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January 2015

“My daughter is 18 and has been blind from birth…”

By Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, My story, The Love Lounge No Comments

Tim: “My daughter is 18 and has been blind from birth. She goes to college in our local area and is generally quite independent all round. My wife tells me that now, she has started seeing a boy in her year at college. Part of me is happy but a big part is being protective father, especially because of her blindness. Should I just let her be a normal teenager?”

Mik: “Hi Tim, Arh the joys of fatherhood. Especially if you have daughters! It’s all worry worry worry! But lets face it Tim, you’d be worried whether of not your daughter was visually impaired. It’s your job, you’re a dad!

I hope you know the answer to your question at heart. It’s let her fly. She is an adult now, and is carving her place in the world. Part of that will be dating, no matter how much it hurts you inside. It’s time to face up to the fact that your little girl is growing up, and be proud of how well she is doing.

This is a red letter day really and proof of how well you have raised her. She is obviously a confident, independent adult who is having no issues with getting out there and building a life for herself. Don’t worry about her impairment, or what might happens with those pesky boys. Just support her, and wait to see if she needs a shoulder to cry on… if those aforementioned pesky boys do what teenage boys do and act like fools.

Don’t envy you though. I dread to think what I’d be like if I was a Dad!”


“Should I brave using my arm prosthetic on the first date?”

By Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge No Comments

Michelle: “Hey guys, I have recently started internet dating since after Christmas and had a lot of interest on my profile, which is flattering! However, I only have one arm after losing it in a motorbiking accident in my teens. I usually only wear a shoulder prosthetic and skip my arm prosthetic as it can be a real pain – but should I brave it when going on the first few dates to avoid any awkwardness? What are your thoughts? Thanks x”

Mik: “Hi Michelle,
I am a big fan of being up front, so I would go as you best feel comfortable. If you don’t feel yourself when wearing your prosthetic then that might get in the way of the date. To me if anyone isn’t keen on you because of your impairment then you’ve been saved from wasting time on a looser.

I had a mate at school who lost her arm at an early age and she never wore a prosthetic. She also never had any issues with guys. Her confidence was really attractive to us guys. Most of the men I know would much prefer someone who was happy with who they were than someone trying to be something they are not.

So I think my advice would be ‘Be proud and leave the prosthetic at home.’
Good luck and have a great time!”

The author Holly Williams

How much should your disability be a part of your identity? Holly Williams

By Disability, Lifestyle No Comments

I have a confession to make. After several months of writing this blog I think the time has come to come clean. You see I have a problem, an issue if you like, that makes me a total hypocrite and I feel when I own up to it a lot of disabled people reading this will be up in arms and they will be totally right to do so. I’m not proud and I know I shouldn’t feel like I do according to conventional reason but there is a view that I hold that I can’t shift and quite frankly I don’t want to.

You see, I don’t ‘own’ my disability. I don’t class myself as a Disabled Person. I have a disability and I hate it. I’m embarrassed and ashamed by my condition and find it very, very hard to speak about the way it limits my life. Hip, PC people will say ‘it isn’t your fault that you view yourself so negatively. Society makes disabled people feel like this.’ But this really isn’t the case. I am not ashamed of myself, e.g. Holly the person. I just look at other disabled people and struggle to understand how they can accept and embrace their disabilities to a level in which it becomes a large aspect, if not the largest of their identity.

Let me explain what got me thinking about this. The social firm I work for is revamping its website and my boss asked all the staff to write a bio of themselves to be included. The outline he gave us was something along the lines of ‘write a bit about who you are, what you do here and why you work here.’ So I spent about a page talking about how I’m quite a driven person who didn’t want to sit round doing nothing just because I had a disability, how I really enjoyed doing graphic design and how important it was that firms like the one I work for gave disabled people an opportunity to have a job. Not once did I mention I had Cerebral Palsy. Conversely, a colleague of mine spent the first paragraph of his bio describing what his disability was and why it meant he couldn’t hold down a full time job. Now I have no right to tell my colleague what to write or how to feel about himself and like my boss says, it’s good we express ourselves in different ways on the site. I just, personally, found it very odd that someone would announce to the world over the internet their personal difficulties. To me, my impairment wasn’t particularly relevant. I have a disability ergo I have to work somewhere where I receive help. Why and what kind of help is, quite frankly, no­-one’s God damn business if they don’t need to assist me!

