#filltheseats and why it matters

If you have read this blog for a while you’ll know that Rio has had a troubled build up to the Paralympics. It is right to highlight a much more positive development in the form of the #filltheseats campaign.

This campaign will help Brazilian children see the Paralympic Games. This is such a powerful thing. I’ll never forget taking my uncle to see Fran compete at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.

He had never seen any disability sport prior to that point. It’s a big cliche but he was inspired and moved by what he saw. Most importantly he also left the day with a greater understanding of what people could do despite their impairments. That day was 5 years ago now and is still talked about now.

This is why the #filltheseats campaign is so important. It will bring Paralympic sport and the awareness of disability that comes with it to thousands of children who will carry it with them for the rest of their lives.

#filltheseats has also been backed by a whole host of people including the International Paralympic Committee, Coldplay and Paralympic athletes across the globe.

You can find out more here. Please support this initiative however you can and tweet using #filltheseats. Thank you:)

Brazilian Vogue and Rio Paralympics: An insulting way to miss the point?

So you are the host country to host a sporting event. It’s not going great, ticket sales are down and the eyes of the world are on you. So you have to do something, right?

Hmm. Perhaps this was how the meeting that lay behind the Brazilian vogue photo shoot in question. To promote the Rio Paralympics, non disabled models were photoshopped to appear disabled

This has not gone down too well to say the least. I can see why. The Paralympics has arguably a broader significance than the Olympics in terms of promoting understanding of disability and the issues around it. The advert actually creates a barrier to that, obscuring disability, which isn’t something that can be merely airbrushed out.

A far more effective approach has been consistently taken by Channel 4 in the UK. Here the message has been about presenting athletes who achieve what they do, working with their bodies to achieve what they do in sport. This surely is a more powerful message.

It is troubling that a host country of the Paralympics can display such a lack of understanding of the meaning and spirit of the games just a few days away from the start of it.

An understanding of disability is help to be arrived at by a careful representation of it. Disabled people don’t have the luxury of choosing to be disabled. Every day brings challenges to negotiate that can’t be magicked away. The only solution comes in the form of hard work. 

This is where the Paralympics has its wider social value, and why it resonates so powerfully. The games also has a vital responsibility to represent the broad spectrum of impairments that people have. Again, the Brazilian Vogue advert falls down here. 

Some will argue that for the Paralympics, any publicity is good publicity. This may especially the case given the troubled build up to Rio and poor ticket sales. I would counter by saying in which other context would it be ok to sell a product by distortion?  Perhaps if a better plan was devised to promote the games from the outset, such desperate measures would not have been required.

Personally I think the whole episode is in danger of being a wider reflection of the games itself: A missed opportunity. It is good that the photo shoot has been highlighted and that we can have wider discussion around it. Every empty seat we will see in Rio though is representative of both a wider failure to execute a properly planned games and a chance to learn more about disability generally. The chance to see anyone being world class is an opportunity that should never be passed up.

One only hopes that Brazil does a better job in responding to Paralympians. Come the games themselves, there will be no airbrushed representations available, which is an entirely good thing.

Two teams and one missed opportunity: Team GB and Paralympics GB

Today the ‘I am Team GB’ day is making a big splash.  A national broadcaster here in the UK even switched off its channel for an hour as part of efforts to promote the day in an unprecidented move.  At one level, I think this is a good thing.  People are rightly being encouraged to come together to celebrate the incredible success of Team GB in Rio.

However, scratch beneath the surface and for me, it is a missed opportunity.  We have not one Team GB, we have two different groups.  Team GB compete at the Olympic Games and Paralympics GB compete at the Paralympics.  On one level, this is totally understandable, and even commercially desirable  Both Team GB and Paralympics GB have separate commercial relationships with sponsors which they can use to further their respective interests.  You might not know this, but even the lion for the Olympic and Paralympic team is different.

Besides the commercial reasons though, the waters become muddied.  People can’t understand the reasons behind the two different team names and it creates a barrier to understanding where they need not be one.  For me there is also the wider symbolic aspects of the difference.  It implies a division between disabled and non disabled people which is not helpful.  We are one nation and should have a united banner with which to celebrate the achievements of all of our athletes.

Days like today also highlight why the separate identities of the teams can be unhelpful.  The Paralympics GB team are in a critical phase of their preparations for Rio with 11 days to go to the start of the Rio Paralympics.  Just as with the combined events to celebrate the achievements of our athletes, was there no way in which the festivities of today could have been moved back a few days?

