The Text…

Hi there SUPERSTAR! I hope you’ve all had a great week!

Now, I’m sure most of you know my story but for those who don’t, I’ll give you an overview. I was born with Cerebral Palsy. It’s a neurological condition and it can affect people in different ways. In my case, it’s affected all four of my limbs. This means that I have weak muscle tone and use an electric wheelchair to mobilise.

The main impact I suppose in my life is the reliance of having to use Professional and Personal Assistants (PAs). I need my PAs on a day to day basis. They assist me with all personal tasks – washing, getting dressed, tidying, preparing food etc. They also assist with the professional side of my life too – admin, making calls etc. And notice that I’ve not used the word ‘carer.’ Some people aren’t bothered about semantics, but I am. My PAs don’t ‘care’ for me as I don’t need caring for. They assist me to live the life that I choose to live and with that, they require a lot of skill set.

I’ve been an employer since the age of 15. I’m now 30. I’ve had over 100 PAs during this time. I’m quite well known in the ‘disability world’ for speaking openly about the challenges that having a PA can bring.

Not everybody can be a PA. And those who require a PA will have very individual needs. And the dynamics are complex. Boundaries can get blurred. There’s constant role reversal, one minute you’re having to do an appraisal, the next you’re relying on them to help you go to the toilet! And when the relationship works, it’s the best thing. If it doesn’t, things can get sour.

You get your bog standard ‘how to be a good employer’ training (although that’s only been a recent thing). But there needs to be more than that. Often disabled individuals are put into the position of being an employer. They try to get their heads around the legality of it all, whilst balancing their day to day living. Being an employer can at times be hard work. It’s hard even when you have THE BEST PA team, due to the admin associated with it – rotas, timesheets, dealing with holiday and sickness etc. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and people need support with this rather than black and white protocol.

However, after 15 years, being an employer doesn’t stress me out as much as it used to. It’s been a long long journey but I’m finally getting there. I’m more confident in recruiting the right kind of people, I’m better at managing them as well as my own emotions.

In fact, I realised this the other day. As somebody who uses PAs, you dread ‘the text…’ This is the text to say somebody can’t come to work. It fills you with dread and panic. This isn’t just any job, I rely on PAs to get me out of bed in the morning. I got that text. Not on the day of the shift but a week before. And non of my other PAs, in my team, could cover!

Now a year ago this would have sent my mind racing. I would have started to think a lot about the future. How come my other PAs can’t cover? Is having my own team too unreliable? What about when I’m working more, I can’t have this happening? What about when I get married and have babies – who will help me because I won’t be able to help them!?

Seriously- I used to stress so much. But because I’ve worked on myself over the past year, I handled this so well. I took a ‘step back’ and put things in perspective.

My PA Team are actually really good. We get on quite well and we are very respectful of each other. We are all good friends, and I know this is controversial to some, because of boundaries, but I know it wouldn’t work as well for me if we weren’t. Because we are good friends, I know that they feel ‘terrible for having to let me down.’ So when they are absent or can’t work, it’s for a genuine reason. Sometimes everybody’s life can get in the way! So, I can’t ‘blame’ them as there’s nothing to blame them for. This situation is so rare it happens probably 1% of the time.

Secondly, I had 7 days to sort this out. So there were a few options before going into complete meltdown! After asking whether the other team members could cover, I text an old PA of mine – but she was away. Then I text another old PA, and she could assist in the morning! Boom! Happy days. It got sorted!

Truth be, I’ve never been stuck completely. Everything has always sorted itself out. There’s always that fear though and that’s normal. Our brains, genes and past experiences are the things that produce anxiety! And that’s ok. But I’ve learnt that managing my stress levels has to start from within. Yes – it boils down to practicing ‘self care’ again!

Somebody asked me yesterday – ‘are you happy?’ I replied, ‘Yes, the happiest I’ve ever been.’ They then asked, ‘do you worry that it’s just a blip and things will go back to where they were before?’ I replied, ‘I don’t believe it’s a blip, but what I do know is that I have to work on creating ‘happiness’ each and every day through ‘self care,’ the moment I stop, the moment I know things can get hard again.’

So if you’re a disabled employer, I hope this blog has helped. If you’re not an employer but feeling a lack of control, then I hope this blog has also helped.

Life can be s**t. It can be miserable and hard. But it’s also full of colour and happiness. Start from within and I guarantee you’ll start seeing the world differently.

Until next time,

R

Self care is so cliche…

Hi everybody,

I really hope you enjoyed my rap from the other week! So I wanted to continue my discussion on self care!

