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Pain Chronicles: The Real Reason why Disabled People Exercise Less

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 


One of the main guarantees of disabled life on the internet is being asked “Have you tried yoga?” I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been asked that question. 

In fact, if I had a pound for every time I’d been asked that I’d have too much money for the DWP to give me the disability benefits they don’t give me anyway. 

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Pain Chronicles: Despite it all, we Deserve to Have the Christmas we Choose

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 


Trigger warning: This piece contains the sudden death of grandparents, covid death and discussion of bereavement. Please take care.

If you live in the Northern hemisphere, Christmas comes in the middle of winter. The long nights, the cold weather, the having to leave the house while it’s still dark outside. 

Pain and fatigue often get worse in the cold (as well as the warm, which is why I much prefer Autumn!), and worsening depression and anxiety rear their heads in the form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

I’ve a rather personal bone to pick with winter as well. In 2017, on Christmas Eve, and entirely unexpectedly, my nan died.

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Pain Chronicles: Ethical Fashion is Harder When You’re Disabled

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 


Note – where possible, I’m including ethical comparisons of clothing brands from goodonyou.eco.

Last night I ate spag bol while wearing a white vest top, you can imagine what happened next. Only one of my £3, fast-fashion, I have about 4 of them, vest tops though. 

As it spins now in the washing machine, I am not all that invested in if the stain remover will work because it’ll be relegated to a PJ top if necessary. 

In recent years, I’ve moved away from fast fashion. I haven’t bought a vest top that costs less £8 for a long time, because I know that £3 is not adequately paying the person who stitched it. I obviously haven’t gotten rid of the fast fashion stuff with wear still in them, but I’m trying not to buy any more. Trying. Because my disabilities mean I run into issues.

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“Fully accessible” is a myth, we need to be more specific to help everybody

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 


As I’m writing this, I’ve just got back from a weekend in Sheffield. It was my 30th birthday and my mum Shaz treated me. But it did illustrate the difficulties of travelling for two people who have sometimes conflicting access needs, and how “fully accessible” can be a myth.

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Jamie Oliver’s Food “Campaigning” Will hit Working Class Kids Hardest – yet Again

Trigger warning: This article contains discussion of eating disorders.


Ahh, Jamie Oliver. The Naked Chef. The school meals guy. The anti-Jack Monroe. Turning up at Downing Street with what is actually a pretty rubbish pun of “Eton Mess” because of a Boris U-Turn on legislation that would force supermarkets to not do 2 for 1 deals on junk food items. During a cost of living crisis.

You may remember Oliver from such spectacular cultural moments as that time he showed kids what was in chicken nuggets and then looked despondent when they said they’d all still eat them, and for his crusade against turkey twizzlers. Jamie first had an impact on my life way back in the mid-00s with his school dinners campaign, when 12-year-old me rocked up to find there would only be chips on one day each week.

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Pain Chronicles: Two Generations of Fibromyalgia

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way.


Not long after I graduated from university, I was at my GP looking for an answer for what was causing my pain. It had started five years or so earlier, just in my knees at the time, but it had become increasingly more widespread.

The young GP looked at my history, asked me some questions, and ordered some blood tests, just to be certain. Then he asked me a very simple question: “What do you know about fibromyalgia?”

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Pain Chronicles: What a Massive Pain

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 


If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you may be aware that I broke my ankle in November. I think I may have mentioned it once or twice. With a bit of luck, by the time you’re reading this, I’ll be pretty much back to “normal”.

I know I’m on my way back to “normal” because my regular pain is starting to come back to me. My usual fibromyalgia problem areas are my shoulders, my lower back and hips, as well as overall fatigue. Of course, other parts of my body tend to get worried they’re missing out and jump in on the action, so you never really can tell what’ll hurt, but they’re the primary problem areas. The other night, my lower back hurt more in bed than my foot did.

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Pain Chronicles: I Discovered I had Vaginismus Because of my First Cervical Smear

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown-in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 


TW: blood, medical insensitivity, medical procedure (cervical smear). Resources are available at the bottom of this column. 

I still have the knickers I wore to my first attempt at a smear test, it’s been 4 years now, and the blood hasn’t ever come out. Despite the guidance saying my risk was low on account of my HPV vaccine and my never having had sex, I still wanted that peace of mind.

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Pain Chronicles: Being Fat Isn’t a Disability, but Society’s Attitude to it Can be

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Darwin about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 


For her 50th birthday, I took my mum to see Matilda in the Palace Theatre in Manchester. We were all the way up in the heavens – having to pay £2 for the tiny binoculars fancy women have on sticks in films set in the early 20th Century. But we didn’t let that stop us having the time of our lives.

Before booking, I’d scoured the access information on their website (which was, and still is, limited). I knew the lift went to the rear circle and there would be almost no steps for our back row seats. I knew they had a disabled toilet.

What I didn’t have is much information on the seats themselves.

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Abortion is a Disability Rights Issue – and Not Just Because of Eugenics

TW: Abortion, eugenics, sexual assault/rape.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week or so, you’ll have heard about Texas’s bill banning abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy – before most people even know they’re pregnant. If you don’t live on Twitter, though, you may have missed eugenics creeping into the debate.

A tweet from Richard Hanania of the Centre for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology points out that you generally can’t screen for Down’s syndrome before about week 10 (the NHS says you can screen for it and Edwards’ and Patau’s syndrome between weeks 10 and 14), and that lots of those who find out their child may have Down’s choose not to continue with their pregnancies.