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Disability and loneliness: a hand holding one cup of coffee

Christmas and loneliness: how you can help someone feel less alone

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year but it can also be a really lonely one. Many disabled and neurodivergent people are more likely to struggle with loneliness – especially at a time of year that is renowned for family, friends, parties and social events. A lack of an emotional connection or people around at this time of year can make people feel depressed or anxious.

We conducted a survey in November 2021 which revealed that 47% of disabled people felt lonely frequently with 12% feeling lonely all the time. We need to recognise when people might be struggling or recognise the signs in ourselves.

Access our survey results by clicking here

It can be difficult to reach out to ask for help and our survey discovered just 20% had spoken to a professional about the impact their loneliness was having on them. However, 48% had reached out to family or friends to talk which is more positive.

In the survey, we asked people what they thought might help with 45% of disabled people reporting a hug or personal contact would be great. A further 38% suggested one-to-one time with friends also helped. Some thought that connecting with others in the disability community may help.

How can I help?

Reach out

We’ve all been there when things get busy at Christmas – not having enough mental or physical space to go for a coffee or drink with someone. It’s hard to stay in touch with people, especially during the festive season. If you haven’t seen someone in a while – why not text or call them?

Be there
Asking how someone is and taking the time to really listen is appreciated. Putting your phone down and asking questions means someone is more likely to open up. Don’t put pressure on someone to tell you what they are feeling if they can’t or don’t want to. Alternatively, make it clear that you are there for them if they want to talk or gently let them know you have concerns.

Set up an anti- loneliness Christmas event
Setting up group activities either online or offline can also help people to feel included. It might be fun to organise an online pub quiz or watch a film with someone as a way of staying connected. If someone is struggling, they may appreciate an activity which can get their mind off things.

Talk to other mates
Telling another friend of your concerns can be very helpful. A team approach to making sure someone isn’t feeling down or alone means there is less stress on one person.

Care for carers
It can be really hard to look after someone who isn’t well. The end of the year can be exhausting for everyone especially if you are providing care for a loved one or family member who isn’t well. Taking the time to reach out, ask how they are, take them for a coffee or offer to listen if they need it. Could you organise something fun for them or bring them a present to cheer them up?

Offer to decorate
Many disabled or chronically ill people may not feel well enough to decorate their homes. Can you offer to pop over and help them put up some decorations or take them down when they need to?

Invite someone for Christmas
Are you in a position to have someone over for Christmas? People can be on their own for multiple of reasons and may not feel comfortable asking to join your family for the day. If you suspect someone might be on their own – why not offer a seat at the table for dinner or offer to pop over afterwards?

If there are a group of you that are without a place to go for Christmas – why not organise a day together? You can split the responsibilities and the cost between you and it means that no one is on their own. It can also mean you discover a new Christmas tradition!

Click here to read more about loneliness and disability 

New Year’s Eve and loneliness

New Year’s Eve is another time when people may struggle as they don’t have family or friends around. Some may not feel up to going to crowded bars or may worry that pub or club is not accessible. Could you potentially hold a drinks evening or film night that evening at your house instead? Or offer to go to theirs armed with a cheeky prosecco and party poppers?

Check if a pub/nightclub is accessible
New Year is one of the biggest nights out of the year but it can be difficult to navigate for disabled people. If you are organising drinks or a night out, check ahead of time that the pub or club that you choose is accessible for people.

Not sure how to choose somewhere to go? Ask don’t assume someone’s access requirements and that will help you narrow down a few spots. It could be that someone needs a quieter pub because they are neurodivergent and may struggle with crowds or if someone is a wheelchair user then they may need step-free access.

Download our free resource on how to choose an accessible venue

If you are struggling with loneliness or just need a chat: here are some helplines or websites that may help you

Contact
Mind –  0300 123 3393 / info@mind.org.uk
Samaritans – 116 123 / jo@samaritans.org
Calm – 0800 58 58 58 /
Childline (under 19) – 0800 1111

Websites
Age UK
Marmalade Trust
WaveLength
Samaritans 

Love Lounge

A collection of the parts that make up the Discover wand in the Quest range by Enhance the UK and Rocks Off Ltd

Can you advise me on a self pleasuring device I can use with a complex physical disability?

By The Love Lounge

The Question

Hi,

I am writing for some advice as a disabled wheelchair user with a complex physical disability who has a small structure with limited and short arms and was wondering if you might be able to recommend any devices for solitary enjoyment. I would be able to put a toy over my penis if the item was easy enough to stretch open without too much strength required.