A while back I joined an online dating forum. If I’m honest with you, I hadn’t really taken much notice of the group due to being busy.

However, a week ago something popped up in my newsfeed, something that made me feel quite uncomfortable, something from that group. It was a lady saying something along the lines of:

‘I can’t get a date. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe I should give up dating.’

My response:

‘It’s so important to feel comfortable in your own skin rather than needing another to ‘fulfil you.’ I bet you’re an awesome woman. He’ll come when the time is right, in the meantime, focus on yourself.’

Then ‘all hell’ broke lose and the admin commented:

‘Another cliche! Focussing on yourself rather than embracing may actually be part of the reason so many people are single.’

So that was it. We got into a heated discussion about self care which lasted gone midnight, until I decided to leave the group!

The lady that I replied to, actually thanked me saying that I really helped her. So at least that was a good outcome but I did make my views quite clear to the admin.

I told him that focussing on yourself is not cliche. Rather society makes you believe that you need somebody in order to be fulfilled. We don’t need a romantic partner to feel fulfilled.

Anyway, he didn’t like that comment and the discussion unnecessarily went on and on because I just think he liked winning an argument. Such a shame, when there’s so many singletons out there with confidence issues!

I’m not going to go into the rest of the discussion but I’m here to tell you, self care is the least cliche thing you can practice. It’s fundamental for you to grow and thrive as a person. We live in a world where we are programmed to focus on the negatives instead of the positives. This can lead to all sort of challenges.

Practicing self care takes courage and bravery and I bet there’s a lot of you out there who still think it’s cliche.

I ask you to be open and try it! It might transform your life, as it has done mine!

Until next time,

R

How the council damaged my sense of self worth much more than my parents ever did…

Hi everybody,

As the Founder of You Own It and a Lifestyle and Psychology Coach, I thought it was time to get vulnerable and share my story.

This story is not about fluffy ‘inspiration.’ It genuinely is about liberation and empowerment. It’s about how the council/my local authority, damaged my sense of self worth much more than my parents ever did.

I was born in Birmingham in 1987. My biological father left before I was born and my biological mother left me around the age of 4. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs because to be honest, it’s not relevant. However, I was blessed to be raised by the most two amazing individuals; my uncle and auntie and I’ll always be grateful to them.

Now as an almost qualified psychologist, one of the things that we’re quite obsessed about is childhood, and rightly so. Somebody’s childhood can affect an individual’s life forever, a miserable childhood can even affect the way somebody’s brain develops- we all have a collective responsibility to ensure  children and adults can thrive!

As psychologists, we mainly look at the family unit. A lot of learnt behaviour and self worth develops within this unit. What did I learn from my unit?

– to treat others with respect and love them
– to treat yourself with respect
– to challenge yourself, raise the bar, test your own capabilities

My family have always been my cheerleaders, and thank goodness!

The ironic thing though? We had various ‘professionals’ in and out of my childhood life. Especially social services, checking up on how we were doing, offering ‘advice’ and opinions, but no real support.

I remember my uncle turning around to a social worker who came unannounced one day saying, ‘Rupy is fine, we’re fine, now let us get on with the day.’

Rather than being presented with a  social worker, I now believe each disabled child should be given a psychologist to work with. Somebody who can teach them about self worth, confidence and never forgetting to love themselves – something that I perceived social services took away from me.

My perception? I don’t actually believe that social workers/managers in local authorities are bad people. They are put in a profession where there just isn’t the budget to meet everybody’s needs. And once you have been in that role for a number of years, I bet you can get numb to scenarios.

But do you see what I’ve done up in that paragraph. I’ve demonstrated understanding and empathy. Tried to see it from their side: something that they lacked with me and a whole other lot of disabled people I know. I understand that in their eyes we need to be ‘catered for’ in a ‘legal way’ to ensure the budget is spread out ‘equally and fairly’ as possible. But to them? It’s a job that they can turn off from at the end of the day. Once they’re home they can distance themselves away. But for us, it’s something that we live with. Once the budget and the hours have been set, we live within those parameters and live with the fear that if we use more budget, say, using it to go to the loo between the hours of 7-10pm, that we can be penalised. That’s the reality.

I wish the economy and the politics of this world were better. And that’s why we need to keep working together to ensure it gets better and better!

But all I ask to all ‘professionals’ is to remind yourself as to why you entered that profession in the first place. To help others. And if you know in your heart that meeting somebody’s needs is going to be difficult, then show empathy and don’t get defensive. Defensiveness damages self worth and confidence much more than you can imagine.

