all Essays Pain chronicles

I Wish it Wasn’t Mandatory, Dying

Trigger warning: this article talks about dealing with impending death, dying and cancer.

At least not when you’re in your early 30s. It’s not supposed to go like that. My parents aren’t supposed to be planning for what happens when they bury their only daughter.

But I’ve found myself again, clutching my hands in my lap as I sit across from these very clever doctors who speak with soft voices and say words I’m not supposed to be hearing. 

Palliative. Inoperable. 

They suggest timelines (a literal deadline) that only adds up to months and it feels like the world is ending. Because it is. My world is ending. A lot quicker than I’d intended.


My Bipolar Pandemic: How The Frantic Energy of Lockdown Led to Diagnosis

On International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2020, I stood on a mountain looking down across a snowy world. The day was crisp and bright and beautiful, and around us I could hear men call their female friends and family to congratulate them on the holiday. I think of that as the last normal day.

Four days later, I was in class when a student asked about a recent news post and I checked my email. Presumed positive COVID-19 cases. The first in the country. All universities to be closed for three weeks.

all Essays

How my ADHD Diagnosis Gave Me Permission to Stop Trying too Hard

My impending return to the office a few months ago had led me to become extremely stressed. But I didn’t think it was actually the pandemic concerns that were setting me astir, so I resolved to investigate something about myself that I’d long suspected.

A few years ago, in therapy sessions, my then-therapist and I had mutually come to the conclusion that it was likely I had a form of ADHD. Getting to this understanding had given me some peace of mind, and I started writing about it in my research and scholarship. 

Reframing my past experiences and social struggles as a legitimate impairment had made me feel a little better, but we still live in a world where a lack of diagnosis creates a bit of a liminal state. 

Editor notes

Happy Holidays From The Unwritten

Today is the last day before the holiday season kicks off here at The Unwritten so myself and the rest of the editorial team wanted to send you all some festive wishes.

I know as disabled and chronically ill people this Christmas is going to be a bit different and it might be tough in parts, but we can make it special in our own way.

I hope you all have a Christmas time that is restful and full of joy despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. Most of all despite everything, I still have hope for 2022 and hopefully you still do too. 

I’ve also asked my lovely team to give some of their tips for getting through the holidays, and quite frankly, theirs are magnificent, as are they. So I’m going to start off with my slightly more mediocre ones first.

Naps are for heroes

 Yknow who naps? Captain America, probably. Yes I know he’s a supersoldier but are you telling me he doesn’t love a nap? (Bucky, definitely doesn’t nap, that’s why he’s so grumpy.)

Anyway that’s beside the point. Naps are the best. Naps are restorative, but they also give you a break from the noise of festivities leaving you to come back in a few hours feeling a little bit fresher.

Give yourself permission to say no

I know at Christmas it may seem like you have to do everything to please your family and friends but here’s a reminder – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If you don’t want to go to someone’s house you don’t bloody have to, you’re an adult!

Break it up into small manageable chunks

In the old times, my Christmas morning consisted of around 25 people crammed into my grandparent’s house, we’d literally spill across three rooms! While I loved it, I now realise that this just isn’t feasible with my immune system.

So this year my aunties, uncles cousins, etc are all staggering visits to my grandparents. My husband and I are making Christmas eve a family visit day and breaking it down over 3 houses with small groups in each one, then we’re spending the “big day” as a family with our sausage dog Rusty.  This reduces the stress considerably. 

I’m going to hand it over now to my lovely team. Once again wishing you all a happy holidays!

Caroline McDonagh-Delves – Deputy Editor

If the holiday season can be happy for you, I wish that for you now. We all thought 2021 obviously had to be better than 2020 and in many instances it just… wasn’t. I hope that with a little help from your friends and some self care pointers, you can get 2022 off to the best possible start.

Stay safe. 

I know we’ve all been saying it for the best part of two years, and the words have mostly begun to lose their meaning, but it is still as important as ever.

Whether that’s managing risks from covid-19, making sure you’ve all the equipment and medication you need to get through the bank holidays, or looking after your mental health in what is often a trying time. If you haven’t ordered your medication, stop reading and phone your GP now!

Exert your boundaries

You don’t have to stay in a situation or conversation that you feel is detrimental to your health and wellbeing. You can turn down invites, change the subject, or simply leave the room. If this one is feeling difficult, excuse yourself to the toilet or ask a friend to call you for a perfect “leave the table” situation.

Manage your time

If, like I was last year, you’re unlucky enough to have to work this festive season, it doesn’t mean it has to be a bust. Christmas dinner or presents don’t necessarily have to be done on Christmas Day, you can schedule those things when they work for you. Also, don’t forget to plan for rest – you deserve it.

Cath Poucher – Sub-Editor

I’m sending all the readers and contributors of The Unwritten lots of love and best wishes for a fantastic festive season, with the hope of a wonderful few days for you all. As a seasoned optimist I’m keeping my fingers crossed that next year will get easier for us, so that wishing you a “Happy New Year” won’t be an empty greeting.

The holiday season can be difficult, and with a second festive season of limitations and restrictions, these are some self-care tips to look after yourself this year:

Give yourself a “pass” to remove yourself

Christmas can present lots of triggers and obligations that can make us uncomfortable or have a negative impact on your mental health.

