Artist, and CEO of Outside Centre (Disability Organisation)

We all often consider taking time out for ourselves; well, this is that moment. What do we want to do with that time out? Well, this is our opportunity to figure that out too. This current enforced ‘isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ is the time to acquaint yourself with, yes, yourself and your own capacity to merely – purely – think: question, examine, ponder, plan, play and act on your own life. Now, more than ever, is the time to get your life and head sorted. If not now, then when?

As a disabled person who was told they would be dead at 15 (I am now 58), I fought the idea of a future for decades. As an atheist, it all seemed rather pointless. And, as an atheist, I think it is pointless. But, and it is a very big but, that does not mean one should give up. Quite the opposite: today, tomorrow and the future is all there is. So live it and live it well. Again, as a disabled person, that is often easier to say rather than actually do. The aim though is to try.

Isolation is, for many disabled people including myself, a way of life. We are routinely excluded from everyday life by society at large and by friends, loved ones and family. It may not be intentional, or done with any degree of awareness, yet it is an everyday reality that could easily turn into fear, hate and bitterness. It can be a fight every day to not succumb to the emotion of isolation, but we try. To win that fight the key is primarily to value yourself and value your own thoughts and feelings as real, valid and true. Own yourself: recognise the world as it is and recognise that it is not going to change any day soon.

Only you can make a change in your life in the short term to have a significant impact on your own life. It is only when you recognise this that you can start to move forward. Political change is a much longer process, with many setbacks along the way, but even that should be an essential part of your plan for change. You can change yourself and you can change the world. (The world changes every day because of you – make it a positive change). 

Being disabled, in isolation, should make us all realise the need we have for one another and helping each other is essential for being the best we can be. For example, you are reading this: another’s perspectives; I write this for me and you, I write this for us, I live for me and I live for us.

Define your own world as best you can. A key for me is to not engage in the battle for your mind-space that is being waged around you in social media, mainstream media and social norms. Give up social media especially – it is not you or your narrative but other people’s narratives of you or themselves – connect with real people. This is an opportunity for us all to forge our own path. The future path you have dreamed for yourself, you can now plot and plan. Create your own narrative for now and the future: isolation is the opportunity to just do it. This isolation is your opportunity to understand yourself and to empathise and put yourself in the place of others in a similar position (such as disabled people).

As a disabled person – a wheelchair user – I have spent many days, totalling years, in hospitals, doctors’ and consultants’ waiting rooms, and in lifts, quite literally just thinking and living in my own head trying to understand who I am and how and why I think like I do. It works and it liberates you from the fear and terror that seemingly waits around every corner of ordinary life and in the ordinariness of daily life.

When you think about your life, as we are all interconnected even in isolation, we are thinking of other’s lives and thoughts. What a joy to be able to think of others even when in isolation. Just make sure you remember what you thought when you get out and meet one another again, to not just change your life but to change others’ lives and to change the world one day at a time.

For further information

Surviving the Coronavirus Lockdown and Social Isolation is a guide to creating a new normal in a changing world. Download a copy of the ebook for free now.

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