I could now list a whole bunch of scenarios where a lack of empathy damaged my self worth but I don’t think this blog could handle another 1000 words. However, here are some memorable things social workers/council workers have ever said to me:

Aged 11 (just started my period) – ‘we can’t provide you with support so it’s probably best you go on the pill.’

Aged 17 – ‘There’s nobody that we know of that’s managed to get into university who is also disabled. Yes, you’ve got the A’levels but why don’t you stay at home and do a learn direct course?’

Aged 21 ‘We can only fund 21 hours of support, if you want more, you’ll have to move into a nursing home.’

The list goes on, including a very flippant email that I received from a manager last week! Something which if I received a year back, would have caused me to have a meltdown.

Why haven’t I broke down? Good family, good friends and a lot of work on myself. Mainly, self care. Being compassionate to myself and loving myself. Something that Dr. Paul Gilbert has taught me through reading his work. Something that all professionals need to read if they are working with ‘vulnerable’ people.

Empathy and compassion cost nothing. Damaging somebody’s self worth can cost them their lives.

I’ve not written this blog to express my anger. Rather my concern. We have a duty of care to look after one another. We all have a CHOICE to do so. Whether you’re a professional or not. Choose your actions wisely, compassionately and empathetically.

Until next time,

R

Queen Of My Own Affairs

So I thought I’d portray the importance of self-care and ‘growing’ with a new kind of style!

Now, this is a story all about how
My life’s no longer flipped upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
To sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the Queen of my own Affairs

In South Manchester not born but raised
No playground was where I spent most of my days
Not really chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool
And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of ‘professionals’ who were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my sista got scared
She said ‘Now I’m teachin’ you the skills to become the Queen of your Affairs’

I begged and pleaded with her day after day
‘Can’t you just fight for me, just for today?’
But she said ‘Princesses just sit, whilst Queens mean business’
‘I’m not fighting your battles – You gotta OWN IT.’
She gave me a kiss and then she left me to it.
I put my Walkman on and said, ‘I might as well kick it’.

First bash, went bad
I began feelin’ sad and more sad
They defined my worth and I soaked it all in.
Is this what people are living like?
Hmmmmm this is not alright.

But wait I hear they’re prissy, bourgeois, all that
Is this the type of place that they just damage a cool cat?
I don’t think so
I’ll see when I get there
I hope they’re prepared for the Queen of her own Affairs

Well, I smashed through education
A mix between Psychology and Politics
I read books and through the bull s**t
Realised I was a diamond
Worthy of greatness
Practiced to self-love
Nobody messin’ with this Miss

I reaffirm my self-love day by day
And I wanna teach you to love yourself in every possible way
Compassion is rare but it’s there!
Now when people put me down
I say ‘Nah, forget it’ – ‘I’m the Queen of my own Affairs!’

I do still wobble now and again
But acceptance and forgiveness is key for healin’
Showin’ up for yourself is your greatest gift
And I yell ‘smell ya later’ to those who take the mick
I now look at my kingdom
And I’m finally there
To sit on my throne as the Queen of my own Affairs

 

Until next time,

R

I’m not perfect and that’s ok!

Hi everybody! Welcome to the last edition of my blog in the series. Wow, what a month it’s been! This month has been focused around sorting out sleep habits out i.e. for myself, sorting out my lack of sleep! Ha. Last week I spoke about how I have two beds and how I sleep better in one. This week I’m going to speak about how I’m not perfect and how not being perfect is ok.

It’s the end of the sixth month of the year. This year I’ve spoken about many wellness challenges and how I’m working on myself to improve my health! But that’s the key message. I’m a work in progress and so are you.

I think from an outsiders view it can seem like because I’m blogging all the time, I’m the epitome of health! Far from it. This is why You Own It was created! It’s not for the marathon runners out there, although they are most welcome to join us, but it’s for everyday people like me and you who would like to kick start our own healthy habits but don’t know where to start!

We don’t have to be perfect. We are all going to have our own unique wellness challenges. That’s ok. It’s great we are different. What unites us though is that we want to OWN our health. And by sharing your own challenges, whether it’s through becoming an ambassador or joining the discussion on Facebook, you are inadvertently encouraging, empowering and giving confidence to others that it’s ok to not be perfect!

So am I a sleep goddess yet? Certainly not, but I’m getting better!

How have you got on this June?

 

Until next time,

 R