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Stop Questioning Whether I’ll be a Good Mum Because I’m Disabled

I want to be a mother. It’s a simple premise, isn’t it? I want to hold my own baby in my arms with the man I love by my side and raise that child to be wild and free and curious (and a writer because both of its parents are writers therefore it just has to be that way).

I’m in a serious relationship with a man who shares the same faith as me, we’re planning marriage and we named our future children on our first date. All this should be in reach but I’m forced to question it. Why? Because I’m disabled. 

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Accommodations for Disabled People Aren’t Special Treatment – They’re Basic Human Rights

As a non-disabled person, accessibility is something you never have to think about. Before my disability impacted me, it never crossed my mind. But that is something that needs to change.

Accessibility comes in many forms, from leniency on work deadlines, ramps, lifts, hearing loops to closed captions, access to medical treatment online, digitally, and much more. This variety of ways to accommodate accessibility is one of the reasons non-disabled people don’t do it. They don’t know where to start.

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Disabled and Sexual: We Don’t Want Ableists at our Sex Parties

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


The desexualisation of disabled people is a tale as old as time. In my first column for The Unwritten, I outlined the historic battle disabled people have fought against rampant desexualisation. Sadly, the presumption that none of us are interested, or capable, of sex endures largely unchallenged and is now openly supported by fellow disabled people. The latest a Twitter user claiming to speak a thought preying on everyone’s mind,

Why would anyone bring a wheelchair user to a sex party? 

To state the obvious: disabled people are sexual beings. A physical, mental, developmental, or intellectual disability does not spell the end of sexual pleasure, romance, or partnered sex. 

If you’re one of the people who readily agreed with this hellishly rambling Twitter thread, then it’s time to broaden your horizons.

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Why I Will No Longer be Sharing my Disabled Trauma for Free

Trauma and lived experience sell. But the disabled can’t make a profit. Nevertheless, there is a particular type of trauma that’s effective. Cookie-cutter trauma: some will cut at your trauma until it bleeds in a palatable, marketable shape.    

Our trauma is, of course, created by the same systems, the same unbroken cogs in the machine. Place your trauma and lived experience in, and what comes out will invariably be a ticket of admission: you can join the non-disabled, entertain them with your tale of woe or inspiration – and they will admit you for a brief period, believe in your humanity, as far as they’ll allow it.    

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How Pressure to Provide a ‘Resolution’ is Impacting Disabled Stories

I can see it non-disabled people’s eyes. The anticipation, the holding of breath, the waiting for a neat conclusion. When I talk about my life, when I describe recent difficulties or periods of pain or illness, they want a story in the traditional sense. They want resolution, a clear narrative arc, a sense of an at least partially happy ending. 

And I give it to them. I find the discomfort and messiness hard to articulate and I want to save them from it, even if I can do no such thing for myself. So, I wrap up things up tidily, perhaps with a comforting smile, and say ‘but things are much better’ or ‘everything is fine now.’

But that’s not my life. 

Chronic illnesses and pain don’t just end conveniently when we want them to. It doesn’t follow a three act structure with a beginning, middle and end, that is so important in Western storytelling. It comes round again and again, with peaks and troughs, improvements and flare-ups. Pain might be gone for weeks, months or even years but that doesn’t necessarily mean a chapter can be closed. 

Of course, all lives are singular and hard to encapsulate neatly but disabled lives and disabled bodies especially belie a narrow, potentially suffocating ideal of what a story looks like. 

As a writer, I know how powerful a clear narrative structure is and how difficult it can be to fit a disabled story into a non-disabled mould. In nature writing, which is where I began my writing journey, publishing has often leaned into the idea of the nature ‘cure’ which doesn’t speak to how I, and many other disabled people, experience nature. 

Sure, I love being in nature when I can be and find aspects of it both soothing and energising. It can help me feel better in some ways, particularly with my anxiety, but activities like hillwalking – which I love – can also make my physical pain worse. In short, it’s complicated and not a straightforward ‘cure’.

Writers like Josie George and Polly Atkin are writing about nature in fantastic, nuanced ways, showcasing how complex and moving writing which takes a different, winding and complicated shape can be. But there are still far too few disabled voices getting published in mainstream literature and I’ve got to wonder if this is partly due to the industry not knowing what to do with our stories or perceiving them as ‘unsellable’, alongside a lack of accessibility. 

