This is my first blog post, so I’m kind of nervous.
I just wanted to introduce myself and the idea behind this blog… Basically, ‘Head Over Wheels’ came about when I was watching a programme about disabled people finding love on TV. I felt like most of the dating sites were focused on people with a learning difficulty, and I wanted to create something for wheelchair users (like myself). The name is a twist on ‘Head Over Heels’ (in love).
I then decided I wanted the idea to be more than just a dating site, and that’s where the idea for this blog was born. I want to create a safe, positive online space where young wheelchair users can share their stories about living with their different difficulties and discuss relevant news stories.
So, I thought I’d start by telling my story:
I’m Louise, 25 years old, from Birmingham. I was born with Cerebral Palsy, and for me, this means my legs and left arm/hand don’t work ‘normally’ (but what is ‘normal’ anyway). When I was younger, I could walk a little independently and I also used a frame to assist my walking. However, when I moved to high school, the distances I had to walk were much greater, and I couldn’t manage these on my frame so I went around school in an electric wheelchair. I’ve been very fortunate to have wheelchairs and scooters funded for me over the years by the NHS and local golf clubs.
Aged 13 I found a BBC Teens message board where young people could interact. It was a safe space (moderated) for us to share our stories and questions and not feel so alone through the difficult time that is your teenage years. Although the BBC Board shut down, one of the members set up an alternative message board and 12 years on, I’m still in touch with a lot of the girls I met on the message board. We meet up as regularly as we can, are still incredibly supportive of each other and I would consider them some of my closest, most-trusted friends. I love you all.
I finished my Alevels at Waseley Hills High School in Worcestershire in 2008, and was determined that my next step would be to study a Psychology degree at Loughborough University.
I moved to Loughborough to start my degree in September 2008 and I spent 4 years (including a work placement year at Birmingham Children’s Hospital) studying the subject. I loved the course, I loved and am so grateful for the friends for life I made, and I loved Loughborough. Even though I am now living back in Birmingham, I still try to visit as often as possible.
Loughborough was definitely where I gained my independence and learnt about my place in the world. However, I couldn’t have achieved this without my family and friends at home; my new friends from university, and most importantly, the 7 girls who spent a year of their lives supporting me with personal care whilst at university. I owe so much to them, and feel very lucky to now call them friends although they were once my carers.
As you might imagine, life can be difficult. I realise that I am incredibly lucky that I am as able as I am, and I hope I can use this to help others who have similar experiences. I also feel lucky that I am in a positive place right now, but life hasn’t always been like this.
There have been times where I have been incredibly low and not really known how to move forward. But I will be eternally grateful to my friends and family for giving me the strength and support to fight through the low times. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, on reflection I realise I was lucky enough to receive counselling to help me work on some of the struggles I was facing.
I now drive an adapted car (I drive into the back in my wheelchair and drive while I am sat in my chair); I work part-time as a Learning Support Assistant at Solihull College and as a Co-Trainer at Rethink Mental Illness. I am also studying a part-time postgraduate course in Integrative Psychotherapy. As you can see, I’m keeping busy 🙂
One of the Requirements of the Psychotherapy course is that we have weekly personal therapy. Therefore, as we speak I am working through struggles that being a wheelchair user presents. It has also been such a revelation to me to understand that you don’t have to be ‘ill’ or want to ‘fix a certain issue’ to have therapy. I have found it invaluable to have a space to talk where I don’t feel judged or like I will say the wrong thing. I recommend therapy to anyone reading this.
So, there it is, my first blog post. However, I don’t want this blog to be just about me. The whole point of Head Over Wheels is for young people who use wheelchairs to have a safe space to talk and discuss life’s issues and share positives with others in similar positions.
With that in mind, if you’re a wheelchair user reading this and feel like sharing your story or suggesting a topic for discussion please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember that this is a new idea & the first of this kind that I’ve had, but any comments or suggestions are welcome.
Finally, I would like to thank my parents and my two best friends: Lucy and Katy for encouraging me to give this a go. Also, I would like to thank Nathan Littleton, a high-school friend (now local, successful businessman) who suggested this layout as a start-up platform for this ideaa; a huge thank you to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (Paralympic legend and my childhood hero) who discussed ideas and made suggestions for this idea to go forward; and a massive thank you to Rik Moody who put in a huge amount of time and extraordinary effort in designing the Head Over Wheels logo 🙂 I can’t thank you all enough!
Please share this with friends and anybody you think would be interested in this project.
Many thanks for reading; keep in touch
Lots of love,