowing I had to talk about things I’d rather not think about. I think it helped having appointments on the phone as I was in my safe place and I could do something straightway after my appointment like watch Netflix on the TV.

Breathe

When I start to feel anxious before the appointment and in the waiting room my mum who takes me can see that I’m nervous. Sometimes I say that “ I can’t do it because my stomach is all in knots and I want it to be over before I even have to go”. This is when my mum will help me to do deep breathing and we do it together, I find doing it with someone else is very helpful as I feel not alone and that I’m not stupid for feeling this way and that’s completely normal and valid to feel how I feel.

Reading Emotions

One of the things I have to do now every week is a COVID test at college. I find these very worrying and scary to do and this can trigger my seizures. I think part of why I find it worrying is that you can’t read another persons face very well as the mask is preventing you from seeing things like a smile. The pandemic has made me realise how much as humans we gather information from each other just through facial expressions. I didn’t realise that a smile one small movement on your face could mean so much. That simple gesture conveys kindness and reassurance and a touch of empathy to another person. When seeing a needle is coming towards me and and I’m preparing for the sharp scratch it can be odd not to see a smile from the nurse or doctor who’s doing it not give that smile of reassurance that everything will be ok.

Doing Something Nice Afterwards

Before lockdown after appointments something my mum and I would do is to try and calm down my anxiety levels. By doing something completely different like going around looking at what yummy things we could buy in the supermarkets in the streets. It gave me a chance to clear my head and to breathe. Sometimes just taking a break feels like the right thing to do. As I feel if we just drove back home I may not want to have some chill time and end up doing more coursework or whatever I need to do.

Due to lockdown this way of helping myself calm down is not possible however we do different things for example before a phone call appointment we will organise something I want to do after the call for example taking my dog Mango on a walk or sitting down to watch a TV program. It’s all about doing the self care you can do at home from baking to having your favourite ice cream to making sure if you pamper yourself with a face mask and bubble bath.

If you feel anxious before appointments tell someone you trust, you don’t have to go through it alone!

Diversity in the Equestrian World

life, Riding for the Disabled Association

As some of you may know it is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination . This inspired me to write this blog about diversity in the equestrian world.

When I tell people I enjoy going horse riding some are very surprised not just by the fact I ride and have a disability but also because of the colour of my skin. People sometimes tell me “ I didn’t realise people of your ethnicity took part in this sport”.

They get even more confused when they see me with my family. I am Indian but at 3 months old I was adopted by a English couple who lived in India. They then had a biological daughter so people get confused when I say “and this is my younger sister”. Over the years I’ve had people stare at me when I’m out with my family in public. Sometimes I forget that I’m a different ethnicity from my family to me it’s my normal!

The equestrian world is really lacking in diversity . I think a big aspect of why this is the cause is because of how low the awareness in this sport. People in the past have said and made comments that they thought this sport is not a sport for some like me which really isn’t the case.

We need more role models in the sport. We need someone who is relatable to people. If people see someone from the same background or similar they feel they can relate to that person. To help show how this sport isn’t just for one type of person we need to change perceptions.

I believe Riding for the Disabled challenges perceptions constantly because when I talk to people about the fact I ride with the RDA many people haven’t actually heard of this amazing charity. So I love telling them how special, valuable and life changing it is!

When people see someone like me. They can see that I can ride. I want to help encourage others to give this sport a try despite society’s labels and their are others like me taking part in the sport. This helps to break down the barriers this sport has.

One person breaking down these barriers now is Reece McCook, founder of online campaign Ride Out Racism.

Everyone should feel that it is possible for them to join and achieve great things in this sport. We need to inspire each other to join and participate in this sport and in our community. You never know who could be the top riders of our future let’s break down these barriers together, this sport is for everyone!

All About Spoonie Survival Kits

disability

This post is going to be a bit different compared to my pervious blog posts . I want to tell you all about Spoonie Survival Kits and about the person behind it all!

