Hands up. I’ve done my fair share of the angry reaction to my disability. I remember, in the early days, when I was trying to adjust to this new and alien noise in my left ear, I’d often fly off the handle. I’m ashamed to admit that one day I got so angry with the tinnitus I started hitting my own head. I knew it wasn’t healthy but I needed some way of venting my frustration. I’m relieved to say it’s not how I react anymore but I can still remember where that feeling came from; peace is precious and it’s hard to adjust to its loss.
It may sound counterintuitive but I’m convinced that disability forces you to be brave and the sooner you recognise yourself as brave and not vulnerable, the better.
My disability turns run-of-the-mill activities into hair-rising adrenaline rides.
One example from this week …
I had an appointment to see my consultant near Kings Cross. A 16 stop tube journey along the Piccadilly line and an 8 minute walk was all that stood between me and my doctor’s door.
It should have been simple. Millions of Londoners make a journey like this every day.
But when you are on your own and you feel so unsteady that even the miraculous appearance of a zimmer frame wouldn’t cut the mustard and when you know that a sudden loud noise (the screechy ones that tube trains emit all the time) might fire off a series of neurons in your skull to start a vertigo attack, it’s not simple at all.
I made it to Kings Cross, but had to perch against the platform wall to steady myself. I had to laugh when I realised that I was actually scanning the crowd for a friendly face; my subconscious was deciding who I was going to ask for help if I had a full attack.
Getting back to my front door and putting my key in the lock that day felt like the sweetest of victories. If anyone’s ever watched the Amy Cuddy Ted Talk about body language (I highly recommend it) … I felt the urge to stand in the middle of my kitchen and do the power pose. You know the one, the “I’m the dogs bollocks pose”; legs wide, arms wide reaching for the sky.
I felt brave. Me and my messed up dizzy brain had conquered London. And I hadn’t had to ask a single stranger for help.
Feeling that vulnerable on a daily basis, sorry brave, BRAVE has changed me. The only thing I can equate it to is ageing. Bear with me here. You know how, as you age, you start to give less of a damn about what other people think because you start to realise that the only thing that really matters is what you think. For me, disability has accelerated that feeling. It’s like getting older on speed. I quite simply have “no more F€#ks to give”
The most liberating thing for me is that I have lost fear.
I had the opportunity last week to go and see one of my favourite writers, Caitlin Moran, give a talk for International Women’s Day. OK, I admit that “one of my favourite writers” underplays it a bit. I bloody love her. I read everything she writes and, if I’m honest, I would quite like to be her.
She was witty, sharp, deliciously funny and so entertaining.
A year ago, I’d have listened in awe and gone on my merry way. The new me had other ideas. I wasn’t going to be this close to one of my heroes and not talk to her. So I joined the back of a very long book queue.
An hour later, I reached the front. She hugged me. Twice. She was warm and friendly and kind. She gave me advice on writing. She wrote this message for my daughter and I took a picture of the two of us in which I am grinning insanely.
To everyone else out there with a disability. Keep on kicking ass.
P.S Eleanor, you are, already.