Thanks,
Tony

The Answer

I can suggest some ideas for you – and hope that some will be useable with the strength you do have.  Remember, it is ok to ask a PA/carer to assist you with the use of a sex toy – they can put the attachment on your penis for you, as long as you’re not erect. And they mustn’t be in the room when the toy is switched on, or when any sexual activity is occurring.

So, now for some product ideas!! –

  • We have our new inclusive sex toy range, Quest, out now.  There is a wand called Discover with a long handle and a grip handle for easier use with limited dexterity. If you sign up to the emails you get 25% off your first order!  

This is a good product if you can manage to get the sleeve on.

A couple of other options that I often recommend are

 A cheaper option would be the

Hope you have some success.  Would be great to hear any feedback.

Cheers,

Damien

A notepad ready to take notes with a pen balanced on top

How do I navigate my sexual needs and my live in care workers need to record

By The Love Lounge

I am a severely disabled lady with Cerebral Palsy approaching 60.

I have been messaging a man for years. it was just a general chat, but this year we have become more sexually expressive, which I am enjoying..

I have live-in care and obviously, the care workers sleep next door to me, so they would hear anything we do, and they are required to record everything they do. they would have to record that someone has visited me.

He lives in 3 hours away from me so it would just be for a meal and hopefully some intimacy when we meet up.

I have never been with an able-bodied man before, and I really want to experience that. But I am a bit nervous of his reaction if I can’t move the way able-bodied women do. I have told him how disabled I am, but I am used to shocked responses from people who haven’t seen me before.

He has said he is interested in having sex with a disabled woman and is willing to come down to a hotel for a meet up. He is happy to help me sexually if the occasion presents itself and is right.

I don’t know how to get the care worker to respect my privacy as a passionate and sexual woman – they are required to record everything they do with me and for me.

I have had a meeting with the care manager at the agency and they just said, if a care worker is with me, they have to write down what they do and where we go.

I really don’t know what to do or who to get to help with this situation. I need advice from an outside person, who isn’t judgemental, and knows that sexual activity is a human need.

Thank you for your help.

Fiona

 

The Answer:

It sounds lovely that your friendship with this man has developed into something titillating – and it sounds like you’re enjoying that!  And like you say, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will lead to something physical on the day, as you’ll only do what you’re comfortable with.

It’s always a difficult situation when you live with care when you want some intimate private time.  Of course, there are safeguarding issues with regard to the carers and agency covering themselves, however as long as you have capacity you should be able to make the life choices you want.  Yes, they may need to write where you went etc but they don’t need to write intimate details.  And really those notes shouldn’t be shared with anybody else other than your team. (unless of course a situation arises re safeguarding etc).

So, I guess if you don’t mind your favourite carers knowing, and they’re the ones you have helping you that day, then the thought of it being written down shouldn’t stop you doing this meet up. Be proud of your passion. I totally understand it’s not what any other adult has to go through – they don’t get their sexual activity documented – so it seems unfair that we do.

However, as I say, they will not need to write explicit details. So, weigh up your levels of embarrassment and (an unfortunately necessary) invasion of your privacy with your desire to go ahead with this meeting with your man… The agency’s choice of safeguarding you needs to be the least restrictive option!

Good luck and you have every right to express your sexuality and experience intimacy. Just remember to put things in place and do everything you can to keep yourself safe.

Enjoy!
Zoe x

All five of the incredible Quest sex toys from the new range

Introducing Quest: our new line of inclusive sex toys

By Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

We are beyond thrilled to introduce you to the Quest line of sex toys developed with our partners, Rocks Off. We’ve taken our time to get everything perfect and you know what they say….. good things come to those who wait.

We all have to start somewhere: workshops and focus groups

What a journey! Going on a Quest is always better in a group so with that in mind, we consulted with colleagues, friends, family and disability communities to find out what you really wanted.

We held ideation workshops, focus groups and meetings focused on discovering what people really need from their sex toys.

We realised that buying a toy is a journey which starts from the moment you think about potentially purchasing a new product. As a team we truly considered the experience for those with physical, sensory or cognitive impairments.

This meant examining how easily the toys could be bought, the packaging opened, the toy charged and the instructions understood. Of course, we also considered product use and enjoyment for those living independently and within support environments.

Shop the new range by clicking here

The Quest launch party in London

Features

When it came time for design, our focus groups and workshops had clear ideas of what we needed to include.