The Founder

Pippa Stacey is a chronically ill writer from Yorkshire. Whilst at university she acquired a debilitating chronic illness which completely changed her life. When things started to get better she began to engage with media opportunities and speaking up about life as a student with a long term condition. In 2015 Pippa founded her very own social enterprise Spoonie Survival Kits which is now growing from strength to strength . You can checkout Pippa’s blog at https://www.lifeofpippa.co.uk/about/

The Survival Kits

When living with a chronic illness sometimes you realise just how the small things others take for granted can mean the whole world and make your day. Through this concept the ideas for these kits were made. “Spoonie” being the slang term for anyone living with a chronic illness and the kits are “little bags of happiness “. The aim is to make sure no one feels alone. The kits officially began in 2015. Kits are made to tailor for specific conditions and symptoms. 50% of all sales is donated to charity the remaining 50% is used to cover the costs of running the project. The contents of these kits are secret as they want it to be a surprise! Checkout this link to find out more about the survival kits: https://www.spooniesurvivalkits.com

Let’s Talk Kits

The Insomnia Spoonie Kit
£12.99

This kit is fantastic for anyone who needs a bit of support and comfort at night. Maybe you are feeling low? This kit also contains some gorgeous handmade items made by some of their incredible volunteers.

If you would like to buy this item please click on this link below

https://www.etsy.com/listing/659498940/insomnia-spoonie-survival-kit?utm_source=ssketsyshop&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api

Sustainable Self Care Kit
£17.99

A big thing about this kit is with sustainability so if you know anyone who feels strongly about sustainability this would also make a great gift. This jute zip toiletry bag contains five fabulous surprises! All items are cruelty free and ethical, cosmetic items are suitable for sensitive skin

If you would like to buy this item please click on this link below

https://www.etsy.com/listing/765161418/sustainable-self-care-kit?utm_source=ssketsyshop&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api

Chronic Pain Spoonie Survival Kit
£17.99

Those with chronic illness can often face unrelating pain on a daily basis otherwise known as chronic pain. These kits DO NOT cure this however these products are done to hopefully fill you with comfort and maybe a bit of distraction too!

If you would like to buy this item please click on this link below

https://www.etsy.com/listing/551523212/chronic-pain-spoonie-survival-kit?utm_source=ssketsyshop&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api

Chronic Fatigue Spoonie Survival Kit
£14.99

Sometimes self care can feel extremely hard, exhausting and challenging . So this kit is filled with items which aim to help you get through those heavy days as comfortable as possible!

If you would like to buy this item please click on this link below

https://www.etsy.com/listing/565321545/chronic-fatigue-spoonie-survival-kit?utm_source=ssketsyshop&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api

Accessories

Sterling Silver Spoonie Necklace
£14.99

With Spoonie being the slang word for someone who has a chronic illness these necklaces make a great gift for a loved one. Or maybe it’s a lovely little treat for yourself, to give you or a loved one a an extra bit of strength on a low day.

This necklace is handmade using quality sterling silver. The spoon is on a silver chain with a ring clasp. The necklace is on a chain that measures approximately 16 inches/ 20cm, with the spoon chain measuring 0.6 inches (15mm) .

If you would like to buy this item please click on this link below

https://www.etsy.com/listing/611870335/sterling-silver-spoonie-necklace?utm_source=ssketsyshop&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api

The Book

Dear Chronic Illness features a collection of short letters collaboratively written by 16 young people addressed to their conditions. Their conditions range from POTS, Endometriosis from Tumours to Serve M.E to name a few. The letters provided a light-hearted and humours commentary on each writers experiences. Whilst at the same time aiming to give insight into the challenges of navigating life whilst living with chronic illnesses. This book compiled by founder Pippa Stacey and published by Wallace Publishing.

To find out more about this amazing book and where to buy it please visit: https://www.spooniesurvivalkits.com/2018/04/26/dear-chronic-illness-our-very-own-book-release/

Lastly if you would like to get involved with Spoonie Survival Kits please visit their get involved page at https://www.spooniesurvivalkits.com/get-involved/

Riding for the Disabled Association: Helping To Train Duke

Riding for the Disabled Association

Recently at the stables we have had a new resident join our RDA family. A very lovely and friendly pony called Duke. I have been helping to train him in some of my riding lessons.

At the moment when the weathers not too hot and we are not going for hacks around the woods enjoying the sunshine and keeping cool. I am doing a lot of work with him going round corners and doing things like circles as he loves to lean onto my helper and ask for hugs and kisses all the time.

