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Pain Chronicles: What a Massive Pain

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves 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-Delves 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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Disabled and Sexual: The Met Police Guidance on Women’s Safety is Useless to Disabled Women

TW:  This article discusses sexual violence, domestic abuse and abuse towards women and femmes, in particular disabled women and femmes. It also mentions police misconduct as well as the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. Please practice self-care. 


Disabled and Sexual is a monthly(-ish) column by Hannah Shewan Stevens which will explore all the challenges, comedy, and fun that disabled people experience as sexual beings, even while we are desexualised by a predominantly non-disabled society.


This month, the Metropolitan police’s misguided advice on women’s safety, reminded every woman and femme of the inescapable knowledge we live with daily: none of us are safe.

The Met advised anyone concerned about being approached by a lone male police officer to ring 999, “shout out to a passerby, run into a house or wave a bus down” for help. It also suggested quizzing the officer on their reasons for the stop. 

In the wake of the trial of Sarah Everard’s killer and the murder of Sabina Nessa, the police’s PR face has been an undeniable mess but for disabled folks, the latest advice felt particularly ignorant and exclusionary. 

A blind person cannot easily flag down a bus for help, a wheelchair user may not be able to run for their life and a non-verbal person is incapable of quizzing a police officer. 

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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-Delves 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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Pain Chronicles: The Additional Cost of Being Disabled

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves 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. 


Caroline’s note: I’ve written this month’s column along with my mum, Shaz. You can find my bits in regular type, and hers in bold (because she always is). Hope you enjoy.

I’ll always remember the doctors’ note I got at university so that I could type in exams rather than handwrite. The doctor mentioned I’d been doing the same in ‘A’ Levels. Inverted commas and all. I can’t quite remember how much it was, I think around the £30 mark. £30 so I could access the same education as my classmates. And disabled students’ allowance may have covered that, but the forms were arduous and I really didn’t have it in me to do it.

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Pain Chronicles: Right Now, I Need the Sunflower

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves 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.


When mask wearing became mandatory in July last year, I was mostly still not leaving the house. We’re a high risk family, and I felt the government were too hasty in unlocking everything.

When I did have to pop to the shops, I’d don a reusable mask (trying to combat waste) and more often than not I’d only just finish my shopping before having to run outside to fresh air to stave off a panic attack. Face shields were slightly better, although they did elicit some funny looks, and there was still an issue with allodynia where the sponge rested on my forehead.

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Disabled and Sexual: Disabled LGBTQ+ People Deserve to Feel Welcome in Queer spaces

Disabled and Sexual is a monthly(-ish) column by Hannah Shewan Stevens which will explore all the challenges, comedy, and fun that disabled people experience as sexual beings, even while we are desexualised by a predominantly non-disabled society.


If you took one look at a Pride parade or any of the capitalist Pride advertising during June, you’d be forgiven for assuming that disabled people are almost non-existent in the LGBTQ+ community. 

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Disabled and Sexual: How Internalised Ableism Gave me Sexual Imposter Syndrome

Disabled and Sexual is a new monthly(-ish) column by Hannah Shewan Stevens which will explore all the challenges, comedy, and fun that disabled people experience as sexual beings, even while we are desexualised by a predominantly non-disabled society.


In daily life, the words ‘I am an imposter’ play on an interminable loop in my head. Most of the time, I shrug them off and dive back into whatever I’m doing, but when those words pop up during sex they are much harder to ward off.

Those words are also the reason you’re reading my second column a lot later than I intended. The original theme of this month’s column was very different and although you will still read it in June, these words just had to come first.

Every time I sat down to write, I felt like the word ‘imposter’ was emblazoned across my forehead.

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Pain Chronicles: Rosie Jones and Straddling the Intersection

Pain Chronicles is a new monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves 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.

Rosie Jones and I have a few things in common. We’re both Northern. We’re both pricks. We both have gigantic tits. And we’re both disabled lesbians.

And when I saw her walk on to the set of The Russell Howard Show and said she couldn’t process those ideas, she could only fit one “different” thing in her life, and therefore she believed she wasn’t gay, I understood where she was coming from. Sort of.

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Disabled and Sexual: How the Historical Desexualising of Disabled People Still Impacts Our Sexuality Today

Disabled and Sexual is a new monthly(-ish) column by Hannah Shewan Stevens which will explore all the challenges, comedy, and fun that disabled people experience as sexual beings, even while we are desexualised by a predominantly non-disabled society.

One of the most pervasive myths about disabled people is that we’re either incapable of or disinterested in sex. As a result, society desexualises us because people genuinely believe that no one could possibly find a disabled person sexy. Well, I’m here to tell you that they’re very wrong.