We’ve put this into practice by adding: remote controls for solo or couple play, Silicone straps, large tactile buttons, magnetic snap charging, visual and harpic feedback as settings change, easy operation, contrasting colours, Braille and QR codes for audio descriptions of product and pull tab packaging

But that’s not all.

We want to hear from you about the design. You can leave us reviews or let us know what you think.

the quest range pink wrist strap remote control

Features in focus:

Here are three of our favourite features in more focus.

Remotes and wrist straps

The design of the wrist strap and remote is ideal for anyone who may have mobility issues or different grip strengths. It allows you to take control, or your partner, for up to ten meters away for hands-free fun.

Bigger Buttons

Who has time for tricky buttons or small switches?

We’ve created large, raised buttons which are easy to access and ideal for users with visual impairments. It’s also great for neurodivergent people who may prefer to focus on sensations, not instruction manuals.

Sensory feedback

We’ve added LED lights and vibrations that can let you know when the product is turned on or off and charging. So you won’t be left in the dark about what your product is doing.

A Quest for accessible packaging

Packaging can be really tricky especially when you just want to get to your new favourite toy as quickly as possible.

We’ve designed the Quest boxes to allow access for those with visual impairments to neurodiversity to those with less dexterity. The boxes have a simple pull tab that can be used with a finger or mouth which allows the contents to glide out of the box.

The colour palette has been carefully selected along with font size and placement. There are also braille QR codes that load audio product descriptions.

Other features include:

  • Remote controls with silicone straps
  • Large tactile buttons
  • Magnetic snap charging
  • Both visual and haptic feedback as settings change
  • Easy operation and use

Want to learn more about the Quest line of toys then click here

Body safe materials

It’s important to make sure that when you are shopping for new toys, you stay safe. With this in mind, our partner, Rocks Off carries out rigorous lab testing which ensures the toys are produced in a sterile, clean environment.

When it comes to materials, we use ABS plastic which is non-porous, and durable along with medical-grade silicone which is non-allergenic. All toys use premium metals with no nasty nickels or cheap alloys.

Would you like to learn more about Rocks Off body safe material? You can click here to visit the Rocks Off page

Sustainability

Rocks Off has also thought about how to make the products as sustainable as possible. The packaging is recyclable, and biodegradable and has been certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Each product is packaged in cardboard covered in a biodegradable coating, all sourced from FSC-certified suppliers.

When it comes to the toys themselves, we used ABS plastic which can be recycled along with medical-grade silicone.

 

Interested in reading more about body safe sex toys and how to find them? You can read our detailed blog on what to look for and what to avoid!

Safe sex toys: how to shop, store and clean your new favourite products

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

There are a lot of considerations that go into buying sex toys that go beyond size, shape and how many speeds it has.

Did you know that the material it is made from or the lube you plan to use with it can make a difference?

Here are our top tips for making sure you sex toy shop as safely as possible.

Material

Sadly, not all sex toys are created equally as some can be made from materials that might actually harm our health. One such material is phthalates which are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable and soft. Scarily, they have been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity and cancer. They may occur in personal care products including sex toys, cosmetics especially nail varnish and eyelash glue.

Sometimes these materials can occur in cheaper or older products on the market meaning that you need to shop carefully.

Be careful of porous and slightly porous products so that you can properly clean your toys and destroy any lurking bacteria. Some non-porous materials which are body-safe include ABS plastic, pyrex, stainless steel and silicone. Most sex toys are made from silicone because it is softer yet still easy to clean.

When it came time to choose materials for the Quest products, we created the range from ABS plastic which is a form of hard plastic that is chemically inert. This means it doesn’t react to other chemicals and is safe to be paired with lubricants while being non-toxic and non absorbent. We also used medical-grade silicone to create some of the toys while using premium metals for those with motors. This means no nickel or cheap alloys which will keep your toy going for longer.

View the Quest range by clicking here

Storing sex toys

While all of us are guilty of having a secret hiding place, there are things we need to do to ensure our toys stay clean and in good condition.

You need to store a vibrator in a clean, dry place as moisture can destroy batteries or the motor. Always store a sex toy allow from different materials where there might be chemicals that can react with each other. In case things have gotten hot under the covers in more ways than one, allow a vibrator to cool before putting it back into its hiding place. Keep an eye on overheating over time as it may mean the motor is overheating.

If this happens, switch it off, let it cool down before using again.

Latex

People can have allergies which means shopping carefully. This may mean being extra aware of added fragrances or ingredients in lubricants. It can also extend to sex toys in that some people may struggle with latex or where there are bits of metal, materials such as nickel can cause issues. This can be avoided with latex-free toys and also, stainless steel.