For now, we will continue to have two sporting teams competing under one flag.  It will fall to us to show that, despite the difference in name, there will be no difference in the magnificient level of support we can give to our athletes.  I hope that in future, a way forward can be found to give us one Great Britain team that we can take to our hearts as a nation.

When a social worker comes calling..

I was at work today and got a text from Fran saying that her social worker had come, unannounced.  I froze.  Getting a message like that from Fran is one of the few things that will stop me in my tracks and worry.

Before I go on, let me be clear as to what the purpose of this blog is (and is not) about.  It is not about having a go at social workers, the majority of whom in my experience, do a great job in increasingly impossible circumstances due to the chronic underfunding of social care (gotta love those Tories, he says, with deep sarcasm!)  It is though to show how as a disabled person, that there is very little that is private, and answering deeply personal questions is the norm.

I was annoyed.  The social worker had come unannounced.  This is not unusual for this to be the case.  It was an important visit too, so I was frustrated that I could not be there to support Fran.  The potential power that social workers can have over your life is scary.  A few strokes of a pen can radically alter your life, especially in the aforementioned financial climate when everyone is under pressure to save money at any cost.  We have not long (well, I say this, 9 months in!) moved house so that has the potential to change *everything.*  Luckily it did not.

The funding for social care has come under particular stress, especially after the closure of the ILF at a time when Local Authority budgets are under unprecedented pressure.  Following a drastic reduction in Fran’s support we’d written to our local MP who had investigated the matter for us. Surprise surprise, the interest of the MP meant that the initial decisions were reviewed and Fran had escaped with much less severe cuts, which she has still noticed, but is able to get by.

Given this backdrop I was relived when Fran said that the social worker had discussed her funding with her and it was staying the same.  I wasn’t sure whether this would be the case, particularly as it was a new social worker.  Fran and I tend to struggle a bit with social workers.  Our lifestyle just doesn’t ‘fit’ with the way ‘the system’ works.  Basically it is set up on the assumption you don’t work so things are more difficult if you do (how wrong is that?!) and Fran tends to be about the only one on the social workers current case load who actually works.  The social workers we have seen just aren’t used to dealing with that and the way we lead our lives.

All of which goes to show how scary it is when a social worker comes calling, even with the nicest of social workers.  And that is for us…when we have 5 degrees between us and an understanding of how ‘the system’ works.  I really don’t know how people who struggle to have their own voice are able to navigate the system.  Mind boggling in so many sad ways.  Then the questions start..being asked about every aspect of your life from how you wash and go to the toilet to asking for your bank balances to see how your money is spent.  This is all par for the course, and the social worker has their job to do but can feel really intrusive.

Next comes the revelation that Fran’s referral for an Occupational Therapist is 18 (yes 18) months overdue.  In theory it should take six weeks.  That’s one long six weeks.  We have moved to a bungalow which is much more accessible but in the mean time Fran has been showering on a garden chair and struggling to get in and out of the house.  You try to find workarounds (hence the garden chair in the shower!) but these aren’t always great for your self esteem or morale!

So, another social work visit safely negotiated.  Fran even told them that we were thinking about having kids and the social worker managed not to fall off her chair in shock.  That’ll bring a whole other set of questions assessments and visits as, if and when we decide to take the plunge.  That challenge can wait for now.

I know its easy to say but it shouldn’t be like this.  Social care and social work is on its knees and struggling to cope.  There has to be a better way to support people.

 

How not to organise a Paralympic Games (and what to do about it)

Over recent days, weeks and months it has become very clear that the Rio Paralympics was in big trouble.  Financial problems with the games have led to frantic planning and significant cost cutting measures.  At one stage, whether the games would even take place was doubted.  All of this is a world away from London 2012, which captured the public imagination and was described as the best ever Paralympic Games.  Rio represents a great example of how not to organise a Paralympic Games in 5 main ways:

