Ilana Estelle: How writing helped me cope with my disabilities

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Ilana describes writing helped her understand her illness and led to her writing a book

Without my disabilities and experiences to draw upon for inspiration, I could not have started to write, or run my website The CP Diary. So for me I feel that without my experiences, I would never have become an author or writer.

My book: Cerebral Palsy: A Story charts my disability journey. My writing has proved to be a cathartic experience and a constant reminder that there is always a silver lining, a message of positivity and a way through our experiences.

Not knowing I had cerebral palsy until I was 46 meant I had a lot of catching up to do, trying to understand my struggles and my experiences. I needed to understand and learn to accept what I saw as my struggles and failings. There was a lot I needed to come to terms with and I believe that I could never have achieved any level of acceptance, or understanding of my life, without me writing about my experiences.

Although I have always seen my life as a jigsaw puzzle, knowing there was something wrong, physically, mentally and emotionally, but not knowing what, I held on to hope. Not knowing always gave me a quiet confidence that tomorrow was another day and that I would get better. I never gave up on that. I innately believed I would find out about my disability, what my disability meant and for me to understand how and why I presented the way I did. It is only through my writing that I have been able to uncover many aspects of my disability.

Knowing about my disabilities late, was difficult. But my view is you can either continue to blame others, or you change what you can and move on. Without understanding myself or what exactly I was dealing with growing up, I could never have moved on mentally or emotionally. My writing has opened many doors for me and has brought about many possibilities.  

It was difficult to explain my mental and emotional struggles and my anxiety and depression, without a diagnosis. Finding out about autism in January 2019, some 10 years after my cerebral palsy diagnosis and then being able to unravel my symptoms and write about my experiences, has allowed me to piece those struggles together.

Writing helps us uncover our issues, and our struggles. For me, it has brought my life together and supports me mentally and emotionally. Just being able to put pen to paper, helps me lighten the load. Writing gives me feelings and experiences to explore and brings about understanding, forcing me to think differently about my life.

Writing has helped me piece my life together, it eases my mental and emotional struggles and brings about understanding. My autism diagnosis has been an important ‘light-bulb’ moment for me, one which continues to shape my writing. Autism is a condition that ‘locks you away’ mentally and emotionally; therefore, it is important I am able to write about my experiences and express my struggles.

Autism is my continual daily struggle. Growing up in the sixties and seventies when disability was stigmatised, without knowing anything about my disability, meant I would always struggle with my mental, emotional and physical difficulties. This is where writing helps.

Being able to write helps us adjust into our lives mentally and emotionally. It brings understanding where we may have uncertainties, and even without the uncertainties, writing can help bring us more clarity where we may struggle. Writing helps us understand ourselves better.

My disability over the years has given me a source of experiences, feelings and emotions to draw upon and to write about. It has given me a different way to think about my life and my experiences. For me, writing brings sense into my confusing world.

Writing is a temporary escape and in a way a form of therapy; it helps me to see me and my world differently. It helps me look at myself less and more at the bigger picture.

I would never want to be without my writing, it makes me feel safe and protected; writing has helped me finally complete some of the jigsaw.

Finally, while writing is a skill that needs to be honed, when it comes to disability, writers with a disability may struggle more, not because of their inability to write, but because living in an able-bodied world, their work may not always be considered, inclusively.

My key tips for other disabled writers would be:

• Engage with and use social media extensively. An online, social media presence is vital. Network with other disabled writers, find other bloggers you can connect with. As well as following other authors and journalists, find disabled authors and journalists too;

As soon as I set up my own blog The CP Diary, I was advised to work and get myself out on to social media. 10+ years and The CP Diary is still going strong. Join Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr and follow other authors and bloggers both disabled and non-disabled. It's amazing how quickly a social media presence can be successfully established.

• Hone-in on your interests and hook up with others also interested in what you have interests in. Like and share other people’s stories and posts and join in the conversation, get to know others, let them get to know you, your product and your work. Keep adding your work to social media;

I was once told by a social media consultant that without networking on social media and getting my 'product' out there, I might as well not be doing what I’m doing and it’s true. You can’t sell what people don’t know about;
10+ years in and I am still adding blogs to my website and social media every day. Social media presence takes time to build up, but the more work you add, the more proactive you are, the more you and your product will be found;

• The key is to add one piece of work to your blog or social media every day. It is important to engage to find others and be found. When you’re not adding your own work to social media, find another platform and submit articles to magazines and other websites like mine, for people to do ‘guest blogs;’

• Scoot through newspapers and find the disability section, to find established writers with disabilities. There are publishers looking for fresh voices with disabilities. Get yourself out there and don’t be afraid to write from your personal perspective.

• It is important for any writer to be open and honest about his or her experiences, write from the heart with integrity and without compromise. Above all else, persevere.

Cerebral Palsy: A Story: Finding the Calm After the Storm by Ilana Estelle is published by RedDoor Press, out now priced £9.99. She also blogs about her experiences on www.thecpdiary.com

 

Read more about ways of finding inspiration for your writing in your own life