Sex toys and Lube

It’s important to note the material that your toys are made from so that you can find a good lubricant to match. Some lubes such as oil-based products are not suitable for silicone sex toys as they degrade the material breaking it down. This can cause splits, holes and fraying which allows bacteria to get into the product passing it to the user.

Matching silicone or latex products to the right lubricant doesn’t have to be difficult as you just need to make sure they are waterproof. Not only that but be careful what ingredients the water base contains as CBD for example is not water solube. It needs to state that it is safe to be used with condoms or sex toys.

Batteries

Batteries and water do not mix so be very careful with which toys are water friendly and which ones are not before you have that relaxing post-work bath. Some batteries may leak over time which means you need to stop using a toy immediately and avoid any contact with the skin.

How to clean your sex toys

So you’ve done the thing, bought the toy and shopped carefully….now what? Sex toys need to be cleaned regularly, especially after use with a new partner. But how?

Hand washing

Gently hand wash the toy with warm water and a mild soap. You will need to determine how waterproof a toy is before and also remove the batteries before a wash. Splash proof and waterproof are very different things: waterproof means a toy can go into a certain depth of water but splash proof can’t.

Disinfecting and sanitising can mean a toy is free from any nasty bacteria that may linger after a quick wash.

Avoid any harsh chemicals or overly fragranced soaps as they may cause irritation. Allow the toys to air dry before popping them back in the drawer or box under the bed. You can also pat dry with a clean towel if you need to.

There are cleaning wipes and sprays that you can buy at sex shops but it’s worth a chat with staff to make sure they are compatible with the product you have.

You can disinfect 100% silicone, stainless steel or glass toys by boiling them for three minutes. In the case of glass toys, place a soft towel in the water to avoid it moving around and causing cracks off the side of the pan. They need to be air-dried afterwards.

You can use the dishwasher with certain non-mechanised 100% silicone toys, glass or stainless steel. Although, you may want to consider not adding fabric softener to the mix. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t as effective as a boil wash.

Interested in sex toys? Why not read more by clicking the links below:

Disability and Male Masturbation Toys

Two women sitting in bed kiss while being lit up by fairly lights to highlight how ADHD may affect your sex life.

ADHD Awareness Month: can ADHD affect your sex life?

By Disability, Undressing Disability

October marks the start of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) Awareness Month but what does that actually mean for those of us who are diagnosed with it?

When it comes to ADHD, I can’t tell you the number of ways it affects me from my workplace to my travel to, unfortunately, my relationships. There is so little out there for adults with ADHD in terms of research, especially for those of us who are queer, transgender or non-binary. When it comes to sex, the information can leave a lot to be desired.

However embracing our sexuality, and our ADHD, is important. While ADHD can make things like choosing the right toy or reaching orgasm more difficult, it’s not impossible. Communication and education can go a long way.

Here are three of the biggest things I wish I had known about sex, my brain and ADHD.

1 – Focus

One of the biggest stereotypes about ADHD is that we can’t focus. In reality, it’s not quite that simple as ADHD-ers struggle with regulating focus- either too much or too little. We cannot get our brain to focus if we don’t want to or break focus if we are locked into something we find interesting.

In the bedroom, that lack of focus can be a libido killer in that it can make it hard for us to stay in the mood, maintain an erection or achieve orgasm. The results of that can be a frustrating experience for everyone involved.

The opposite is true sometimes in that we can be so focused on everything around us that we find it hard to make time for sex. Coupled with a lower sex drive, I find that I can get so lost in my work that I fail to notice the hours slip past before it’s too late and a partner is already asleep.

Read more: As a neurodivergent person, how do I recognise abuse in my relationship?

2- Overwhelming

When it comes to sex toys, I never really got the hype but I also never considered this may not be my fault. So few are designed with neurodiversity in mind that they often arrive with overly complicated instructions, flashing buttons and LED-what-the-hells!??! By the time I have navigated the box, I have little spare mental energy to engage with pairing it to my phone.

Overwhelm can lead to a lot of not-sexy emotions including frustration, anger and sadness. Many ADHD people will experience shutdowns or meltdowns which are exhausting and can cause someone to completely withdraw.

It’s not just about toys though as some lubricants or massage lotions can be too much for neurodivergent people. The smell or texture can be too overpowering or feel uncomfortable on the skin. If that happens, it can make people feel awkward, anxious, nauseated or panicked. It may also ruin the mood by being the only thing they can notice in the room.

