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October 2015

“At 28 I started partially losing my sight last year and have increasingly been losing faith that I will find a boyfriend…”

By | Disability, Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, My story, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments
At 28 I started partially losing my sight last year and have increasingly been losing faith that I will find a boyfriend – it was hard enough before! Would you recommend trying to date other people with impairments such as myself? Will able bodied men see me for me? (Pardon the pun..)
Jasmine
Hmm. I really think that it’s what works for you Jasmine. If you might feel safer and at ease with some who also has a visual impairment that why not try it? But not if you feel that’s all you can get, or you are having to choose that route because you are disabled. No one should make do, especially people as amazing as us! I think that the right person will not only not care that you have a disability, they will see how that has made you the perfect person for them. I found that with my wife, and I feel like that about her. She has a big burn scar all down her right side of her body, and when I met her I knew she was perfect for me as she had it on show. So while she doesn’t call herself disabled, I say she is. We have a shared experience of doctors, and of people being real tossers. Trust me, I was shocked to experience how people react to someone with a visible scar. Shocking. But I digress. I really feel that we, as disabled people, can internalise our fears and allow them to get in the way of us finding love. In a way, disability can act a filter stopping the really awful possible relationships getting in the way of the possible good ones. If some one is put off by a disability then they really aren’t right for us, and so hooray. Make way for those who don’t care.
I know this isn’t really much help, but if I was you I’d just get out there, enjoy life and see what life brings. We spend too much time worrying about relationships and dating and what we should be doing is living life. Along the way it’s much more likely to meet people, and those people tend to be the ones who we want to be with, rather than those we feel we might have to stay with. If they are are visually impaired of not won’t really matter, if they are right… they are right! – Mik

“Should I feel guilty since my accident has changed my partners lifestyle…”

By | Disability, Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments
My fiancee and I are getting married next summer and since my accident last year, and the fact that I have to use a wheelchair, we haven’t been the most active couple we once were. We were always trekking or mountain biking and I feel this was a big part of her attraction to me. I feel like I am making her live a life she didn’t choose. Should I feel guilty? Tom

 

Hi Tom. It’s one of the elements of becoming disabled that is rarely talked about, the guilt felt for those who are in our lives. Whether it’s wider family or our partners, it’s tough to cope with that feeling that we are now a burden, or that we have made their lives change too. I’ve talked to my wife about this, and although we met after my first spinal injury (yes I’ve had two, so greedy or what) she had to care for me while I was being treated for my second and the surgery that I required. She had to quit her £500/week job and go onto £50/week carer’s allowance, and both of our lives fell apart. But she insisted she had no worries about this at all. SHE LOVED ME! And I expect you are in the same boat. That love doesn’t care about you using a wheelchair, or legs or flying. Your partner loves you, and it’s vital that you remember that. If you let your guilt and worry colour how you treat her, you may create a self fulfilling prophesy.
However, just because you are now one of us wheelie types doesn’t mean the end of your active lifestyle. In fact it might open up a whole new world of outdoor fun to you. There are many wheelchairs on the market that allow you to venture into the outside world, I’ve tried two – the Boma – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayeUCvj4D5Q and the Trekinetic – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0VCTpguiLo and I can promise they are loads of fun. My local sports centre has a climbing wall and does mountain climbing for us wheelchair users, and there are loads of other such sports open to you. The stereotype of a wheelchair user is no longer true mate, we are eating up dangerous and outdoor sports and creating new ones too. Look online and get out there.
But most important, you are no different to the person you were before the accident. You just use a different mechanism for getting around. Sure other bits of your body might work differently too, but you are still you. And your partner loves you. Take that love at face value. Don’t over think it, or let the way society paints disability make you doubt it. Us wheelies are very loveable types and we make great partners. If for no other reason than it’s easy to keep us in bed… just take our chair away!
I wish you loads of luck and happiness. I hope the big day goes well. Now stop worrying and kiss your partner, get on online, get a great all terrain wheelchair and get out there. Hopefully I’ll see you scooting up a mountain somewhere? I’m easy to spot, I’ve got stupid red hair… and my wife hair is bright blue!