This is a problem that goes beyond the writing world, forcing disabled narratives into obscurity and making it harder to tell everyday stories of our lives, with their joys, difficulties and challenges. 

The pre-existing shapes that stories are slotted into do us all a disservice. Whether we are disabled or non-disabled, readers or writers, the shapes of stories are important. Seeing similar patterns to our own, seeing similar experiences represented or finding something relatable in a story should be something that disabled people can do. 

We should be telling our own stories, in all their intricacy, complications and potential for discomfort. And for non-disabled people to never read or hear a disabled story forces us further into invisibility, giving ground to the idea that we don’t exist and therefore don’t need to be listened to or valued, or have our needs met. 

After attending an insightful recent workshop on disabled narratives with Charlotte Heather, founder of The Remote Body which runs writing workshops for disabled and chronically ill people, I was inspired to think further about what shape my story could have. 

Instead of an ‘arc’, I was encouraged to think of it as a circle, or a perforated line, or as a meandering river with tributaries breaking off it – to try out different ways of telling that reflect the way my pain goes up and down without a clear endpoint, and repeats itself cyclically. 

The possibilities are endless, and creatively rich. They’re not only important in terms of amplifying disabled voices, but they are interesting from a craft perspective and have so much to add.

So next time I talk about my pain or my body, I’ll try not to grin and bear it, and make my story fit into non-disabled patterns. 

I’ll try not to make other people comfortable when talking about my own discomfort. I’ll let it be the shape that it is; organic, changeable, hard to figure out. I won’t shut down possible futures by ascribing my own ending.

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Jada Pinkett Smith and ALL Disabled Black Women Deserve Respect

TW: this article features bullying of black disabled people and disabled people being told they would be better off dead.


By now the whole world has seen the clip of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. Chris Rock made a “joke” about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss by referencing the 1997 movie G.I. Jane starring Demi Moore. Demi famously rocked a buzz cut for the role, however, Jada’s haircut isn’t for a movie role.

Jada has alopecia which is an autoimmune disease that attacks your hair follicles, this causes hair loss. 

Many who deal with this disability have experienced different levels of hair loss. Jada came out in 2018 to announce that she was diagnosed with it and with the encouragement of her daughter Willow, she decided shaving her head would be better. 

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Having a Chronic Illness Adds a Whole Other Layer of Mum Guilt

Being chronically ill is exhausting. Add some children into the mix and some (most) days I feel like I am trying to walk through mud, out of spoons before I’m even out of bed. I make bargains with myself all day long; juggling trying to be a good mum with trying to treat my body kindly and not beat myself up when I’m feeling beat up. 

I find that I am always pushing myself just enough to keep them happy, but not so much that I’m left hobbling about, necking painkillers like smarties and I am always trying to figure out how to reconcile the part of me that buys into empowered feminist narratives around self-love, self-care and taking time to heal, with the part of me that has two small people to keep alive.

Because ultimately my body might need to rest, but they don’t. 

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Why are we so Obsessed with “Overcoming” Stories?

Recently, I have found that my social media timelines have been overflowing with ‘overcoming’ stories. People that have ‘overcome’ their traumas, their medical issues, their financial issues, and so forth. 

We are taught to admire the people who came from nothing, the self-made billionaires and the people who put their work above everything else in their lives. While we can all applaud these success stories, and recognise the work that people put into their careers and themselves, it is important to acknowledge that having this same narrative repeated over and over again can be especially harmful to the chronically ill and disabled community. 

Using Molly Mae’s recent ’24 hours in a day’ fiasco as an example, we seem to be spoon-fed this idea that if you want something bad enough, it is achievable – you just need to put the hours in. It doesn’t take a genius, though, to realise that this is not the case for all of us. 

As a chronically ill woman myself, knowing that as a result of my condition I may be unable to have children, I have often found myself thinking “it’s okay, it’ll be different for me” –  even though the reality is quite blatantly in front of me. 