3 – Risk

When we make a decision to have sex we calculate a risk. We make a decision to wear a condom, use lubricants that are safe with our toys or bodies or we choose our partners carefully based on a number of factors. Those of us with ADHD struggle with decision-making as we can be impulsive and look for the potential reward that comes with taking a risk.

The bad thing is that there isn’t always a reward. A study in 2017 revealed that teenage girls with ADHD are three times more likely to get pregnant accidentally while ADHD boys are twice as likely to get someone pregnant.

Another study on medicated and unmedicated ADHD patients revealed those without medication were three times as likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection. Interestingly, the same study showed that medication cut this risk by 40%.

Interested in ADHD? Here are more stories you might like to read:

Photo of two peoples feet sticking out at the end of the bed.

Seeking a Sex Worker Service

By The Love Lounge

The Question

Hi,

I have a high functioning autistic spectrum disorder and want to seek a sex worker to feel more comfortable around women.  I’d like to use a service that has people confident working with disabled people.  Who do you recommend?

Also, I don’t know how it works as I’m new to this – should I be transparent about my ASD?

Thank you,
Matt

The Answer

Hi Matt,
Unfortunately we don’t have information on specific sex workers.  However, if you contact SHADA they may be able to help you more!
Sex and Disability Helpline +44(0) 7900 957 393 11am-7pm weekdays.
I think honesty is always the best policy. Particularly as you’re paying for a service so you want the best experience for yourself.  If you were going on a dating site, there’s the whole debate around whether you disclose your disability or impairment straight away… but seeing as you’re seeking a sex worker who needs to be suitable for you, then I think it’s best they know your access requirements.  And also be clear about what kind of experience you want – you don’t just have to be grateful that they are providing you with sex and they’re ok with your ASD.  Think about what pleasures you like and see what they are happy to offer you.
I hope you hear back from them. And ultimately hope you have a great time!
Take care,
Zoe
The Love Lounge Team

 

Contact Us

Everyone who writes into our Love Lounge receives an email with a private answer to their question. We then anonymise the Q&A and share them here on our website to help others who may be struggling with the same concern.  Get in touch if you’d like some advice.

Keep up to date with all our Love Lounge articles by following us on Instagram @UndressingDisability or on twitter @ETUKUndressing.

#UndressingDisability #LoveLounge

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Photo of Sandie with their hand on the side of their face, smiling looking to the side.

Defy Society’s Expectations: A Guide to Overcoming the Challenges of Building Body Confidence

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

TW Eating Disorder, Abuse, Ableism

 

Society is a high maintenance significant other, it’s not shy about placing impossible expectations on disabled people when it comes to how we should feel about our bodies. However, it is possible to defy these preconceived notions and build your own body confidence from the ground up. Today, I would like to share my personal journey of overcoming the distinct challenges that accompany living with a disability, all while striving for body neutrality and positivity. Additionally, I proudly identify as queer and non-binary, to add a bit of extra spice to the mix. I will also provide tips and resources for you, dear reader, if you’re looking to do the same, so that you can begin to reclaim your self worth and be truly confident in your own skin.

The Before: A Portrait of Misplace Worth

Let me start from the beginning. Before my disability, my worth seemed tied to unhealthy measures. How I looked mattered more than it should have, but given my history of traumatic  rejection and a life full of drama, it’s not surprising. I controlled my outward appearance because I couldn’t control my pain. The only thing I seemed to have control over was what I ate, or rather, what I didn’t. And it worked, to some extent. I stumbled through life in a blind haze, just trying to survive without many skills beyond that. I pretended everything was fine, until it wasn’t. When I became disabled, the inability to exercise and a slew of medications quickly changed my physical appearance. This was not ideal for someone who believed they had to look a certain way to be worthy of love. And so, I tried to ignore this uncomfortable new reality, plastering on smiles whenever someone asked, “how are you?”

The Turning Point: When Old Coping Strategies Fail

Then came the day when all my control tactics failed and my coping strategies went out the  window. I was left completely helpless. Let’s summarise this section of my life as the “dark and twisty time” aptly named by Meredith Grey. I found myself an empty shell, curled on the floor in the shadows of my bedroom. All the ways to find my self-worth vanished with my mobility, replaced by ableist views and a body that refused to look recognisable in the mirror.

Emerging into Light: Choosing A Path of Self-Love

Eventually, there came a time, an end to that darkness. At the fork in the road, I chose to fill the void with things that shaped my self-worth from a foundation of love and belief in myself. I realised I deserved to be happy and would be okay, just as I am, without the need for change or approval from others. I discovered the disabled community and started connecting with people who shared similar experiences. It was a revelation to realise that I wasn’t the issue; it was the world around me. What an incredible day, dear reader!