  1. Making it difficult or impossible for athletes to get there – At the risk of stating the obvious, without the athletes, there can be no games.  Difficulties and delays over the funding of travel monies have been well publicized over recent days and have now been resolved to some extent.  Nonetheless, it would appear that some athletes will not be able to attend due to these funding problems.   It is difficult to overstate how bad this is.  Imagine you have trained for years to get to the Paralympics, only to be denied your hard earned opportunity to compete for non-sporting reasons.  Would it happen with the Olympics? Unthinkable.  Why then has it been allowed to happen with the Paralympics?
  2. Don’t sell tickets – Paralympic ticket sales have been woeful, with just 12% sold according to figures quoted this week.  The lack of a crowd will damage the atmosphere of the games and images of empty seats beamed across the world will damage Paralympic sport in general.  This is not news though.  As early as March the poor ticket sales were highlighted. What has been done since then?  Has anything been done since then?  Whatever the measures taken, it is clear they have had little impact.
  3. (Allegedly!) divert money to the Olympics – It has been consistently reported that money has been ‘diverted’ from the Paralympics to the Olympics.  Why?  It is not widely known, but the IOC actually have much influence over the Paralympics in terms of the structural organisation of the games.  What responsibility have they taken and how are they helping to resolve the situation now?
  4. Reduce volunteers – Anyone who has attended any mass sporting event will understand the value and importance of volunteers to making good things happen.  In Rio, the number of volunteers will be reduced, as part of cost cutting measures.  This means that running the games will actually be made much more difficult.
  5. Make media coverage more difficult – the number of media centres will be reduced as part of cost cutting measures, making it more difficult for the games to be covered.  Media coverage is fundamental to the success of any games so this is particularly concerning.

Why the fuss?

Just as with the Olympics, the Paralympics is about more than just sport.  It plays a critical role in raising awareness of the capacity of disabled people to be extraordinary, and is arguably more important than the Olympics in terms of making disability more widely understood.  As such, the state of the Rio games represents such a missed opportunity on a number of levels.  This is especially the case after London, which was the coming of age for the Paralympics.  The contrasts could not be greater.

So what now?

With the games a matter of days away, there is little more than hope to be frank, that the games is a success in spite of all the above.

More positively, there are measures that can be taken in the short term and the long term.  In the short term we need to back our athletes more than ever before – so get behind them on social media and make sure you watch the games.  In Great Britain, there will be coverage on the BBC and Channel 4, so rest up after the Olympics, and get ready for some more medals and early mornings.  I promise you it will be worth staying up for!

In the long term, a few things need to happen in my view:

  • The ring fencing of the budget for the Paralympics
  • Greater independence for the IPC from the IOC
  • A wider examination of how the world can be helped to ‘get’ Paralympic Sport
  • Some serious questions need to be asked of how we have reached this point

As I said above…would it happen with the Olympics? Unthinkable.  Why then has it been allowed to happen with the Paralympics?  Some serious questions need to be asked.

 

2 Disability and Depression: Addressing the elephant in the room

This is a highly unusual blog for me dear reader.  Why? Well, I’m actually sacred while I’m writing it and the topic of depression isn’t something I’d normally discuss.  It is however this fear that is driving me on as I write.  I fear the topic because of the stigma that endures around it.  Yet it is that fear which drives me on to write this blog.  I’ve never ducked a topic before in the short life of this blog, and I don’t intend to start now.

I should say at the outset that this may not be an easy read, so if you aren’t in the best frame of mind, perhaps come back later.  Know this though, no matter how bleak it feels, you can come back from the darkest of places.

Things started to unravel for me quite quickly.  I was in the middle of a PhD which was little more than an exercise in prolonged misery at the time, which was causing a strain.  I then lost a couple of grandparents in quick succession and things just got on top of me.  I then began to take out my feelings on those closest to me.  I was looking for answers in all the wrong places and found them in a shape of a girl I met at the time.

Before I knew it I was a wreck.  My state of mind got worse and worse and I was unable to make even simple decisions.  One example was whether to board a flight to France.  I couldn’t decide what to do and was so conflicted that my mental knots made me a human ball of string.  My emotions were everywhere and I stood in the departure hall fighting back the tears.  I had actually been to see the doctor to talk about what was quickly diagnosed as depression and anxiety.  They prescribed a sick note and some tablets, which I refused to take.  At the time, I thought I knew best and didn’t need chemicals that I feared would a) have terrible side effects and b) turn me into a zombie.

I eventually returned from France, coming back with my poor sister.  Again I didn’t know what to do or if I could come back.  It took me an hour and the persuasion of my sister but I eventually boarded the plane back home.  I was a wreck and the depression was sucking all the life out of me.  In my wisdom I decided it would be a good idea to move out to live with the girl I had met.  That was not a good move.

I had isolated myself from anyone who could help.  Apart from my parents that is, who understood what was going on and still spoke to me.  The depth of their compassion and understanding knew no bounds.  Things were still getting worse.  At my lowest points, getting out of bed to have something to eat was a good day.  This for someone who had graduated from Cambridge a few years earlier and who seemingly had the world at his feet.