There has long been the narrative that in order to lead a happy life, or to be truly successful, you must ‘overcome’ your burdens, your ill-health, or that you must ‘rise above’ the financial situation you were born into – but what happens when you physically cannot do this? 

These promises that ‘wanting something bad enough’ is enough to make it happen is simply an idea that is setting us up for disappointment. We don’t all have the same 24 hours, the same way that we can’t always ‘overcome’ things – whether that is medically, physically, financially, emotionally, and so forth – and we need to stop pretending that we can, or that it is a rite-of-passage to do so. 

Such a narrative reeks of ableism; disability and health conditions are constantly portrayed as things that are essential to overcome, and when you cannot do this, it seems to necessitate a journey whereby you battle your own demons and have this grand epiphany, that makes you realise your purpose as a disabled person is to share your story and inspire able-bodied people as they gratefully think to themselves “I’m so glad that isn’t me”.

Having a chronic illness means accepting that you cannot always be in control of your work-to-rest balance. On the days that my body feels functional and my pain manageable, I feel a great sense of imposter syndrome, and on the days that I can do nothing but listen to my body’s demands for rest, I feel hopeless – worthless, even. 

There is no tying a pretty bow on that and calling it inspirational, it’s a case of taking each day as it comes, and accepting that I need to allow my body as much of my ‘24 hours’ as it needs. 

If illness and disability is consistently portrayed as negative, or something we should strive to overcome, how are we meant to feel whole when our illness is chronic, or our disability permanent? 

My condition has no cure, and with the pandemic wreaking havoc on surgery waiting lists, my treatment plan has come to a steady halt, too. Pretty, colour-coordinated posts on self-care and motivation can only help you so much when there is physically nothing you can do to change the reality of your health. 

This is my issue with toxic positivity and productivity – we only seem to recognise and applaud success when there is a consistently upward trajectory. With this narrative of fulfilment being so heavily prevalent online, it is no wonder that folk like me struggle so much to accept our own achievements and success, as perceptions of success, ‘overcoming’, and what this should look like is almost always intertwined with good-health and ‘getting better’.

To suggest that the parts of ‘my story’ where I struggle or have to ‘give in’ to my condition are something I should ‘overcome’, is to suggest that I am incapable of truly thriving as a result of my chronic illness, and for tending to my body’s needs. 

My condition is incurable, but it is also not ‘inspirational’ of me to work through it – my condition is simply a part of myself that I am learning to understand, respect, and work with – not ‘overcome’ and thrive from. 

It is essential that we recognise how the expectation that we should persevere and ‘overcome’ everything that life throws at us is an unrealistic and often unattainable standard to maintain. You can be successful irrespective of your health, just as you can be fulfilled and content irrespective of your financial situation. 

I am tired of waiting for the miracle where I am ‘saved’ from my condition, or to be freed from the expectation that all I do is merely an attempt to motivate able-bodied people – “because if she can do it, so can you!”

How we spend our twenty-four hours is not something that can fairly be compared, as no two people’s lives or abilities look the same. 

Comparing ourselves to others and these ‘success’ stories online will only ever set us up to feel inferior or insecure in ourselves and our own capabilities when, in reality, we all achieve things at our own pace, in our own ways, and irrespective of our health. 

The only thing that needs overcoming, here, is the narrative that success necessitates us to overcome fragments of ourselves in the first place.

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Navigating Trend Cycles with a Chronic Illness

Twee is back, and the difference between 2014 and now is that I have a chronic illness and find myself looking onto the aesthetic more skeptically. In fact, living with a chronic illness has found me looking at the constant cycling of fashion trends with a certain layer of cynicism. 

In a world where what is defined as ‘on trend’ is constantly shifting and changing, it is often difficult to navigate your illness alongside this. 

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The Problem With Parents who Make Their Child’s Neurodivergent Diagnosis About Them

TW: autism parents and parents acting like a disabled child means the death of a healthy child.


Paddy and Christine McGuinness did an entire documentary on their children’s autism called Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism. Yet they still haven’t told their eldest children that they’re autistic. Christine claims it’s because their children are happy with how they are, and she hasn’t found the right time to tell them yet.

However, I buy the second excuse the least. Paddy and Christine have time to talk to journalists and their adoring fans about their children’s autism experiences but not their children.