Uncharted Territory: Embracing the New Disabled Me

Society expects disabled individuals to conform, but I realised I didn’t fit that mould. I wanted to be bold, proud, and shiny! I didn’t want to fade into the background. And the best part? There were no “society police” to hold me back. It felt like discovering the power to fly! The joy and freedom were exhilarating. It was time to embrace the fun!

A Critical Eye: Society’s Obsession with “Self-improvement”

Over the last 5 years as a full-time wheelchair user, I’ve had fun times and faced struggles. But it  can be hard to embrace a changed body when society tells us to “fix” what we don’t like. What if we don’t want to, what if we can’t? Why are we always judged? The critical eye surrounds us, from screens to magazines. I say, it’s time to change our mindset, not our bodies.

The Struggle for Independence: A Lesson in Acceptance

Losing mobility or health can result in a loss of independence, which was personally one of the toughest challenges for me to overcome. I used to hate asking for help. I saw it as a sign of  weakness but I’ve grown a lot in the last 5 years. Now I see accepting help as what it is, a simple division of labour. They help me, I’ll do something else another time. Maybe. Maybe I won’t but it doesn’t really matter, it evens out in the end. Coming to terms with this can be difficult, there may be ways to regain independence or maybe not. Take a moment, reflect on what truly matters. It could be a transformative time of self-discovery and growth. Remember that empty shell? Perhaps this is an opportunity to build something from the ground up, a chance to turn towards
happiness.

Beyond Media Stereotypes of Disability: The Beautiful Truth

While there has been improvement, the portrayal of disabled bodies in the media still falls short. We come in all shapes and sizes, beautifully unique. If all anyone sees is a watered-down version, it can be challenging to see your own beauty.

Battling Bias: Rising Above Society’s Views

But it’s a harmful lie. Our magnificent variations make us all beautiful. The curve of a body, our movement or stillness, our quiet – all so very beautiful. If all mountain ranges looked the same, why would we travel? If all trees had the same shape, who would meditate in a forest? Nature creates everything uniquely, fostering diversity and making the world more beautiful. My heart aches for those who feel unworthy or unloved. Anger fuels my ongoing fight against an unaccepting society, and I’m far from finished.

Helpful Hints: Building Connection with Your True Self

Discovering your true self and embracing your disabled body can be challenging in a society that ignores our needs. Here are some tips to help you connect, accept and respect your body.

  • Find your people! When I joined the disability community online it was an absolute turning point. You need people who’ll support you without the need for explanation. Those are your people. Nurture those friendships and get a good network of professionals while you’re at it, a good doctor is a wondrous thing!
  • Be kind to yourself. How often have you spoken harsh words to your reflection? Your brain hears and believes you! Instead be compassionate and gentle. It matters.
  • If you want to set goals, make them realistic. Move towards your goal with kindness, rather than with judgment. Look for guidance in line with your new beliefs. Strive for self-neutrality when self-love feels inadequate, as it could lead you to your ultimate destination.
  • Remember, as an incredible disabled person, you are more than just that. Your personality has many facets, and you possess lots of skills and abilities unrelated to your disability. These aspects will provide perspective, especially if you feel overwhelmed by your new disabled body.

The Danger of Looking Back: Avoiding the Nostalgia Trap

Don’t spend all your time looking backwards. It’s not just bad for your neck, but also harmful to  your mental health! Focusing only on what was and no longer is prevents you from being all you can be and appreciating beauty in the now. While it’s fine to reminisce, remember that we often sugar coat the past. The key to happiness really starts with accepting our reality.

Body Confidence: A Journey, Not a Destination

Building a new relationship with your body takes time, effort, and dedication. Just like any other relationship, it requires respect and love. It becomes even more challenging when dealing with disability or chronic illness. So, be kind to yourself if you find this aspect of your life difficult. Progress may not always be linear, but we’ve all been thrown back to square one and will be again. When we quite literally don’t fit into society – in marketing, in governmental decisions, literally in buildings, it’s no wonder we find it hard to feel confident and stand up for ourselves. We are being told we don’t matter every single day – from when we are trying to buy a pint of milk through to who’s last in line for life saving medical services.