You have to hit the bottom though to bounce up.  This for me took the form of setting off for a train station and not intending to come back.  I had written a note and just didn’t want to be here any more.  I saw no way back.  I couldn’t bring myself though to follow through with my plan.

Instead I phoned my parents.  Before long I had returned home with my tail between my legs.  The flip side of being suicidal at that point was that I got quick access to therapy through the NHS, which literally saved my life I think.  I had a brilliant therapist called Graham who, through a combination of carrot and stick, got me to see where I was going wrong and gave me the tools to dig myself out of the hole I was in.  To the frustration of the numerous professionals involved, I maintained my refusal to take any form of tablets, so of course things took longer.

Eventually, having built up my levels of resolve, I returned to my PhD.  I probably should have not completed it, but by now it had assumed a great significance and I was determined to see it through whatever the outcome.  My supervisors continued to doubt whether I would be successful, which was fantastic motivation.  I also gradually began to repair my relationships with family and see friends who I had isolated myself from for about 2 years.  By making myself do the things I used to, I gradually became my ‘old’ self.

I then met Fran, which was a real turning point in my life.  I was honest with her about where things were at, and we were able to build something that became, and is to this day, life defining.  I was back to my old self.  Almost.  One thing I learned was that the depression was always there, and I always had to be self aware and manage it, as I do to this day.  Continuing improvement saw me building up my own athlete management business whilst I finished my PhD corrections (much to the surprise of my supervisors I got through my viva with relatively minor things to address.)

I eventually was told I was to be awarded my PhD and be Dr Chris just before the start of the London Paralympic Games and one of the busiest few days of my life!  By now I had moved in with Fran and settled in Cambridge (it’s funny how things go in circles, returning a few years after I graduated.)  However.  Things had taken their toll and my old ‘signs’ of depression were returning.

To stop this, I decided I needed to look for part time work.  I got an interview with a local charity.   The first interview, somehow went really well.  Now for the second interview.  I needed to prepare a presentation.  All my nervy habits were set off again.  I nearly didn’t go back.  The day before the second interview I went to see the local GP and was in floods of tears again.  This time though, I actually took the tablets prescribed!  And they helped..in the end!

I convinced myself I had nothing to lose and went into the second interview.   Pure adrenaline got me through.  I was offered the job and was delighted to accept.  Three years later, I still work there!  I took the decision to tell my line manager about my depression, who was brilliant and never looked back.  I have to keep an eye on things, and am still on the tablets, but have managed to negotiate a path to being comfortable in my own skin and quite successful at ‘life.’  In my darkest moments, I never thought I’d be able to say that.

Depression is awful and the stigma around it endures.  I offer this blog as my own contribution to helping to gradually break that down, and to show that it is possible to come back from the darkest of places.

Thank you for reading.  Now my final battle with this blog…to hit ‘publish.’  Here goes..!

 

Disability and growing up: A letter to my younger self

Picture yourself as a 16 year old.  What would you say to yourself?  What advice would you give?  That’s my task in this blog.  There is a bit of a back story here, as after reading my blog, the parent of a 16 year old got in touch with me.  I thought I’d use this as a positive opportunity to reach out, and hopefully do some good in the process.

Dear Chris,

I’m now writing this as someone who is, scarily, double your age.  I wanted to write this letter, not only to reassure you, but also to give you some gentle advice, which hopefully will be useful.  The big news is that you are going through a difficult time now, but being able to negotiate these years well will open up some really exciting opportunities for you.  It is a time where you get to take an increasing amount of responsibility for your actions and choices as you find your feet as an adult.  There is loads to learn too, which is both fine and to be expected.  We never stop learning!  There is so much I want to say to you but I have limited myself to just 5, so that the key things stand out.

  1. Be yourself and accept who you are

You may think this is a really obvious one but it lies at the heart of everything.  You know by now that you are who you are and that there are things that you can’t change.  The only way is to accept those things and make the best of them.  Through this acceptance, you’ll be able to grow to be more comfortable in your own skin.  In terms of being yourself..totally vital.  Take the time to explore who you are and where you want to be.  You have lots of opportunity to do that now, and working these things out, though a little scary, will help you make good choices later.  Likewise, this will help you to stop being someone you are not, which is always a waste of time and never a good move.

