July is officially Disability Pride month where we celebrate the voice and diversity of disabled people. For me it is about celebrating disabled people’s uniqueness and recognising that we as disabled people are creative thinkers, inherent problem solvers, and have the ability to see the world differently.
This July has been a particularly eventful one for me – I’ve recently recovered from Covid along with my family and team of PA’s. I have always thought that when one of us caught the virus we would all get it together…. and I was right. One PA after another phoned in sick and whilst I was poorly I still had to sort out rotas and make sure that I had 24 hour cover. But that is part of my life I have to manage no matter what else is happening… after over 20 years I’m used to it, but it was especially challenging in this scenario as I’m sure you can imagine!
On a more positive note, last week I finally graduated with my Doctorate of Philosophy, delayed for two years due to the pandemic. It was a fantastic occasion and well worth the wait… although I did worry I might expire wearing a heavy gown and bonnet on the hottest day on record!
If ever I had to had to problem solve and think my way around difficult situations it when I was doing my PhD. Studying at this level is a significant challenge for anyone, but for me it felt almost insurmountable at times.
Due to my disability, I needed a lot of support when doing my PhD: I required help to carry out the research and note down my thoughts as I’m unable to use a keyboard. I actually type all my blogs and emails on my phone.
Of course to write a PhD on a phone would be a completely different matter – most likely impossible! The only way I knew I could do this would be to work with somebody who could support me to use intricate data and who I could dictate to.
The relationships with those who supported me were extremely challenging and complex. I had to find unique and appropriate ways to explain to each individual what I needed to find and how and where to find it. My original perceptions of this process completely differed from the lived experience and being in the thick of it wasn’t fun. It was particularly difficult working with people who hadn’t been through the PhD process.
Another challenge was having to book my scribe to come at particular times. For anyone who writes you’ll understand that most people need their own time and space to be able to write when inspiration strikes, rather than being limited to a specific timetable. For me it was really hard because I could only write extensively if I had someone to dictate to. I used to write the odd note on my phone but it wasn’t ideal and I used to feel an enormous amount of pressure to ‘deliver’ – sitting beside someone and having to dictate and add references ‘on the spot’ as it were.
However, as hard as the process was, I firmly believe that achieving such a high academic standard and having to solve problems and find unique ways of working has made me a stronger, more creative and resilient person. Although it was extremely challenging and stressful at times, I am so grateful for the opportunity and the experience my PhD provided.
I will admit there were many times I wanted to throw in the towel and give up doing my PhD but I’m so pleased I didn’t – I know I would have regretted it. I’m proud of myself and excited by the path my PhD has led me to and the doors it has opened. I’m so passionate about the work I’m doing now as a social entrepreneur and through We Are All Disabled to explore, challenge and change perceptions of disability.
Just sitting here now on my own with the freedom to write my blog on my phone in my own time is so relaxing… I love it!
We all have difficulties to overcome and things that we find scary and might be tempted to run away from or give up on. But I believe it’s really important to acknowledge and be proud of the things we do to challenge ourselves, no matter how big or small they may be.
What are you proud of yourself for? If you have a story to share then do please get in touch… I’d love to hear from you.