This week’s blog is something a little unusual as normally you’d expect me to reflect on the television highlights of the week or celebrate the life of a dearly departed television personality. You’re normally used to me promoting and celebrating other people’s work but this week sees the release of my long awaited autobiography so this week’s subject is….well, it’s all about me! I say long awaited not because the whole nation can’t wait to read what I have to say about myself, rather that it’s actually taken me nine years to write… I must write very slowly!
Adapted tells the story of my life as a disabled man attempting to live a mainstream life in 21st century Britain, celebrating my many achievements and charting the personal battle with my own disability. I realise that despite being a very accepting nation, many people remain intrigued by the way disabled people function. Whenever I’m in a public place I’m always the subject of fascination or patronising statements. These people don’t know me or anything about my life but make an uninformed assumption that I am merely a shell of a human being with nothing going on up top. They’ve no idea that I have a Masters and run my own entertainment website. All they see is the wheelchair and dribble and it’s my aim not to reverse the stereotype but make people think that behind every minority is an individual story.
The development stage was a gruelling process. In order to get a three dimensional look at my whole identity I was required to take note of how others saw me. This included the use of written questionnaires which I got my closest friends and family to complete. It would be only then when I could have an idea of how my disability affects other people and the adaptations they’ve been forced to make in order to help me integrate. I actually found this to be the most insightful part of the research process as people were able to broach these difficult issues in a way that I wouldn’t get offended. For example my best friend Andy was able to tell me the range of different reactions he gets when he tells people that his best friend has CP. This was something that I had never even thought about and actually gave me an extra angle to explore this new perception of my disability. So I guess I was learning new things about my disability at the same time as the reader!
You may be thinking why should a thirty year old man deem it necessary to write an autobiography; after all its not like I’ve done much. So I seriously needed to keep in mind the reasons for writing this book. It wasn’t an overindulgent discussion about my greatest achievements, nor was it a self help book for Cerebral Palsy sufferers. It was merely a discussion about the slowly changing perception of minorities within modern society. This may sound like a complicated premise but in short I just wanted people to know that you can live an ok life despite being disabled.
With this criteria in my head, it was time to knuckle down and do some work. I realised I’d been procrastinating for several months writing out questionnaires and plans but what I really needed to do was just start writing. I’d seen many autobiographies by many people and they all adhered to the same chronological style of beginning at birth then going on until the present day. If I was going to make this book work I knew I couldn’t do this because it would have been so fucking boring! So instead I decided to write it in themes so each chapter would chart my whole life in a specific area. These are: people, hobbies, independence, perception, university, care and disability as a whole. This gave me the structure and all I needed to do was put some flesh on the bones.
I started with the people in my life because I figured that everything I’ve done wouldn’t have been possible without the huge support network which has always surrounded me. It’s interesting to think of your life in terms of the contributions that others have made to it. Being disabled I’ve spent my whole life relying on other people for everything from wiping my arse to giving me a drink. It was only discussing this with the reader that I realised the true extent that this small thing had affected me throughout my life and how crucial certain people have been in helping me to come to terms with my limitations. If my support network hadn’t been so strong I may have never found the determination to better myself both academically and socially.
As the book continued and I started to reflect on the other major issues, I realised that people have been significant in every aspect of my life. I slowly started to reflect on the decision to lead a totally mainstream life and the relationship between this and my ability to accept my physical limitations as a man. This was extremely difficult to put on paper as it always makes me emotional. Not that I haven’t accepted my limitations but I’m not keen to talk about them. Yet despite my determination not to allow my disability to get the better of me, I still struggle to come to terms with the obvious differences between me and the stereotypical man in the street. I can’t help comparing myself with my able bodied mates and the social freedom that they thrive upon. This has encompassed my life for many years and I’ve never found a way to deal with it but hopefully sharing it with the reader has made people aware of this fact and in time maybe I’ll find a way to deal with it in my own way.
While Adapted explores the mental challenges I’m required to overcome surrendering my disability, it’s also a celebration of my achievements both professionally and personally. From graduating with a Masters in Writing For The Media from Bournemouth University in 2010 to the creation of my entertainment website in 2016, it discusses how these achievements have defined me as a person much more than my Cerebral Palsy.
In August 2018 I prepare to launch this book to the world and I’m hoping that my efforts will eventually pay off! Adapted is being published by FCM Publishing and aims to be available from all good book outlets including Amazon from Friday 10th August with the official launch on Tuesday 14th August at The Quay Arts Centre, Sea Street, Newport Isle Of Wight PO30 5BW. I’ll also be doing a book signing at the Newport IOW branch of Waterstones in due course and am delighted to announce that I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at this year’s IOW Literary Festival on Thursday 11th October. So if you want to know more about the book please come along and you never know you might even want to buy a copy!
It seems a little ironic that a book about my biggest achievements to date has in turn become just that. All I can hope is that this book will answer a lot of burns questions about disability which people might be afraid to ask. The aim of this project was to give people an insight into what it’s like being a thirty year old man living with a disability and the issues surrounding it and I just hope that this book will serve that purpose. Who knows what sort of response Adapted will receive but I remain extremely proud of it and just hope that people can understand that beyond all my challenges I’m just a normal guy living life to the full! It’s not always been easy, I’ve not always had things go my way. Yet as the title suggests, it’s been an Adapted life.