 

“I started university in September and I have CP…”

By | Disability, Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments
I have just started university this September in Bournemouth. I have CP with limited movement in my hands and slurred speech. I have been getting involved in all the freshers events and enjoyed meeting people. There’s a girl who lives in my block in halls who has been incredibly kind to me and we have struck up a close friendship. I really fancy her and would love something more. Can I tell her this? I’m worried she’s just being nice to me because I’m the disabled kid.
Brendan

 

My advice Brendan is go for it! I remember thinking that people I really fancied were only being nice to me because I was disabled, and I didn’t take the chance. Years later I met them and they were rather cross when I told them how I used to feel, as they felt that way too. It’s too easy to think negatively, but if you don’t take the chance you’ll never know. It’s far worse to regret stuff you didn’t do than the stuff you did! Trust me, as an old duffer I give you this advice from experience. Best bet is to ask her out for a meal, and then slip in a kind of “I know it sounds a bit crap, but I really fancy you. I don’t want to to mess up our friendship, but I also would hate to miss out on this being something more, so I thought I’d ask just in case you fancy me too” kind of thing. If she isn’t into you that way, then you still have a mate, and maybe she can set you up with one of her mates… but she might say “yes, I fancy you too” and off you go. Either way, no one looses… and you might win! Always jump, because no one really wins playing safe!
Also, I learned along the way that just because we are disabled doesn’t make us less fanciable, either as a bit of fun or potential life partners. We are damn great, and anyone who gets us is damn lucky! – Mik

“I’m a single mum and I suffer chronic pain and spinal problems…”

By | Emily Yates, Mik Scarlet, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability | No Comments
 Hello there,I’ve just read an article about your organisation and wondered if you could help me. I’m a single mum and I suffer chronic pain and spinal problems and things are hard. The pains debilitating and I’m very lonely. Is there any service you can offer me, put me in touch with likewise people with disabilities. I’m not sure if this is something you offer.
Kindest regards, Rachael

 

 Hi Rachael, many thanks for writing in to us at the Love Lounge.
Sorry to hear of your struggles, but great that you’ve written in to us, and you’re wanting things to change.
Pain is such a tough thing to deal with, and for us to give advice on, as it really does differ for everyone! If it’s really debilitating and affecting your life so severely, I’d suggest having a chat with your doctor to see if anything else can be done. In terms of getting yourself out there and kicking that loneliness into touch, what really works for several people I know is planning ahead – having dates in the diary to look forward to, and being able to factor in ‘rest days’ or even ‘rest hours’ into your day so that these dates in the diary (hopefully) end up being events you can attend and enjoy without too much pain or worry.  When there isn’t anything huge to look forward to, could your friends come to you instead of meeting you for coffee in town, just so you can socialise and still be in control if pain really strikes?
It’d be great to know more about you – do you use any mobility equipment to get around, and can certain friends or family members be at hand to accompany you on a girly shopping afternoon, or take single mum pressures off you when you need some ‘me’ time, even if that’s relaxing in front of the TV?!
In terms of dating, I’d recommend boosting your confidence a little by taking some lovely photos of yourself, writing up a positive profile about what you enjoy, and trying online dating.  It’ll get conversations going, you can do it from the comfort of your own home and, you never know, these online conversations might turn into dates for your diary! 🙂
If they do, please let me know! There’s lots of equipment out there that can also help with chronic pain in the bedroom….
Wishing you lots of luck,
Emily x

 