Your Toolkit: Strategies for Building Body Confidence

But the fact is we do matter, our bodies are beautifully valid just as much as the next person’s – disabled or not.
Some ways you can look to build your arsenal of strength towards your body confidence journey are:

  • Curate your social media feeds. You’re in charge here. Remove accounts that make you feel bad and keep those that make you feel good. Surround yourself with accounts that inspire and align with the life you’ve chosen. This is a powerful tool at your disposal, and you’re in control!
  • Look for support through therapy. It acts as a gym for your heart, mind, and soul, requiring regular workouts to keep healthy.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a good group of friends. Talk to them!
  • Look up support from organisations such as www.spokzpeople.org.uk, www.scope.org.uk, and of course there’s all the community and resources available at the Undressing Disability Hub.

The Final Word: We Matter

Here’s the bottom line, dear reader, each of our bodies is beautifully unique and wonderfully diverse, not confined to the limitations of a cookie-cutter shape, and society might have a bit of a problem with that, but we don’t. Because our bodies carry us through life, they endure, they persevere. They’re a testament to our strength and resilience – we might not have wanted it but that’s what we got. We ARE strong and resilient, we ARE spectacularly diverse and that’s worth more than fitting into some cookie-cutter mould. So next time you hear yourself speak sharply to your reflection, or find you spend too much time reminiscing and end up feeling resentful of your present situation, pause. Take a deep breath. And remind yourself that you matter, your body matters, and it’s long overdue for the world to recognise that.
And maybe, just maybe you’re one to help change things – one small act of self love at a time.

Sandie Roberts, Disability Advocate, Content Creator, Writer & PT Model

photograph of a cobble street with autumn leaves on the floor. There is a bright red heart placed on the ground.

Unrequited Love

By Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

Jennie Williamson, our CEO, and Charlotte Faragher recently went live on our instagram to discuss unrequited love. Charlotte has written a poem about unrequited love as a disabled person which is written in full below. If you want to listen/watch our Jennie and Charlotte’s discussion head over to our instagram and watch their livestream on our profile!

Not What You Need

by Charlotte Faragher

I stand here broken, dejected, alone,
I thought I’d finally found a person to call my own.
I truly put my heart on the line,

Yet now I feel a heartbreak so very hard to define.

When we first met it felt different, unique.
Yet now my soul is impossibly bleak.
I felt it all the trust, the lust, the pain,

Resounding, compounding in my head like an endless refrain.
Part of me believed we were of the same accord,
Yet I fell hopelessly, irretrievably in love with none of the reward.

If only my body were more agile,

Perhaps you would have been more inclined to hold me a while.

If only my body had been created stronger,
Perhaps you would tell me a problem and feel sad no longer.

I hate how my CP gets in the way
Of many an activity both night and day
Going from nightclub A to nightclub B

Is something of an obstacle course when you are with me

I sometimes wonder when friends show care
If they would really rather, I wasn’t there
This all-consuming irritation

Is emblematic of the instant gratification generation.
Where we seek pleasure in the quickest time
Anyone who hinders this is out of line.

I hate how long simple tasks take

Fun evenings out can seem something of a ball ache.
I wonder if I’m the blunder, stopping people having fun
Like that one rainy grey cloud eclipsing the sun.

I also muse if I’m a massive interference to those that raised me – aka my parents

Yet they’ve never outwardly berated or complained
Doing their best to ensure the happiest of homes is maintained.

Yet I’m sure I’ve caused them much strife
By the restrictions I have placed on their life.

I’ve always hated my disability and how it makes me stand out
Yet, you saw the person beyond the chair, what I was truly about
You boldly stepped up, were a true friend, did not treat me like a flower.

And it’s because of this that I so desperately wish
Our hilarious excursions, our vulnerable heart to hearts

Lasted forever not mere hours.

Personable, passionate, hilarious, arty
Gentle yet fun-loving the life of the party .
I did dream of you at night in bed

It’s hard to believe you’re not some fairy tale prince I’ve made up in my head.

I often question how it has not unfurled

That everyone does not adore you along with the Hemsworth’s,

Elba’s and Effron’s of the world.
Nevertheless, you have a girl on your arm
And I remain in a sorrowful balm.

I’ve never met the girl who won your heart
She’s probably just like you; attractive, astute, resolute

in being kind to others and into art.
She’s probably someone I’d love to befriend
even though I love you too this isn’t like some romcom where
the beautiful girl with an ugly heart is exposed by movies end.

I tried to suppress my feelings at first, I thought it wasn’t worth believing,

and yet I soon realized that I couldn’t not be in love
any more than one can stop breathing.

What I was feeling was childlike fodder, the stuff of fairy tales from long ago,
nonsensical word vomit, sweaty palms, but then loves raw and unyielding

confusion hit me like a blow.

