Thursday, 11 February 2016

What Makes Me, Me - Emma

I've been sort of putting off writing this.  I did make a start but I decided it was rubbish and deleted it.  That seems to be a bit of a writing habit for me when I write things other than my own blog. And I've been thinking I should make another attempt but not doing it. I've always been a bit lacking in motivation - great at ideas and not so great at the follow through.  It's one character trait of mine that I really don't like.  I'd blame it on my mental health (depression/anxiety) but I'm not sure that's right.  I have had mental health problems for so long though it's sometimes hard to remember a time before. Who was that Emma? I'm no longer sure.

If this was an intro post I'd probably have it done in a few minutes. Telling you what I do and what I like is easy. Writing about who I am and what it is that makes me that person is harder.

Part of the problem is my wheelchair.

My wheelchair is not a problem to me.  It's not a problem to my family and rarely to my friends.  It does often seem like my wheelchair is problem to the rest of the world though.

I'm life long disabled and have never known any different. Using a wheelchair is just part of who I am. I have two of them, a manual chair for use in the house and a powerchair for out and about. I love them, particularly my powerchair.  They give me my independence, allow me to do things I wouldn't be able to otherwise and my powerchair at least is my freedom wrapped up in a very expensive series of metal, motors, batteries and tyres.

But I'm more than the wheels I move on.  Unfortunately all too often it feels like that's all everyone sees.  It can be a good thing - I do voluntary work for my local Citizens Advice Bureau and people often come back and don't know who they've seen before. When they say "it was the girl in the wheelchair" everyone knows it was me.  When I'm in Sainsburys and someone says "I don't like to see people in wheelchair's struggling" (whilst completely missing my lack of struggle) it's horrible.  Not only can it make me feel like nothing at all, it can cause me problems - recently someone grabbed my basket off me at the checkout to "help" and as they lent over me they knocked the joystick that controls my chair and I crashed into the checkout, banging my leg.

Sometimes I'm accused of having an attitude problem or being ungrateful - often when I've tried to refuse help I didn't need or want. Sometimes it's true, sometimes it's not. Sometimes I just don't know.

I spend too much time online - it's a safe place where the accessibility issues that can plague me in the real world don't exist - and am usually tired.  I lose myself in books but wish more had characters like me.  I'm a daughter, sister and new aunt and I have good friends.  But I'm often lonely as few of my friends live near me.

And right now it's the night before this post is due to go live. For the last several days the draft of this post ended with a comment about how exposed writing this made me feel and it does.  I've been reading the other's posts about what makes them who they are and feeling a bit like I don't deserve to be writing here. Maybe I don't fit in. Maybe I shouldn't have volunteered to write here.

But then  tonight things changed.

When I was at secondary school (I went to an all girls one) I was one of a group of five friends. As individuals we maybe didn't have a lot in common but as a group we worked.  We were close and I have so many memories of laughter and things we did and places we went and in jokes and teenage silliness and spats.  Feeling like I don't fit in is something I've struggled with for my whole life but with those girls I fitted.

Then we left school and we mostly lost touch. Oh there's the odd facebook message and I still live near a couple of them.  I'll see them in town occasionally and we'll say hi, maybe stop to chat a little. But our group is no more and we're not close.

A couple of hours ago I got home and found out that one of them killed herself today.  I've lost one of the people who during my teenage years played a large role in what makes me who I am. I I'm numb and I'm swearing a lot and I don't know what to say or really how I feel.

I'm not naive enough to think that something I could have done or said could have saved my friend - I've blogged before about how mental health needs more than talking about. Talking can only take you so far.

 But when I was first struggling with my mental health I felt so alone. And knowing I wasn't the only one would have helped me accept help so much sooner than I did.  If I can share here and perhaps stop someone feeling as alone as I did then, or give them a place where they fit, like my friend did for me that's what I'll do.


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No judgment, no hate, because it is already tough enough being a girl.