  1. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness

So we both well know by now that you are stubborn. Good, to a point at least. This stubbornness gives you determination, resilience and will help you to prove people wrong.  However, there comes a point when you are cutting your nose off to spite your face.  In these situations, asking for help in order to maximise what you can do is a real strength and not a weakness.  Have the courage and strength to speak up (especially when it feels scary to ask for help – that’s probably when you will most need it!) and you’ll be amazed how further it gets you.  Everyone needs help from time to time.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up

This may be the hardest.  Thing is, that deep down, there is an amazing person within you.  You probably won’t grasp just how much potential you have and how many possibilities there are.  There will be this nagging voice in your head though that doubts this, which constantly beats yourself up as never good enough.  Suppress that voice and believe.  Give yourself credit for the strides forward you make (however small they might seem.)  By being good to yourself, you’ll give yourself the most chance of letting your best self emerge.

  1. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time

This one is really tricky too, but I promise you that by stopping comparisons with others, you’ll save so much time.  Go and look in the mirror..go on..:)  Do you see that person looking back at you?  That is the person you have to compare yourself to..you and you alone.  That is the person who will have to live with the direct consequences of the choices you make.  Everyone has to find a path that they are comfortable with and has their own things that shape that.  Don’t worry about the comparisons*.

(* – that doesn’t mean to say you can’t learn from  others.  On the contrary, you’ll learn from everyone you meet.  Keep the good points and discard the bad!)

  1. Treasure those closest to you

There are people around you that love, care and support you and will do so no matter what.  This is the most precious and valuable thing you’ll have.  They will be impacted by the choices you make, so keep them in mind too as you make them.  Above all, show them that love back.  They might not always be around forever, so make the most of every bit of time you have together.  Especially keep the ones close who will challenge you.  That challenge will keep you honest and help you to keep making good choices.  The people who challenge you constructively are often also the ones who respect you the most, so remember that this comes from a really good place.

I hope this letter is useful Chris.  You are going to have some really exciting times ahead.  Keep making good choices, working hard and the above advice in mind, and all promises to be well!

All the best,

 

Chris

 

 

2 Why talking about disability is essential: Freeing my ‘imprisoned’ self

When I am blogging, I have three simple rules.  The first is that I must write the blog in 30 minutes.  Second, that the blog must be no longer than 500 words and third that I must be making a clear point.

I fear that in this post, I may break the first two of these rules, so apologies in advance dear reader (blame my past as a law student and criminologist – I spent years studying how rules are broken!)  For the avoidance of doubt, my clear point is this: that is it ok to talk about disability.  This was partly what was behind the very title of this site…I wanted to ‘speak out’ and finally had the means to do so.

This wasn’t always the case though.  For years, I kept my disability in an invisible (yet tangible) prison.  It was there, and I could see it, but I didn’t know quite how to talk about it.  I’ve done some reading about this lately and in his earlier work, academic Tom Shakespeare makes a reference to ‘coming out’ in terms of disability, and from what I do know, there are parallels.

For me though there were two big turning points.  A first was going to school.  I’ve spoken a lot about education and inclusion in the past, and when I do, I say that it was really down to me to talk about my impairment and how it impacted on me. If I did not, I couldn’t help other people understand it and the impact it had.

As I got older though, I started to build a few walls around talking about it.  Ironically in some ways I became really reluctant to talk about my impairment and felt really awkward about it, more so than other people in some ways.  Fortunately in some ways, as I got older in school and more familiar (some would say stubborn!) in my surroundings, I just became increasingly focused on school results, girls and other typical teenage pursuits.  I moved away from anything to do with disability, fearing that involvement would lead me to being ‘pidgeon holed’ and I didn’t want that.

The imprisoned space got really big, all thoughts about disability and talking about it openly locked away.  Something for my private thoughts.

However, then came my second turning point.  Before I met Fran I hadn’t dated anyone who had an impairment.  She changed all that.  When we met (we both have cerebral palsy) it was as if there was a deep understanding that only someone who had the same lived experience could know about.  The nearest example I can think of to convey this is sport related.  Think of it like both following a football team.  You understand how much to support that club means and what it is all about.  Nothing else like that understanding ever really comes close.

My ‘imprisoned’ self was freed.  Even creating the blog and writing a post like this as recently as a couple of years ago would have been unthinkable.  Now, I want to use my own lived experience of disability in a positive way to help break down barriers and increase understanding.  This was why I created the blog, and that is why I would encourage everyone to talk about disability and learn more.

It is also true to say that for me, my disability isn’t the sum total of my identity, and nor should it be.  It is part of who I am.  Just as I have released my disability from prison, I won’t allow it to imprison me now. I’ll always try to maximise the things I can do, whilst acknowledging the limitations I have.  But then, who is limitless?  If you are, then I want to meet you!!

