Moving forward- ready to open up and share my story

26th April 2019
Posted in Blog
26th April 2019 geri

Moving forward- ready to open up and share my story

When I got out of the hospital, everything did start to seem a bit brighter. Even though it is was just moving into an independent unit, having my own bed and my own space – all the things we can take for granted- was such a relief. Being able to have my friends visit and stay without a curfew, having that freedom was great.

RTE Studios

I have progressed, every year there is something more that I can do myself. I’m learning to drive at the moment which is going good. I still need help getting in and out of the car but it is about prioritising different options and solutions – you can’t have it all and it is about just having as much as you can to make you happy and feel as positive as you can, as you are.

At the end of the day, are we ever fully happy with what we have? I know for a fact that I wasn’t fully happy with everything that I had before the accident. Even with everything that I had I didn’t realise how lucky and happy I was.

I came to Sligo in 2014; throughout that time I was writing for local papers and talking on small radio shows. This got me thinking about sharing more and I had had so many hours in the hospital with all of my thoughts which helped me to process everything that was happening. I either had it written down or stored in the back of my mind and so as I started to write and share it online.

I have found through my own writing it helps me to refine things in my mind and process what I feel or what I want to say. I have just found it was so therapeutic. Especially when I get such a huge response from people who really felt that they gained something from it. We all use some medium to process things – whether it be art, writing, sport or otherwise and I think it is a great stepping stone to help keep you motivated during the darker days.

I guess it is like taking it each day as it comes, as with most things in life.

There are weeks when I am just so positive and I have a great outlook on life. These are the times when I feel I can give back through my talks and my blog to help people out who find themselves going through the mental process that comes with changes like these in your life.

I am working through talks and speaking with people to raise awareness on the many issues that people with disabilities face.

Talking at National schools about inclusion and access

I was in a school speaking to a group of kids aged 7 and 8. They asked me some of the most intelligent questions I have been asked. Just honest and direct questions; for example “Did you ever feel like giving up?”. I told them that I didn’t feel like giving up but there were times that I was so sad that I didn’t know how I would keep going.

That is the truth, I knew that I had to keep going because I was still here. 

One of the children asked me how I kept going and I explained that these were the times when I reached out to my family and friends. Another asked me “On a scale of one to ten how how scared were you?” When I told them it was an 8 or a 9 back then, all of the kids faces just sank- but they cheered up when I told that it was only a 2 now.

Inspiring and educating the future generations

The talk was about inspiration and motivation and the determination to get through life. It was also to give children, or anyone, an awareness of disabilities and maybe people’s attitude as a whole and talk about things that need to progress in Ireland to do this.

It felt like one of the most worthwhile things I have done, talking to the kids.

This is also why I thought it might be a good place to start with the younger generation when it comes to awareness around disability and accessibility. To talk to the future generation of road builders and infrastructure builders and to start from the ground up . I want to create a normality around accessibility in schools, buildings, restaurants, roads and how things are built and how society creates a sense of inclusion for all.

How have you found the response from people in relation to your blog and the message you are trying to share?

In general it has been great, people keep motivating me and telling me to keep getting my message out there. I don’t really get a response from the people who actually have control over the changes that need to be made in Ireland. You rarely get a response unless you go higher and higher up the ladder and it can feel a bit like a cat and mouse game at times, which is difficult.

People’s attitude towards people with disabilities have changed I feel from my blog

Using the Ekso skeleton in Sligo

PThere is a definite stigma around people with disabilities in Ireland. You can see that people assume you have a mental disability as well as a physical one when they see you in a chair. It can sometimes feel that you are perceived as being less than.

I would find myself going into a shop with a friend and people would speak to them and never ask or speak to me directly. I was once taken out of my chair at an airport without any interaction or discussion with me about it. I found I had to start to speak up and be more assertive. I guess you are adjusting to so many things and taking on so much that you have to learn how to speak up again.

I remember in a meeting with someone when I was trying to get back to work and I was told that “It wouldn’t be in an employers interest to hire someone with my level of injury”. I just sat there in disbelief. I just thought that this person would go on and say the same thing to someone else in my situation – even though I am the same person as I was before but with a disability. I have a first class honours Bachelor degree of science and a first class masters in neuroscience with over 500 points in my leaving cert. Then suddenly I felt that due to being in a wheelchair people felt they could talk down to me, it was very disheartening. I would have been assertive to a point before my accident , I wouldn’t have been confrontational by any means. I didn’t want to make a scene but you also don’t want someone to be talking down to you and want to be treated like a human being. I don’t care anymore if people look at me or don’t look at me – there was a time I was too afraid to go out or to go to nightclubs but now I don’t care.

You have to keep going and keep on living. If people stare that is their problem and there are lots of people who don’t stare. I did have a lot of anxiety when I was meeting people again after the accident. I didn’t want them to act any different towards me than how they did before. I suppose that was the sad thing, lots of people who would have had fun with me before, now felt awkward and I did loose bonds like that.

A National Survey of Public Attitudes to Disability in Ireland October 2011 show that where someone knows a person with a disability (and this is decreasing across our surveys) that they are generally more likely to have positive attitudes to disability. This consistent finding highlights the importance of promoting and enabling active participation of people with disabilities in the mainstream community and access to mainstream services. You won’t notice these issues until you are pushing a chair or a pram and how much it affects you in society. This is why I want to work with companies and people and create more understanding about it in our day to day lives.

I worked in two universities and I never came across anybody in a chair. I worked in a multinational health care company and I was the first person in the company in a wheelchair. This is an issue.