I was definitely in love wished we could be like ties that bind
Sometimes you nearly drive me out of my mind.
What I wouldn’t give to have you hold me in your arms

To have you really look at me and have it resonate that you have zero qualms

About my body and me exactly as they are.

To have you hold me, talk with me, love me, caress me and adore me

Until we see the morning’s first star.
But you clearly don’t view me that way
It makes my heart feel deathly cold
Why won’t you love the way I want
Be courageous in your feelings, be bold
Why is it taking everything I have not to kiss you?
If you thought the same this would not be an issue.
Yet you still see me as just a dear friend.
Sometimes these feelings get so messy

The noise is so loud I struggle to comprehend.

Life as it is all I want is you,
Yet even if it only took a fraction of time
to carry out my most desired actions,
It would devastate your girlfriend too.
I’m not a home wrecker can’t let three lives implode
So, though this is the hardest thing my heart can bear.

We have to say to goodbye forever
Go down our separate roads.

It’s clear your lover is good
She has the best intentions at heart

And I need to learn to love my body and self so much more
Quieten negative voices and make a fresh start.
Just because we didn’t pan out
Does not mean I wouldn’t be a perfect match
For one of the 7 billion people in the world
The right guy will realize that I am quite the catch
And I will be able to hold him up too

Just as she is a confident cheerleader, supporter to you
I hope to God, she never deliberately hurts you, takes you for granted
Endlessly appreciates, celebrates the astonishing gift of the man

she has been handed.

So now as I stand here forever changed by you
Internally my heart continues to bleed
I try not to cry but whisper “good bye”
I’m sorry I’m not what you need

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Navigating Religious Virginity and Dating

By The Love Lounge

The Question

I’m in my late 40’s, and now live with my mum as her carer. I received a diagnosis of Social Anxiety. Although I have had some male friends, I have not yet entered into a relationship with anyone. My faith encourages marriage without sex before marriage, and I abstain from drinking. I am still a virgin(!).  After a few years of not thinking a relationship is possible, I’d like to give it a go now, and hope I can learn and grow from the experience.

I’m really stuck though on how to go about it. During lockdown, I tried online dating and met a wonderful guy. However, we faced the challenges of long distance relationships, and he was also dealing with his own mental health issues. I realised I couldn’t sustain a relationship with them, and look after my mum at the same time. One problem right now seems to be that I look a lot younger than my age and am immature for my age (probably lack of relationship experience etc.) As a result, I tend to connect/chat better with men who are at least 10 years younger.  When they realise my age, and that I’m a virgin, it’s all a bit much and they run!

Any thoughts, suggestions and signposting you’d have would be great.  I think I need help in navigating all this!

Sandi

 

The Answer

Reading your email, I feel quite positive. There’s no reason to think otherwise! I understand that you may not feel that though.  However, I think the main thing here is persistence and widening your search!

With online dating you need to sift through a lot of profiles to find a good one! So don’t put all your eggs in one basket basically. It’s best to get talking to a number of people at the same time and see which develops best. That would prevent you getting into a situation like the one you said about, where you’ve invested a lot in the relationship and then realise you can’t sustain it.

Now, naturally, everyone gets into a relationship and thinks it could be going well and then it doesn’t.  That’s just natural. So this is where persistence is key! Just keep on trying, get back online and find more people!! It does take energy and time… but lots of people manage it! (I end up getting bored!).

With your cultural/religious beliefs, you may want to state that on your profile so that you attract like-minded people (in regard to no sex before marriage). Or find websites that have that (e.g. NOT Tinder!!).

Regarding your age and looking young – lucky you! There are plenty of men who want an older woman so again just keep looking.  Many prefer it as there isn’t the pressure for children etc. or they just don’t click with women of their age.

Can you meet other people in your religious community, so you come from the same understanding?  Or if you can date/marry those who practice other religions, and the sex before marriage bit is the important part then that gives you more scope to look on more specific dating apps.  Also, an important part to consider, is what does ‘no sex’ mean for you? Is that just penetration? Could you do everything else other than that? You need to define your own boundaries as plenty of men would be happy to have a relationship with that level of intimacy, regardless of their beliefs.

I wish you luck and you’ve taken the most important step with being ready to give it all a go!

Best wishes,

Zoe

The Love Lounge Team

 

Contact Us

Everyone who writes into our Love Lounge receives an email with a private answer to their question. We then anonymise the Q&A and share them here on our website to help others who may be struggling with the same concern.  Get in touch if you’d like some advice.

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