• Ian Patrick

Disability and writing

Updated: Jun 21

One of the topics I’m keen to explore is a writing life when you have a disability. I have a neuromuscular condition. It appears to be affecting my legs more than my upper body (at the moment). It comes with its own side effects, pain being one of them. It’s a rare condition and falls within the muscular dystrophy bracket of unknown diseases. So how does this correlate to writing? Let’s take the advice of write each day. In many ways it’s good advice but not for people like me.

This isn’t always achievable. When you have health management on top of everything else life demands then being consistently productive doesn’t always happen. There are days I can’t function beyond staying awake long enough to drink and eat. The thought of writing is still present but more of an irritant. I’m unable to do what I value doing and it makes me sad. Some would argue that this pressure is all self imposed. I’m a writer so just get on with it. But is it all self imposed?

Society places an expectation on those with a disability to function in the same way able-bodied people do despite the disability. If we don’t, we’re considered weak, lazy and a drain on the system. Why do you think the suicide rate among the disabled community is so high? Think about it. We all have a want to be the best person we can be despite limitations. When society adds additional limitations through attitude and discrimination then the task can seem insurmountable.

There was a time where, unbeknown to me, I was trying to lead an able-bodied life while having a physical disability. I had an idea something was up as policing is a physically demanding job. I ignored the signs and my body shut me down. I had to take notice and adapt. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t get up the next day and my life had miraculously changed. I had a police family who supported me as well as friends and family.

It was still down to me to make the changes though and it’s taken years to adjust. With any disability that’s in constant decline, no matter how slow, it will always throw up new challenges.

Now, I’m not saying that hard work doesn’t pay off or that self-sacrifice is evil, I’m not. Many of my friends are writers and have achieved phenomenal success through hard graft and sacrifice. Chris McVeigh at Fahrenheit Press is a prime example of what can be done through persistence, belief, dedication and drive while managing his own health issues.

We all have to find our own limitations. This can be difficult to manage when you have a mind that pushes you and a body that doesn’t want to play ball in a consistent way each day.

So when it comes to a life as a writer with a disability there’s a mental adaptation as well as a physical one to overcome. You may have deadlines looming, social media to manage and blogs to write. All of which put pressure on your system. I can only talk from the point of view of a writer with a neurological condition that has an impact physically.

I’ve had to learn to listen to what my body is telling me and react to the message. If that means not writing, I accept that’s the case. I don’t feel a failure at not turning up to the desk. Yes, I feel a sense of frustration but by looking after myself on these days my writing time is extended over a consistent period.

I try and use this downtime to recuperate and let my brain cope with the repair work my body requires. We are not robots and shouldn’t function like one. There are many demands in life and sometimes we need to make ourselves the priority.

Look at areas of your life where you can reduce pressure or stress in order to give you more energy to concentrate on what you value doing. Set time aside for you. It’s not always easy or a quick fix but where you can make an adjustment, do so. If you can’t then move onto areas in your life where change is possible.

You are worth the time and energy so invest in yourself. By doing so others will benefit by seeing you happier, relaxed and managing your condition rather than bitter, resentful and in a rut. Your writing time will be more productive and a joy to do. I have my wonderful wife to thank for teaching me this. I’m still in reception class but learning as I go!

In summary I’d say to anyone whose life is like spinning plates to try and slow down. Take stock before your body does that for you. You’ll get more out of the day and a consistent path rather than an undulating one.

Like all my posts it’s only my opinion and like all opinions doesn’t mean it’s right. I can only reflect on what works for me. Find your own path and if this helps then great. If it doesn’t then let it go.

Most of all, lead a life doing what you value.

Thanks for reading and take care. IP

Keep moving toward your goal

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