While sometimes we can feel, or indeed are obligated to do these things, remember to know your limit. Sometimes it’s okay to say, “no”. Take a break if you need to; stick on a Christmas film, read a book or do something relaxing for you.

Plan Ahead

If possible, try to plan ahead. Any triggers, accessibility issues, or problematic situations that may occur? Try to think ahead and plan ways that will enable you to cope with that issue. Do you have someone that can support you in this difficult situation? If so, enlist them to provide support if needed.

Manage those difficult people in advance

Dreading confronting those difficult family members with awkward or downright offensive comments? While some people are confident in challenging or explaining how they make you feel, this isn’t always possible.

Instead, try one of the following:

  • Plan some answers in advance so you’re not caught off guard
  • Think about how to bring difficult conversations to an end diplomatically and calmly
  • Find an activity or alternative conversation to steer the person to instead.  

I wanted to end this by thanking you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting The Unwritten this past year. Thank you to all the amazing readers, supporters, writers and of course to my fantastic editorial team. 

This last year has been so tough for disabled people but our community is strong. I hope next year that we can continue to represent everything you stand for and given even more of you a voice.

The Unwritten will be taking a break until 3rd January, we can’t wait to work with you then. 

Happy holidays and here’s to a powerful 2022

Rachel and the editorial team

Love our content? Want to help us pay disabled writers and continue to build this amazing platform? Find out how you can support us.

all Essays features

As an Autistic Person, Lockdown Gave me Freedom, Then it Ended

Though the first lockdown ended a while ago, the effects of it have impacted my life up to today. For almost a year we were delegated to zoom calls and emails, or were furloughed -and for me it was glorious.

When speaking with neurotypical friends, they all expressed how they missed being in a room with a person. In my opinion, however, there was a freedom in not having to process everything that comes with communicating verbally.

admin all Editor notes

One Year On

A year ago today, we opened the doors to The Unwritten and my life changed forever. I hope you understand that I’m going to gush for a little bit here and will probably cry.

When we launched, the site had a simple aim – to give disabled people a space to share their stories without reducing them to trauma or inspiration and to pay them fairly for their work.

all Essays features opinion

How Rose Ayling-Ellis’ Appearance on Strictly Helped me Come to Terms With Being Deaf

When I was just seven years old, the unthinkable happened. I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive benign mass that was tearing its way through my eardrum: a cholesteatoma. Cholesteatoma affects just one in 100,00 – and is even rarer when it’s congenital (meaning you’re born with it, which my doctors are almost certain that I was). 

When I was 7 and a half, I had my first surgery – what would be the first of many – to remove the tumour. When I woke up, my hearing was worse than it was before. The mass had caused irreparable damage. We tried many forms of treatment, including further surgeries, before I was referred to the audiology department, where I was fitted with my first-ever hearing aid. 

Going deaf at a young age, when everyone in your family – and pretty much everyone you have ever known– are hearing is so hard. There is no one to look up to, no one to see that is also deaf that would show me that, while it would take a little while to come to terms with my deafness, I would be okay. That there was an amazing community and there was beauty within being deaf.  

all Essays

Why Rose Ayling-Ellis’ Appearance on Strictly Come Dancing is Important to the Deaf and Disabled Community

As a dancer who is profoundly Deaf and a wheelchair user, I’ve been ecstatic over Rose Ayling-Ellis being the first Deaf contestant to take part on Strictly. Finally, the perfect opportunity to help dispel some of the stigmas towards Deaf people. For Deaf dancers, society’s assumptions and attitude are that we can’t dance if we can’t hear the music.

Deafness is a spectrum that means that two Deaf people – regardless of their audiograms – will experience music very differently. It will depend on the tones and frequencies that a person can access with their residual hearing, as well as any devices that the person uses, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other technology.

all Essays review

Tasty and Achievable Meals for Low Energy Days – Cookfulness by Ian Taverner

Cookfulness was kindly sent to The Unwritten to review, this has not influenced the views of the reviewer.

I feel I should start this review by saying I love cookbooks. My cookbook shelf is overflowing with books of all kinds. That said, as much as my crammed bookshelf declares my love of food and cooking, it doesn’t tell the whole story. 

I love to cook, but being disabled and neurodivergent, cooking a satisfying, nutritious, and tasty meal for me and my husband isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish. So when I was asked to review Cookfulness, a book aimed at people with chronic pain, mobility issues, and mental health issues, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

The first thing I do with any new cookbook is sit down and eagerly flick through the recipes in anticipation of what I want to make first. I noticed was there are no pictures of the completed dishes, as someone who can find visualising things difficult, this is a bit of a shame. Likewise, there isn’t an index, which is a supremely useful feature to have when you’ve got a random ingredient and no idea what to make with it. 

all Essays opinion

Navigating the Disabled World with Multiple Health Conditions

I am someone who has newly entered many spaces. I often lurk from the beginning, aware I don’t know anything. As a multiply-marginalised and multiply-disabled person, it has taken me a while to get any grip on who I am and how I experience the world.

Finding labels like nonbinary, queer, disabled, and neurodivergent have been a powerful tool for me in a society that avoids talking about these communities. However, it has been a rocky journey walking among the different sub-categories of the disabled community, as someone who embodies more than one.