Prison isn’t ever a space for something as important for disability to be.  Keep it out of prison and let us all keep talking about how we can get along together.  Talking about disability is not in fact just ok as I said at the outset, but is essential.

A historic day for Paralympic Sport

Today is a historic one for Paralympic sport.  Minutes ago, the International Paralympic Committee announced that it had suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee with immediate effect for violations of anti doping regulations.

This decision stands in direct contrast to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  Here, decision making was delegated after the IOC, in my view, effectively ducked the issue and passed the buck to individual bodies.  Why could the IOC not take this stance?

The tone of the IPC statement was surprisingly strong, with Sir Philip Craven saying that a “medals over morals mentality” “disgusted” him.  The decision was a unanimous one.  It was also fair in my view, that extra samples were tested and that dialogue was sought with the Russian Paralympic Committee over several hours of meetings.  These steps of ‘due process’ and administrative good practice may also curtail efforts to have the ruling overturned.  

No doubt Russia will appeal in due course.  Given the strength of the statement issued by the IPC and the extent of the issues uncovered, it will take something very compelling for this ruling to be overturned.

It is no less than a defining moment for Paralympic sport as a whole.  A bold, (and some would say controversial) stance driven by an unwavering commitment to clean sport.  Whilst personally, I do sympathise for the Russian athletes who did not cheat, this decision safeguards the wider matters pertaining to the integrity of Paralympic sport as a whole.   The pressure that the IPC will have been under, whatever the decision taken, should also be remembered.  All of this makes the leadership and strength shown commendable.

A message to the rest of the world is also clear.  Paralympic sport can stand independently of the Olympics, and functions to its own standards, beliefs and values.  The IPC now must continue to take this stance in other areas of the work it presides over, in order to ensure that the integrity and fairness of Paralympic sport runs throughout.  There will still be issues for Paralympic sport to address, but the measures taken today shows the capacity exists for them to be successfully negotiated.

Hopefully we can now look forward to a Paralympic Games in which, unlike the Olympics, does not have a shadow lingering over it.  When the world watched, the Paralympic movement delivered a verdict that did justice to the athletes who will legitimately be representing their country.

 

The power of words and ‘speaking out’

Its been an interesting few days to say the least.  On Saturday morning, I wrote about an incident involving Fran and I.  It was then picked up by a few people followed by a response in the form of an open letter to ‘John.’

Since then, unbelievably, those blogs have been read by literally thousands of people from half way across the world.  It wasn’t something I expected to happen.  Today, thanks to some brilliant support from my lovely work colleagues, there was some press interest.  It was one of those rare instances where my personal and professional lives became intertwined. Tomorrow, there is more press…so i’d better write up this blog promptly!!

Where does all this leave me feeling?  Partly still a bit conflicted.  I’m still reflecting on what happened.  Partly that annoys me..why should I let it get under my skin so much?  I think that this annoyance also shows two more things. Firstly, that I have lots more to learn about everything in life. Secondly, there is a long way to go in terms of disability equality too.

Above all though, I’m taking it as a positive thing.  It’s been a way to raise awareness about disability and get people talking and thinking, which is good.  Fran has taken it all in her stride, and has seen it in a similar way.  She’s a real rock for me.  I’d be lost without her..though that’s between you and I! 🙂

Another important thing is not to dwell on negatives.  Life is such a precious thing that it doesn’t do to overly focus on the past.  You have to dust yourself down, get on with it, moving forward with your head held high and the positive lessons learned.  I also tweeted about resilience, and its important to have that too.

It has also made me realise a few things i’m not.  I’m not defined by my disability (its a part of me, not the sum of me), i’m not wrong to speak out, and i’m not the only one.  I have got lots of messages from people who have has similar experiences (and far worse in my view) so we have to keep talking.  It is through difficult (sometimes painfully) honest conversations that we’ll make progress.

Speaking of progress…if this humble blog can ‘go global’ it also shows the power we all have to reach others – and the importance of speaking out.  However daunting it may seem, don’t be afraid to do so. You never know where it might take you, and how it can positively impact on others. I’d encourage you, dear reader, to personally speak out too 🙂

Lastly..thank you.  I have been overwhelmed by the kindness, empathy and support that has been sent in our direction over the last few days. The support is genuinely appreciated, and the difference it makes massive.

Wishing you all the best for now dear readers..until next time 🙂