When riding Duke I notice I tend to go over to the left side more so we’ve been working a lot on straightness. This has really helped me to stay in the middle of the saddle and I find he responds better to me when walking straight compared to when we do work in the school involving doing circles or going in and out of cones.

I have found that if I do some pole work with him trying to make sure he is straight and not drifting this can really help him to make sure he picks up his legs and doesn’t trip or lose his balance as much. He finds balancing quite hard but we’re working on it.

What’s really lovely about him is that he always wants to try his best and wants to learn.

Due to the hot weather recently I have not been doing work with him in the school but going out for hacks in the woods instead. Going out in the woods I have found has really helped him to stay more straight and not drift so much. This has helped me a lot with keeping in the middle and not sitting to one side. As well as this when we go on hacks sometimes the horses and ponies might see something they are not used to like a ladder. So when gong out I have been able to show Duke things he might not have seen before whilst giving me lots of positive reinsurance .

I have found helping to train Duke very interesting as I also helped to train Billy when he first joined. It’s interesting how even though Duke is slightly older than Billy I need to work with him more on tasks Billy found more easy in the beginning when he first joined such as not drifting towards the helper or staying on the track.

I really enjoy riding Duke he’s so gentle and friendly and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things he will achieve in the years to come!

Disability Representation In Children’s TV

disability

Growing up I remember watching lots of different Children’s TV programs but very few of these programs featured a character with a disability. The only program I really remember watching as a child that featured a disabled character was The Story Of Tracey Beaker. However I only started watching The Story Of Tracey Beaker when I was old so what about before then?

I was diagnosed with my disability when I was in year 2 of primary school. My teacher at the time noticed I was having difficulties compared to my classmates and that’s when the many hospitals appointments started. I remember at the time I didn’t really know what was going on all I knew was that I had to spend days off school to go to the hospital some where near and some felt very far away.

I remember the doctors and my parents explaining to me that I had a disability and that I had some brain damage that my other friends didn’t have but everyone is unique and life would be boring if we were all the same. During this time I did start to tell my friends at playtime that my brain was a bit different to theirs as I got used to saying I had a disability that’s when things started to change. Friends drifted away and started to make fun of me not wanting me to be with them. This was hard for me as I didn’t understand why because to me I hadn’t changed. I was still the same old me.

I remember coming home from school sitting on the sofa watching TV and I couldn’t see what was wrong with me just that I was different but I didn’t understand why I was treated differently. As I grew up I understood more and more what a disability was, how it made me different and how others saw me but to me I was still the same.

I remember watching TV programs and thinking I was strange as I couldn’t see anyone else like me but to me I was normal. As I got older I understood more and more about my condition and why others treated me differently but when watching the TV sometimes I felt strange as I couldn’t see a person in the programs quite like me. Until I was older and started watching The Story Of Tracey Beaker which had disabled characters in.

Not seeing characters with disabilities in things I watched when I was younger now looking back really affected me. I think it made me feel that I was strange a freak as I couldn’t identify myself with anyone from my favourite programs but my friends and other classmates could. It made me feel that whatever I did I wouldn’t fit in and when your a child all you want to do is be able to fit in with everyone else; to feel accepted and liked by others.

This is why I think it is brilliant that the very popular pre-school show Peppa Pig will have the permanent feature of Mandy Mouse starting in 2020.

I believe that it is very important to have disabled characters in TV shows for children who are very young like preschool years. I think that having characters like these introduced on Children’s TV is important as it helps to show young children that everyone is different and that we are not all the same. I also think that having more disabled characters on Children’s TV will massively help young disabled children feel less alone and it may help them to understand more about what having a disability is like and the types of things they may face. I also believe that if we show characters like these on Children’s TV from a young age then children may not feel like they need or should pick on or bully others that outside society’s norm. As well as this I believe it sends the message to children from a young age that someone might be disabled but disabled people can still do things and you might have more in common with them than you think!