The problem is I’m a very private person. I know I sound about eighty but I do believe there are certain things you don’t share in common conversation. When Jennie first asked me to do this blog she suggested that I start by doing a piece about my romantic history and any problems I faced dating. I politely declined. I have had issues regarding my personal life relating to my disability that has led me to certain views but I believe that sex and intimate relationships aren’t something you go round discussing with all and sundry and to an extent I feel like this about my impairment as well.

I feel like I’m in a minority among disabled people. I mentioned in a previous blog that I have friends with disabilities who are quite happy to speak at length about the various afflictions caused by their impairments and sometimes I ask myself why they do this. Is it because they’re looking for support from fellow sufferers? Their difficulties are vastly different to mine and even if they weren’t whose to say we would have similar methods of coping? My theory, and it is only a theory, is that their lives have been so entrenched by professional opinion and medical diagnosis that they’ve taken what they’ve heard over and over again and used it to form their personal identity. ‘This is who I am because I suffer from X disability which means I have trouble doing Y.’

I don’t want to dictate to anyone where and how they get their self­worth, if being a ‘Disabled Person’ is who you ‘are’ and you’re happy with that then I can’t change that. But I do wonder if it’s entirely healthy to base your personality on your limitations rather than your talents and interests.

I notice some parents of disabled children do this too and that I find really disturbing. I understand that being a parent of a disabled person is very challenging and tiring at times and you must be grateful of an outlet to vent your worries and woes but I am baffled by the willingness of some people to unload their children’s problems and diagnosis to a virtual stranger while the child is in earshot. How can you expect them to have any self­ respect or a broad character if that’s the introduction their parents give them? I always have to fight the urge to start asking really probing questions about their sex lives or medical history to see how they like that level of exposure.

I raised this issue with my Dad. He was convinced people did it because it’s a shared bond, a way of breaking the ice when two disabled people meet. He said, ‘Look, if I’m out on my motorbike and I go in a cafe and see a bloke sitting there with a motorbike helmet on the table, I’m going to start a conversation with him about bikes because it’s something we have in common. It’s the same as that.’ I disagree. Motorbikes are my Dad’s hobby, he enjoys them, chooses to be interested in them. Being disabled is not my hobby, it’s a pain so why would I want to pick over that sore point? Amy, my P.A, was driving me back from a friend’s house once when she said, ‘I didn’t realise how little you talked about your disability until I met your friends.’ My response was, ‘what’s there to say? You know enough to help me. Talking just reminds me of what I can’t do. There are more interesting topics to talk about.’

I do understand why some people feel the need to tell people about their impairment, especially when their disability isn’t obvious at first glance. They feel the need to explain what is wrong with them to avoid misunderstandings. But I can’t help feeling that every time this happens and it’s not needed that the person is somehow apologising for something that isn’t their fault, exposing a piece of themselves that is broken somehow. My main disability cannot be hidden but I have other impairments that you can’t see, some of them more disabling than C.P. I won’t say what they are because why should I invite more stigma into my life? People judge me enough as it is.

Despite all this, I know at the end of the day I’m wrong. We do need to talk about all aspects of disability if we are going to educate and make society more accepting. I admire people who see no shame in telling others what it’s like to them and I do try to be as open as I can. It’s just that I want to share the best of me with the world, not just be focused on my disability.

The author Holly Williams

Holly Williams on Obesity and Disability

By Disability, Lifestyle, My story No Comments

First of all, health, happiness and best wishes for 2015 to everyone reading my blog. I hope you all had as good festive season as I did, eating, drinking and being merry. I’ve been thinking a lot about diet and weight issues over my Christmas break, partly because like so many people I have overindulged and intend to slim down now January’s here, but mainly because of a news story brought to my attention on the Twitter account of Chailey Heritage Enterprise Centre, the social firm I work for.

According to BBC News, a man in Denmark has successfully sued for wrongful dismissal under the EU’s disability discrimination legislation because he was sacked from his job as a child minder for being too obese. The judge said that although obesity wasn’t itself a disability ‘if a person has a long ­term impairment because of their obesity, they would be protected by disability legislation.’