Hi Rachel,
I know how you feel, as I experience high levels of pain. It is something that can get in the way of every part of life, especially intimacy. It’s tough to feel sexy when just being touched hurts. However, I must say that sex is also a fantastic method of pain relief, so don’t think that being in pain will stop you from being intimate with someone. I have found that sex alleviates pain, and this can last for some time. Not always but some times.
On the dating front, I must admit I’m way out of touch with dating in today’s world. I’ve been married for ten years, to the woman I’ve been with for twenty. But I have always lived with pain, ever since my spine collapsed and so know how it can make you feel you might not be the catch of the year. Don’t let that thought colour the way you act. The right person will be supportive, but I found along the way to finding the right person that even a few wrong ones are understanding around pain. They might have been wrong for other reasons but most people seem to understand that pain might make you feel off now and then.
The whole online dating scene is alien to me, but if you fancy trying old school dating try finding activities you enjoy. Then when you are doing them socialise and et voila, you may find Mr Right. I met my wife like this, and it allowed us to stay together as we have so much in common. Emily’s advice around building schedules that allow you to recover is vital. It’s how I have built a successful life. I work, or party or whatever, and then I book some time off to recover. I’m writing this from my sofa, after returning from a holiday. I even book time off to recover from holidays! This is the best technique for beginning to get out now and then. Arrange something that you really fancy doing, do it, and then give yourself the time to recover… and never knock yourself for needing this time. Your health is vital and you should never feel bad for needing recovery time. As you go out more, your confidence will grow. Sure they’ll be knock backs, times when the pain wins out, but you will be in control, not the pain.
Another technique I tried which changed my life was mindfulness. This meditation technique sounded far to hippy dippy for me, but as you know sometimes pain can get so bad you’d try anything. It set me free! Ask your GP to see if they run Mindfulness for pain in your area. It allows you to develop a different relationship with your pain and when it gets bad you can use it to lessen it’s impact. Can’t sing it’s praises too highly. Mik.
Sarah Willow

Sarah Willow bares all about Undressing Disability

By | Disability, Lifestyle | No Comments

The countdown to the Under the Covers exhibition has begun and I can’t contain my excitement. Enhance the UK have teamed up with Scope to present an evening at The Gherkin, London, on Thursday 22nd October 2015 to celebrate ETUK’s Undressing Disability exhibition and Scope’s End the Awkward campaign.

You can read more about the event here.

During our fancy night at The Gherkin, (yes, The Gherkin) ETUK will showcase the amazing photographs of disabled people in their underwear, screen the film made for the campaign and launch the book that has been produced, Undressing Disability, which I will be featured in. Have I mentioned that I’m spending an evening in The Gherkin?

There are no words to describe how incredibly proud I am to be part of such an awesome campaign, and as much as I’d have loved to strip off and join in with the photoshoots and film, my lack of confidence prevented me. I have a gigantic soft spot in my heart for the ladies and gents that bore all for ETUK because they’re bloody fearless. From what I’ve read and seen of the work everybody has put it, it’s definitely going to make an impact and you should totally check it out.

Make sure you look out for my story in the book. Disclaimer: there are quite a few sweary bits. However, I’m hoping it will make you laugh out loud but maybe bring a tear to your eye. All the chapters in the book are real-life accounts of dates, relationships, sexual encounters that disabled people have had. I got involved with Undressing Disability after I spied them on Twitter. As I’ve mentioned before raising awareness is close to my swinging brick – I mean, heart, and I like the idea of talking about sex, especially in the disabled community. I sometimes get the impression that people think we don’t do it/can’t do it/don’t like it/mustn’t like it – I mean, why should it be taboo? We’re still people too, guys. And shock horror I have sex and I’m in a wheelchair. I must point out that I get out of my wheelchair before the sex takes place, but you get my point. Anyway, I figured that sharing my story alongside other disabled peoples would highlight how important a healthy sex life is and that no matter your disability; you have the right to feel loved, sexy and confident.

In my late teens, I’d have welcomed a book like Undressing Disability into my life, just to know that I wasn’t the only person dealing with a condition and trying to talk to boys – never mind have a physical relationship with them. I think it’s really important that the stigma surrounding sex within society is reduced, not only within the disabled community, but everyone. I talk about it openly and easily, I’ve always been that way, but so many people shy away or are disgraced by the mere mention of the ‘S’ word.

To put it briefly, I hope the campaign opens people’s eyes regarding disability and sex – we do it, we like it and although there might be some barriers, we aren’t going to stop.

Keep checking Enhance the UK’s Twitter and Facebook for more info and behind the scenes photos.

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