To find out more about Peppa Pigs Character: http://www.pretty52.com/entertaining/tv-and-film-peppa-pigs-new-friend-has-parents-choking-up-heres-why-20190404?fbclid=IwAR2wyYjjQ3ZaCObilbJhQRFnBvDR6WW11ru_bvc2q9SyAl8YPl5Cd_pjHWo

My Horse Riding Journey Through The Years So Far….

Riding for the Disabled Association

As some of you may know recently Riding for the Disabled launched their 50 Faces Campaign. I am very lucky and pleased to say I am part of for this campaign. So this got me thinking about how my horse riding and love for horses journey began.

The first time I sat on a horse I was terrified. I only managed a few steps and then just had to get off. You wouldn’t believe me now if I told you. I love going horse riding I look forward to my Saturday morning lessons like mad. I would ride everyday if I could! Going horse riding helps me to stay and be more positive I have found that horse riding and just being with the horses and ponies really does wonders to positively impacting on my mental health.

Just been out on a hack with King.

One primary school holiday I did try horse riding again with Camp Mohawk at a nearby stables to the centre. I remember doing a bit of trotting for the first time with a leader and our riding instructor. When my parents came to lead me around the hacks we would go on. After the summer holidays I decided that I wanted to do weekly lessons at the stables as I enjoyed it so much. At that stables I normally would ride Candy or King. King was a very naughty Pony!

One of my first lessons on Anya.

Whilst riding at this stables my mum came across Riding for the Disabled Association and put me on the waiting list. It was lovely when we got a phone call from South Bucks RDA asking if I would like to come for an assessment as I had been on the waiting list for a very long time. I remember on the way to the stables I was so excited but when I got there I didn’t want to get on. After a bit of persuading I got on and I’m so happy and glad I did. The first pony I ever rode at South Bucks RDA was called Barbie she was lovely by the end of the assessment I didn’t want to get off!

Charlie Girl

And that’s when amazing life changing journey with horses and ponies started. Since that first assessment I have achieved things I never thought would be possible. Horse riding has helped my self esteem and confidence massively. From doing The Countryside Challange and Dressage Competitions at Regional and National level, doing horse riding and horse care as part of my Short Course PE GCSE to meeting Princess Anne!

Rosette from The Countryside Challange 2011.

National Championships with Bonnie 2012.

RDA massively helped me when I was getting bullied. The horses and ponies are like my best friends and I trust them more than people! When I went horse riding I could just forget about the things happening at school. I felt safe and it is a place where I can focus on what I can do and it’s not about what I can’t do. I love all the horses and ponies at RDA with all their different personalities. I have grown a massive bond with the horses and ponies at RDA I call them my Saturday morning pets! The bond between horse and rider is so beautiful, unique and powerful theirs nothing else quite like it!

RDA isn’t just a place where I go riding every week it’s a family. All the grooms and volunteers are amazing without them I wouldn’t of been able to achieve what I have! RDA changed my life and continues too I don’t think I’d still be here if it wasn’t for the RDA. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

To find out more about the RDA visit: https://www.rda.org.uk

Want to meet all of The 50 Faces visit: https://www.rda.org.uk/50-faces/

Body Image & Peer Pressure At School

mental health

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, the theme this year is Body Image. The way bullies treated me through my school life really had a massive negative affected on my mental health and how I saw myself compared to my peer group . It still affects me to this day.

Growing up at school with a disability was very hard for me . I looked different from my peer group as I wore a leg splint on my right leg . I couldn’t wear girls shoes as my splint couldn’t fit into many shoes at all sob I had to wear boys school shoes. I remember their came a time when I had to wear trainers to school and I got picked on a lot because my peer group didn’t understand why I could wear trainers and they couldn’t. I’d get called a teachers pet in class all the time.

I remember I would get bullied because of the designs I had on my splint other kids would say they were childish.As well as calling and shouting out words down the corridor when they saw me from “cripple”or a “spastic” to telling me they would cut off my legs. The bullying from wearing a splint got so bad I decided I wouldn’t wear a skirt to school so that my splint wouldn’t show so much. But of course when it came to summer and the warm weather other girls would bully me for not wearing a skirt but instead still wearing trousers like I did in the colder months. I remember this one time when I took off my splint because sometimes it would rub so much and my foot would be red and sore and another student told me they would break my leg so I wouldn’t need to wear a splint. When I came home at the end of the day I would wish I didn’t have to wear one in the hope the bullies would stop. I just wanted to feel accepted and normal.

