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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

on reflection.

Today, on the 21st of June 2017, I finished my GCSE exams.

2 years ago people were telling me I wouldn't get here. Either I'd have to drop subjects, be pulled back a year, not even take them. There's nothing wrong with any of these options... But I never wanted to do that. I was so determined.

With no sugar-coating or exaggerating, it's been an awful few years. In year 9, the panic attacks started and I moved school, which was the best decision of my life. I was so sure that GCSEs were going to be my time. It went south quickly when I ended up in inpatient mental health care and out of school for five months.

But I kept going. Got out, returned to school as soon as I was allowed. And then my physical health got worse, and I've been ambling through year 11 through all the pain and panic attacks, and the clouding fatigue that makes me barely awake for some of my lessons.

I don't care what I get anymore (unless I don't get into sixth form, but that's a bridge to cross if we come to it...). I know that I did my best. I sat every single one of my exams, I put pen to paper. I answered every single question even if a lot of it was rubbish (looking at you, physics...).

This post is mainly for myself, because some days I forget how far I've come in two years. I've gone through my GCSE period struggling and ill, and sometimes I forget that. Now, I'm in pain and it's hard, and I'm walking with a walking stick, and my anxiety still strikes at inconvenient times. But now, I can get on a bus where I couldn't for months after inpatient. I can tell people what I need. I can express myself more easily.

I did it. And GCSEs may not have been my time, but A-levels will be. And if they're not? Then university will be my time.

There is always more time. I have to remember that.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

what I've learnt in my 1st month(ish) using a mobility aid

So about a month and a half ago, my legs started essentially buckling under me, but I've been struggling with my walking for a long time. So, we decided it was the best decision for me to get a mobility aid - a cane or walking stick, whatever you prefer to call it. It's quite nice, to be honest - the handle is purple marble, I'm a fan. But it's been an interesting experience... so here's some thoughts.

(After writing note: it's worth saying that when I use "you" here, I'm referring to me rather than anyone else - it reads like I'm saying it will be everyone's experience so I just wanted to clarify that I'm not saying that at all, it's just my writing style)

1) You've essentially lost a version of a superpower - everyone is going to ask questions now.

There's pros and cons to being invisibly disabled; no-one knows what you're going through unless you talk about it, which is great because you don't get questions, but it's awful because they don't see that you are struggling or anything is wrong. So now, everyone knows - except they don't. Question after question after question. You have to deal with it, and you're going to look like the bad guy if you won't tell them your medical information. Everyone thinks they have a right to your information just because you have a visible aid.

2) People don't like teenagers with mobility aids.

I was far more anxious about going to school with my cane than I was about going into the general public. I shouldn't have been. I'm 16 and when I walk with the stick, apart from the buckling, my walking looks quite normal. My walking looks normal because I have the stick, not because I don't need the stick. But people don't know that. People glare and stare and will occasionally tut as they walk around you to get somewhere quicker (looking at you, middle-aged white business man...). I got the nastiest look from a man with a walker and it kind of disgusted me that another disabled person looked at me like I was faking. Yes, I'm 16 - but teenagers can be disabled too. How many teenagers do you know who think it's cool to walk around with a walking stick?

3) People who know you are going to find it hard.

Not necessarily your inner circle of friends, like the ones you spent every minute with who know you've been struggling with this... But teachers who don't know the details, family friends, family you only see once a year. And you're going to think that they should think it's a great thing because you can finally get around more easily again, but they're not going to immediately see that.

4) Kids genuinely think it's okay to shout across the corridor at you.

At least five times now I've had lower school kids ask me why I have a walking stick across the corridor and I generally just ignore them because otherwise I'd probably be really sassy or say something inappropriate. It's slightly humiliating but after a few goes, you get used to it. Shout out to that one girl that told her friend to leave me alone after her friend shouted up the stairs at me, it made me smile a little bit.

5) Your back and shoulders are probably going to hurt even more.

My back and shoulders have always been one of my more painful spots, but now they hurt so, so much pretty much all the time. I'm used to being in pain nowadays so it doesn't matter too much, but it still hurts and it's not a great addition to my life. However, the cane is really helping... Swings and roundabouts.

This post sounds really negative but I'm being quite cynical because the view on disability here is strange and a little bit disgusting. Walking is easier and life that few percent less difficult, and I really appreciate the support I've had from my friends with it all.

-Charli