Isolation at Christmas

Hi Readers

This following blog post I wrote originally for Scope and their online community as a guest blogger!

The link to this on the scope community website is at the bottom of the post!

I am really proud of this post so i thought I would post it on my blog also!

My name is Rebecca McAteer. I have Cerebral Palsy, use an electric wheelchair for mobility and need some assistance with most aspects of daily living. I pride myself on being determined to live life to the full despite my disability and the limitations it presents. I try to live each day with a smile on my face and want to inspire other people to do the same, irrespective of their individual challenges. For that reason, I decided to start sharing some of my thoughts on my blog.

I hope that people will see from my experiences how much of a varied life you can lead when you start to break down the barriers that are created in society through people’s misconceptions. If we unite to challenge these, our communities will start flourish as we embrace our differences. I want to bring these characteristics into my work as a counsellor.

The festive season is synonymous with mince pies, the exchange of gifts and spending time with family and loved ones. One of life‘s greatest pleasures, or so you might think.

Well, when you are disabled, like myself, things aren’t so straightforward. Christmas can be very isolating and can cause severe anxiety which sucks life out of the Christmas cheer. These are just some of the thoughts running through my head at this time of year:

Will any of my support staff be available to work over Christmas?

Should I even bother making plans to celebrate the festivities with my friends?

Where and how am I going to find time to spend with my boyfriend?

Are any of these Christmas events I’ve been invited to going to be wheelchair accessible?

These types of things are often taken for granted but for thousands of disabled people across the country, this is the reality of Christmas. Answering no to any or all of these questions can have a detrimental impact on their ability to share in the festive fun.

I am fortunate that I can spend Christmas with my parents but for others in similar situations it can be even more isolating. I love Christmas with my family but it also reminds me of my limitations. My carers are quite rightly spending Christmas with their own families. This makes it hard for me to get out and about. My parents will take me anywhere but who wants to have their style cramped at a friend’s Christmas or New Year’s party by having their parents in tow? (especially as an adult) This can lead to a series negative thoughts and emotions, oh how I wish I could be back to doing own thing without relying on my parents!

The festive period can mean create conflict in my relationship. Naturally, I’d love to spend Christmas with my boyfriend, perhaps even go away together for New Year. Due to my support staff being unavailable, this can be hard to facilitate. I’m sure if I asked my parents to come along they would but once again who would want their parents with them on a romantic break?

This can again lead to feelings of isolation or sadness for the opportunities I’m missing out on, a form of FOMO I guess.

Everyone dreams of a white Christmas but for wheelchair users snow can be the stuff of nightmares. Electric wheelchairs and snow don’t mix. Even some wheelchair accessible vehicles can’t be driven in adverse weather conditions. Whilst snowy pictures might look good on Christmas cards, the disabled community, both those with limited mobility and wheelchair users are often glad when spring has sprung.

Even though Christmas is seen by many as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ in the main it makes me remember that another year is almost over, leaving me to reflect on the things I haven’t yet managed to achieve. My lack of personal independence can become a debilitating factor and leave me feeling isolated.

For me personally, the build up to Christmas is more exciting than the day itself. I often get caught up in the euphoria of it all, eagerly anticipating what exciting things lay ahead in the new year. Part of me thinks that this is a defence mechanism to forget about the deep-routed isolation I sometimes experience.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just the disabled who can feel isolated at Christmas. The elderly, homeless and those who are sick can often be alone at this time of year with nobody to care for them. Perhaps as we overindulge this Christmas we could spare a thought for those less fortunate?

Have you ever experienced isolation at Christmas?

As mentioned at the top you can find the published post of this on the Scope’s community page by clinking on the link below!

https://community.scope.org.uk/discussion/66891/isolation-at-christmas

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