Unfortunately the bullying didn’t stop their I was also bullied for having curly hair . At school I remember it was really fashionable to have straight hair, however mine was curly. I remember I used to think I was friends with these’s other girls who were popular. They would pour hot and fizzy drinks in my hair and tell me it was shampoo and that I needed to straighten it. But when I did straighten it they would always say it wasn’t straight enough. Having curly hair really affected me for a very long time but now I am on a journey to loving my natural curly hair but that’s a whole different post in it’s self.

One other massive thing that affected my body confidence growing up was having facial hair. I got bullied loads because of it, not just my peer group or other students in different years but also by some members of staff. Bullies made my life miserable. I began to feel scared just at the thought of having to go to school and knowing people would laugh and point. Walking down the corridors or going to the canteen for lunch was so horrible and scary I was always on edge. Other students would shout at me from down the corridors and call me names like Frida Kahlo. I remember this group of girls who threatened to pour acid on me if I didn’t get rid of it. Other students started to try and make rumours about me; I would sometimes just hear people laughing at me as I walked past as I was trying not to make eye contact wishing the ground would swallow me up.

Harnaam Kaur photo from Instagram.

One of my helpers was really lovely and tried to help me. I remember the day she told me one day about a lady called Harnaam Kaur. Harnaam Kaur also known as the bearded dame is a body positivity warrior and activist. She has a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome at the age of 16 she decided to embrace herself for who she is. She stopped removing her facial hair just because others didn’t like it.

Harnaam really helped me to not feel like a freak and that I wasn’t alone. Bullies made me want to end my life. With all the horrible things that happened to me at school. However Harnaam helped me to stay true to myself. I now get rid of my facial hair but because I want to not because I feel I have to in order to please others!

Though what happened to me was horrible I am now on a never ending journey with trying to be more body positive as well as building up my self -esteem, confidence and self worth.

Find out more about body image: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report/exec-summary

Guest Blogger My Dad: How Riding for the Disabled has helped Bryony

Riding for the Disabled Association

Bryony started with the South Bucks branch of Riding for the Disabled (RDA) from the age of 8. As her Dad, I’ve got a lot of pleasure seeing how they have helped her overcome some of her problems whilst riding.

But before we get into that, I must confess that sometime in the last century I was also a keen horse rider: my mum had a horse called Blaze and, given her back problems, I became Blaze’s main rider for a few years. I mucked him out (sometimes), I prepared him for shows and won a few rosettes at the local Pony Club Events.

But while the few photos I have are of show events, my memories are quite different. I remember the togetherness of riding him over a round of small jumps with no saddle and no bridle (although I don’t remember how!). And my best memories are of sitting on his back revising for my “O” levels while he grazed on the grass in our small paddock. The type of togetherness that can bind man and animal, or, in this case, boy and horse. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school and Blaze was probably my best friend that summer.

So I can easily understand how the RDA has helped Bryony, how it continues to help, and hopefully help in the future. Her 45 minutes every Saturday morning are one of the top highlights of the week as she becomes a very different person. She becomes much more confident and self-assured, almost literally discarding her other issues as she gets on her horse at mid-day on Saturday. Her horse, whether it be Mabel or Billy, senses that Bryony is in charge. The horse may be led (usually by Hazel), but Bryony is definitely the boss. Her concentration is evident to us, her family, but we see something others don’t. We see that the issues and concerns that are very visible for most of the week are simply not there once she is riding. No-one is threatening her, or making fun of her, and that is clear from her appearance and confidence on the horse. I can’t remember when we last saw her have a fit on the horse, whilst she continues to have such episodes at home when she is not on a horse. Maybe it is the girl/horse relationship, maybe it is the nurturing and care of RDA staff, or more likely it is both of these. As Bryony puts it: the RDA is a second caring family to her and that’s an amazing thing to have when one is six foot up in the air on a very strong four-legged animal!

Bryony started this blog last year and we both hope that while it helps her, it can also help its readers, and can help others discover the pleasures – and very real benefits – provided by the RDA.