For those of you who don’t know me, I thought it’s time share a bit more about myself and why am I doing this.
I live in rural Western Australia, on Southern Yamatji land, in a coastal city called Geraldton. It’s a great combination of country living, friendly people, a welcoming and inclusive community vibe, good coffee shops, great beaches and, apart from some pretty strong seasonal winds, great weather most of the year.
I grew up loving horses and spent as much time riding as I could. I rode pony club, spent time as a strapper for a polo cross team, tried my hand at track work with racehorses, generally made a nuisance of myself anywhere that involved horses! In amongst the riding, I also played a range of sports. I inherited the social gene from my mum and loved team sports and hanging out with friends. Basketball, netball, roller skating, dancing, I was lucky enough to enjoy them all.
At the age of fifteen, when I was on summer holidays, I had an opportunity to do some work in a racing stable on a friend’s property. It was a dream come true – a holiday and horses!
That holiday turned my life around when, during one ride, the horse decided to part ways with me. After the fall, the horse landed on top of me, and there was a fair bit of damage to my young body, after all, a horse is a heavy beast! From a range of injuries, including a broken spine, many broken ribs, a smashed wrist, a hairline fracture to my neck, and other bumps and bruises, I consider myself very lucky to have only come out of it with one major injury. I ended up sustaining a permanent spinal injury from the chest down that resulted in being unable to walk and needing to use a wheelchair from that moment on.
As a young woman, new to the world of disability, I struggled to find kindred spirits, like-minded souls, relatable role models and champions. Basically, other women and girls with disability who I could relate to, talk to, share fears with, ask questions of, were few and far between.
The early days were a trying time, and looking back, I struggled navigating a world where, although I was the same person I was before my injury, people were definitely not treating me the same.
I naively had not figured out that disability was the defining factor… and this was a rude shock to my system! For the longest time, I just could not work out why, and the injustice of this was not lost on me. It has actually served me well and spurred me into a range of actions as I moved forward in my life.
people were definitely not treating me the same….I naively had not figured out that disability was the defining factor…
Fast forward many years, and I am now in a space where I have had many life experiences; some fantastic, some great, good, bad, ugly, as well as downright awful that have led me to where I am now.
Happy with who I am, where I am, and comfortable in my own skin. I have thought about what has helped and might have helped make it somewhat easier for me navigate the world along my journey, and it comes back to having a tribe of my own. That tribe is women, both with and without disabilities who, although different and diverse, are still like me, who can “get” me and my disability experience without judgement, with a quiet understanding of the unspoken, and with whom the honesty is real because disability is not the primary focus of who I am as a person.
Defining my Who and Why
As I sit to write this, it dawns on me that this year is the 39th anniversary of my accident that changed my life… I don’t feel overly emotional about that, more surprised at how fast time has gone and yet how in some ways it doesn’t feel like any time at all. There are so many moments (and people) in the years since then that have shaped me into who and what I am now.
I am connected to many groups, websites, pages, communities and the like for and by people with disabilities and those that love them.
There are times when I am immersed in that world of meeting, reading and watching people with disabilities out there looking for advice, information, and seeking reasons for celebration, it seems that much of it is shadowed by the view and experience that somehow this new life will be less. The barriers in place appear overwhelming and people don’t know where or how to start to build a good new life.
I feel compelled to join in and share my own perspective and experiences. I want to create a space where we can learn about the lives of others like us, and have identities as women with disability, reflected back at us. I want to be able to provide a voice that reaffirms that as a person with disability (particularly to those newly injured) we all have worth, that life can (and will) get easier, and, despite sometimes bumping up against things that may tell you differently, you can be anything you wish to be.
What I have learnt along the way
If you find a way to adapt and modify, limits are there to be pushed, and I have found the humanity in all of us means we are all more alike than we are different.
I have learned a lot, both about myself, and about human nature in general. I’ve learned about compassion and empathy in ways that I never expected, and about what it means to ask for help from others.
I have experienced overwhelming frustrations, depressions, anger and sadness as part of my journey and how to manage expectations of myself in order to be able to move forward.
I had to learn not to be overwhelmed by the choices my situation often forces me to make, and how to reconcile the desires I have had to leave behind for no other reason than that disability makes it so.
I am also creative, flexible and possibility focussed in ways that define me so much more than I would have ever thought.
I love my life, wheelchair and all. I own my situation and my choices to lead the life I do.
So this is me, trying to lead a good life, sharing my story in my own words, and hoping that in some way, it may make the journey for others not feel so overwhelming, and be that bit easier knowing you don’t have to have it all together, or be anything at all but yourself.
I hope you will join me for more as over time I share my story. In between sharing Platform Stories from others with you, I look forward to getting to know you along the way.