This got me thinking about a very basis question that I hadn’t thought to ask myself because I assumed the answer was obvious. What do we class as a disability? To me, the definition of disability is wide, but whatever kind of impairment you have all disabled people have one thing in common. Whether through birth, accident or sheer genetic fluke something has happened that has stopped your body and/or brain working to its full capacity. For reasons beyond your control, your physical, mental or emotional state falls below what is seen as ‘normal.’ Like race, sexuality, gender or ethnicity it isn’t a choice you make and you shouldn’t be punished for it in any way. But in the case of obesity, that state has been achieved for the majority of people by direct and continued action, e.g eating too much and exercising too little.

Let me put it another way. Obesity can be caused by having a disability, disability can cause people to be obese but, as the judge in this case said, obesity is not a disability. There are certain instances where individuals cannot control their weight gain. Disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome can make sufferers more prone to storing excess fat while others such as Prader Willi Syndrome find it very hard to control their appetites. Even having physical disability such as mine (Cerebral Palsy) can make it very difficult to exercise and stay fit and healthy. But whatever condition you do or do not have there is nearly always something you or those helping you can do to help maintain a healthy weight. There has always got to be some level of responsibility for your own diet. It’s a simple mathematical equation, eating less plus exercising more equals weight loss.

Look, I don’t want to give the wrong idea about me. I’m not Katie Hopkins (thank God) I’m really not anti-­fat or anti-­obese. I think it’s awful that the government tell people what they should eat and I’m not going to lecture anyone because they’re not a size 10. Large women (and men) can be as beautiful, sexy, clever, successful and motivated as anyone else. If you’re happy to say ‘I like food and hate the gym,’ I say good for you. If you want to lose weight by diet or surgery, I’m behind that too. It’s your body, your life, do with it what you want. All I ask is that people are responsible for their life­ choices and don’t blame them on something that is beyond their control.

I speak from experience. I have battled with my weight for my entire life. As a child, I was painfully underweight and was constantly being rushed into A&E for mysterious bouts of sickness during which I couldn’t even keep down water. Due to this my parents were encouraged to ‘build me up’ by feeding me anything I wanted. This meant by the time I was 18 I had long got over my childhood ill­ health but was still eating like a horse.

My relationship with food now is simple. I love it. I can’t express in words my passion for eating. Anything that’s fat or sugar laden and bad for me. I never leave my plate empty. That is the reason I have spent the past 15 years or so bouncing between a size 10 and a size 18. At my largest all that I could wear were grey jogging bottoms that my Mum told me made me look like a baby elephant from behind. My point is that I know what it’s like to be overweight. It’s true that having a disability that limits my movements makes it harder for me to exercise but I do try to stay as active as I can via cycling and weight training. I also try (and mostly fail) to eat a healthy diet. It would be wrong of me to sit back and blame Cerebral Palsy for me being fat. I eat too much, nothing more to it.

The human being I think is, by nature, a lazy creature. We like the easy route. It is very easy to think up excuses as to why we pile on the pounds. It isn’t our fault. It’s in our genes, we can’t afford to buy fresh, healthy food, we’re too busy, we’re too tired, we overeat to fulfil some psychological hole. I used some of these excuses a hundred times myself. But at the end of the day they are all smoke screens we use to deny the truth. Weight is something we have power over if we want to. If you’re overweight and don’t do anything about it, that’s your choice, I won’t have a go at you. Just have the honesty to admit it.

My problem is that once we link disability with obesity it will just add a very convenient argument to the list of excuses for why people can’t lose weight. It won’t matter that we will be told that obesity is a cause or a symptom and not an impairment in itself, the link will have already been made. If you’re suffering from joint pain, limited mobility, diabetes or depression who can blame you for reaching for another doughnut to make yourself feel a bit better about the problems in your life? Rulings like this aren’t making life easier for people who truly want to lose weight. At the end of the day, the one thing that stops people getting slim and being healthy isn’t too much food, it’s not taking responsibility for yourself. Weight shouldn’t be a disability issue, it should be an issue for everyone to address for themselves, not something that is monitored by the government or EU.