Acquiring a disability later in life can be difficult to adjust to. Some people may feel frustrated and angry, always wondering whether it could have been prevented. But, the important thing to remember is that having a disability doesn’t mean hope is lost, and new opportunities arise that can enrich your life in a way that you never thought was possible.
Hannah Deakin, a TEDx Talk speaker and blogger who has complex regional pain syndrome, shares her experiences of how she acquired her disability and how she has overcome challenges to achieve all that she has. Hannah hopes that her blogs will make a positive impact on other disabled people.
Coping with my disability as a teenager
Due to being well and able-bodied until I was 14, my experiences of growing up with a disability started later, as a teenager. I acquired my disability after sustaining an ankle injury playing netball. I then developed complex regional pain syndrome and spent most of my teenage years in hospital, bedbound from the age of 15 to 19.
This, I suppose, can be looked at in a positive way, that I am lucky to have experienced non-disabled life and can see things from both perspectives. Others may say it is harder having experienced that and then have it taken away.
Initially, when I was first ill, I don’t think I really thought of myself as disabled. I thought I was ill and would get better. It was difficult after my injury at school, as I couldn’t do what my peers could do. I had to reduce my GCSEs from 10 to six, and I couldn’t do PE or sports.
I had to stop working towards my Duke of Edinburgh Award (D of E), which was a big thing for me as most of my peers participated. I couldn’t partake in extracurricular activities, in or out of school, as I wasn’t mobile or well enough.
Initially, after my injury, I was on crutches, then I became a wheelchair user. Getting around school took a lot longer, I would leave lessons early to avoid the hustle and bustle and arrive late, juggling lifts and slopes and making sure the step entrances were avoided.
I deteriorated quite rapidly and was admitted to the hospital about a year after my injury. I only managed one GCSE, which I took whilst lying in bed in a hospital, with a scribe and being turned halfway through.
Growing up I feel I missed out on lots of things, from doing ‘teenage’ activities (although I’m not sure all of them would have suited my character) – gaining independence, going to university, and having a boyfriend to name a few. In a way, I missed out on ‘living’.
How my disability influenced my blog
At the age of 16 when I was still an inpatient, it was suggested to me that I should start writing a blog. My thoughts were, “What would I write?” That I was in pain each day? Now, I see that there is so much more I could have written.
I could have updated others on my journey and told them stories from the hospital ward. However, if I had written most of my experiences, I think I might have been sued for libel!
Fast forward 10 years and my blog ‘Hannah’s Hope‘ was launched in January 2018, after wanting to start it for several years. It is a disability and lifestyle blog, with the aim of sharing experiences, supporting and reaching out to others and making a positive impact in the world.
I am passionate about making a difference, changing perceptions and promoting equality. It is my hope that I am achieving a tiny bit of this with my blog.
I have used the power of social media to share my blog with others and to try to reach people who are interested, or it could help. If I can help one person feel that they are not alone, then for me that is a success.
I aim to write regularly, freely and without added pressure. I normally share a new post twice a month on a Friday evening.
When I started blogging, I found it can be difficult to reach my target audience. You can be writing amazing things but if nobody sees it, you are not able to make a difference. Social media is great once you have some followers.
I have found that persisting with my writing and tagging appropriate people/organisations, as well as interacting with others, really helps. The blogging community, especially disabled or chronic illness bloggers, are a wonderful and supportive community.
I have had really positive responses to my blog. From individuals who have said they can relate to what I have written, to others saying it gives ‘hope’ to people with disabilities. Many people have said that my writing is interesting, informative, uplifting and accessible with a good sense of humour.
My aim is to reach out to more people with my blog and make a bigger difference.
With regards to my disability, I hope to gain as much mobility and independence as possible. When and how much that will be I don’t know, but I will give it my best effort.
Alongside my blog, I completed my AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) exams two years ago, and I have been doing three hours of work experience once a week.
I would like to get a part-time job for a few hours once a week, but I will have to see.
Blogging and disability representation
I hope to help make an impact on how the world ‘sees’ disabled people – we are equal. We are worthy and just as important as non-disabled people.
I want to challenge stereotypes and promote equality. As I said in my TEDx Talk, which you can watch on YouTube, accept people for who they are with no regard to their disabilities or issues.
If you speak to a disabled person look beyond their disability and try and see the person within, they are just like you.
By Hannah Deakin
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