Disability and mental health; these two concepts stimulate a huge amount of taboo within the Chinese culture. Growing up, these were rarely discussed and on the rare occasion that my parents or other adults did mention them, it was always with a negative undertone and conveyed the message that these individuals were somehow weaker and less deserving.
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.
Almost 25% of the British population are disabled, not every disabled person is required to shield, or may be mask exempt, but myself and millions of others are. So we should be entitled to exercise that right without fear of repercussions.
It’s the summer of 2012. I am still at university, using the very last of the term-length pool membership I’d bought. I swim 2 miles. That’s 128 lengths of a 25m pool. The walk back up to the main campus is hard, steep and my bag is heavy with my wet costume. I collapse onto my bed. My hands hurt, but four or five doctors can’t tell me why that is. My knees hurt, but after three doctors, I saw one specialist who said it should clear up by the time I’m 20, which I turned last month. I swallow a dihydrocodeine and sleep for 8 hours.
The NICE guidelines released on 7th April recommend analgesics not be used for primary chronic pain. What they do recommend is exercise, antidepressants, acupuncture, and psychological therapies. Paracetamol and ibuprofen, possibly some of the most widely taken drugs outside of penicillin, that usually cost about 20p for a box of 16, they also can’t recommend.
There wasn’t much time between when I realised I was asexual and when I was diagnosed as autistic – only around a year. Ironically, the first person I ever came out to was a therapist I only saw once, when I originally began to fall into the mental health crisis causing the realisation that I was autistic. It’s been six years since then, and I’m still asked – or alternatively told – whether the two are one and the same.
In the time before Covid, being deaf in a hearing world was tricky, but manageable. Those of us living with hearing loss found ways to handle our interactions with hearing society, be that technology or interpreters. For the most part we vaulted our hurdles as naturally as walking. It meant adaptations and hard work but, in the main, we got along with the status quo.
But then the world changed with the arrival of Covid-19 and entirely new hurdles presented themselves; tall, mighty and unmovable. Our strategies had to adapt, and we were going to need help.
It’s been a tough few weeks for women, femmes and all those of marginalised genders who have experienced abuse at the hands of men.
Out of all of the hurt and pain however has come a new battle cry, a demand that we will not be treated like this again. But, unfortunately it’s something that disabled people have been largely left out of.
TW: Murder of Sarah Everard, sexual assault/harassment concerns, victim blaming. There are links to places to find support at the bottom of this article.
We are told that “statistics are human beings with the tears dried off.” Hearing about mass suffering can generate surprise and concern. But it can also desensitise. When the problem seems too big to contemplate, it can make the most personal crises feel impersonal.
In the three years ending March 2018, disabled women were almost twice as likely to have experienced any form of sexual assault in the last year (5.7%) than non-disabled women (3.0%). There is a degree of apathy that comes with numbers; they feel so far removed; we don’t see the families consumed by grief; men in the last year murdered 118 women.
TW: Racism, ableism, torture and slavery mentions
Have you ever felt like you were shouting at the top of your lungs, but no one around you can hear you? The year 2018 offered up more physical, mental and emotional pain than I never thought was possible. And some of it was at the fault of doctors who were not equipped to do their jobs.
TW: Stats about domestic violence, abuse and austerity.
Today is International Womens Day, a day when we celebrate how far women have come and how much we have left to achieve.
Unfortunately one group often left out of that is disabled women. Although we’re one of the biggest minorities, disabled women are often left out of – or not even able to access – discussions about equality.