Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Mik Scarlet's 'Disabled persons guide to surviving and thriving in lockdown'

There is a wealth of useful resources to help us manage as best as possible while in this state of social isolation.

Last night I heard Mik Scarlet, a broadcaster musician and inclusion consultant speak about his experience as a person with a disability. He then shared his 'Disabled persons guide to surviving and thriving in lockdown'.

My own description cannot do justice to his excellent insights, so here is the transcript. 

"The portrayal of disabled people in the art is rarely positive; whether it's Clara in Heidi, the Hunchback of Notre Dame or almost every Bond villain, if you're disabled you're not seen as being able to teach non-disabled people anything. I think at this difficult time, as we battled the coronavirus, we should re-examine this stereotype. The media is filled with stories of public figures not coping, and social media is flooded with people who find the whole concept of being stuck at home for such a long period impossible to imagine. Yet for me as a disabled person, staying isolated is nothing new. Like many other disabled people I’ve spent quite a few periods of my life being stuck at home, including a couple of times where I couldn't get out of bed for six months or more. But I didn't just get through being isolated, I thrived and I even enjoyed myself. So, as an act of civic duty, here is my disabled persons guide to surviving and thriving in lockdown.

Give yourself time to adjust. Don't panic if you're finding things tough at first. This is a huge change and you won't always cope. Be okay with that. This isn't the time to judge yourself based on the way things were. It will get better. Enjoy the little wins and take every success as a triumph.  Enjoy the process of getting there. Do all the things that you couldn’t find time to do before; cleaning and tidying, DIY, art, whatever. But enjoy it. Imagine you're Snow White and you ‘whistle while you work’, or play, or sit and gorge yourself on crisps while you watch Netflix. Enjoy learning new skills or getting better at old ones. This is more than filling your time; it's enjoying the process as much as the outcome. During my first enforced stay at home when I became a wheelchair user at the age of 15, I taught myself to play keyboards. This led to me becoming a professional musician once I could venture back outside. The next prolonged period of bed rest many years later, I developed my writing skills which in turn led to a career in journalism.

Forget the clock. Don't live the way you used to.
Use advice is to continue normality, and that would be fine if this was a sprint, but it's more of a marathon, so pace yourself.

Most importantly, this will pass.
When you become disabled you have to learn to be happy with the new you; a new life that you're going to have. But this isn't that. This is a broken leg not a broken back. 

All I ask is that once this is over and we're back to normality, don't forget what this felt like. while fiction tends to portray the lives of disabled people as not worth living, it's actually the isolation and exclusion that gets to us. You've tasted that now, so now you know what it's like not to be able to live and act as you wish. Please remember that and stand, or sit, with disabled people as we campaign to build a tomorrow that doesn't exclude us, isolate us, or put us back in lockdown."

I would recommend hearing it from the man himself on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.


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