Crowded subway train.

When an Advertisement Treated My Disability as a Joke

It is not easy to navigate London with a disability, as any disabled Londoner will tell you. Accessing most tube stations requires walking up and down stairs, passengers with prams and extra luggage often take up spaces reserved for wheelchair users, and there is an overall hurrying mentality that means anyone traveling slowly is met with groans, rolled eyes and sometimes even pushing and shoving. I am often made to feel like a nuisance just for leaving my home.

Recently, I was also made to feel like a joke.

While on my way to a hospital appointment, I noticed a poster imploring passengers on the tube to “Please give up your seat for those less able.” At first, I was encouraged, and then I read on:

“Please give up your seat for those less able. Like bad sleepers. You have to pity those poor souls who didn’t sleep well last night. But you don’t have to be like them. The Eve mattress is made with next-generation memory foam to provide the perfect bit of shut-eye. No lumbering around like the walking dead for Eve fans. No desperate search for a carriage with a seat. Just a more alert mind and body. Everybody deserves a perfect start to the day. Start by going to our website. Tap in START for your £50 off and your 100-night trial will begin within one day. Which is round about the same time your perpetual lethargy will end, coincidentally. Everybody deserves the perfect start.”

It’s hard to explain just how upsetting this was to read. I have myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. It can be very hard for me to get a seat on the tube sometimes, even though I need one, because I don’t look disabled. Until TFL rolls out their much anticipated “please offer me a seat” badges, when there isn’t a seat, I have to decide which person in the carriage looks least likely to argue with me about whether or not I’m disabled. This is a very real fear. On the basis of exactly no expertise whatsoever, many able-bodied people appoint themselves as arbiters of disability, confronting people like me when we use the elevator, park in a disabled space, or even ask them for a seat. Sometimes these confrontations can turn violent.

Society is largely oblivious to the everyday experiences of disabled people like me. The people at Eve Mattress certainly seem pretty oblivious. An able-bodied passenger’s search for a seat isn’t really desperate, but mine is. Sometimes that last seat is the only thing that will stop me from collapsing.
Here’s the thing: having a bad night’s sleep does not make you disabled. Needing a new mattress does not make you disabled. Being tired is nothing like living with CFS. I’m not just “tired:” I have chronic pain and chronic fatigue. My mobility is restricted; some days I can’t stand. I am often to be found “lumbering around like the walking dead,” but my “perpetual lethargy” will never end, coincidentally. One bad night’s sleep does not come close to a lifetime of fatigue, and it is offensive to suggest that it does.

Either Eve Mattress were deliberately intending to hurt and insult disabled people like me, or more likely, the thoughts and experiences and inner lives of people like me are something they never stop to consider. Both of these possibilities are ableist, but the latter is subtler, more insidious and deeply entrenched in how we think about what it means to be human. Far too often the disabled are left out in people’s thoughts, just as we are shut out in real life by doors we can’t open, stairs we can’t climb, or those who refuse to make room.

To the able-bodied, I say: I’m not an inspiring quote to put on a poster, or a sob story that makes you feel better about your life, I’m a person. I don’t want your “pity,” and I certainly don’t want you to laugh at me or at people like me. I want you to treat me with the dignity and respect you expect to be met with yourself; I want you to change the way you think about disability, and listen to disabled people when we tell you that you’re wrong. I want you to be outraged at the prejudice and the scorn we live with every single day. And, yes, sometimes, I want you to let me have your seat.

A complaint about this advert has already been made to the Advertising Standards Authority. If you want to complain, I suggest you contact Eve Mattress, or call them out on social media.

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Chronic Fatigue Vs. Tiredness

A video for anyone who thinks having chronic fatigue and being tired are the same thing.

Many different cups of coffee on dark wooden table, top view.

Please Don't Suggest 'More Coffee' for My Chronic Fatigue

There is a huge difference between fatigue and being tired. Chronic fatigue, due to medication or illness, isn’t, “I stayed up too late last night, I’ll just have extra coffee.”

Fatigue is needing help to get out of bed to pee.

Fatigue is not showering because you don’t trust yourself to be able to stand for that long.

Fatigue is falling asleep sitting up, waiting for your toast to finish.

Fatigue is skipping meals because whether it involves cooking, a drive through, or just grabbing something out of the fridge, it’s just too much work.

Fatigue is crying while getting ready for work because you just can’t bear the thought of having to function.

Fatigue is setting an alarm two hours early and still being late.

Fatigue is being unable to read because the book is too heavy.

So please, before you suggest drinking “more coffee,” or before you say you’re jealous because I “get to” stay in bed all day, remember this isn’t a choice I’m making.

Please reconsider your words. They hurt.

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Thinkstock Image By: efetova

woman standing outside next to bushes and smiling at sunshine

How Chronic Illness Has Changed My Life for the Better

I could easily list all the negative aspects of living my life with chronic illnesses but I don’t like to focus on this too much. You may think there are no positive aspects to living with chronic illnesses but there are, and I want to tell you how they have changed me as a person.

I live with three chronic conditions that have a big impact on my life: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. These conditions impact me physically by causing pain (nerve pain, muscle spasms and headaches), fatigue, dizziness and weakness along with many other symptoms. The pain is constant and often severe and the fatigue is very debilitating. It has stopped me from doing a lot of things in my life. It caused me to miss a lot of school when I was younger and has interfered with my career and dreams. So it may surprise you to know that I feel there have been a number of positive aspects to being unwell.

Recently I saw an article on chronic illness titled “What would you do tomorrow if you were suddenly cured?” This made me think about how I would answer that question. If I woke up tomorrow and was physically able to do anything, I would take my dogs for a long walk. I would watch them having fun, enjoy being outside in the air, walk for miles and enjoy nature. It is impossible to describe how happy this would make me. When simple tasks are hard to accomplish, you don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate everything I do have. I have a wonderful family and partner, a house I love, my gorgeous dogs and supportive friends. I don’t worry about little things like how I look or what people think of me like I used to as my ill health has allowed me to focus on what is important in my life.

I have also gained life skills and values that I most likely would not have if I had not been forced to make some changes in my life due to illness. Developing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and ME at 29 years old made me realize my stress levels in day-to-day life were far too high and severely affecting my health. I began trying to find out more on how to reduce stress and worry in my life, I stopped comparing myself to others and I learned to be happy with myself. I started by learning how to meditate and practice mindfulness. Through easy daily practices I learned to live in the moment, practice self-compassion and take care of myself better in the process. This benefitted me hugely and I am grateful that I was forced to make these changes.

When I was off work for a long period, I found it extremely difficult as I enjoy being busy and learning new skills. As I was recovering slowly, I taught myself to draw with the help of a book. This took my mind off the pain I was in and I found it very therapeutic. I also began writing about my experiences to raise awareness of the conditions I struggle with and to hopefully provide support to others in a similar position. This gave me a sense of achievement and was crucial in my recovery process.

As ridiculous as it may sound to some, I wouldn’t change my life at all. I wouldn’t wish to be a “normal, healthy” person and I have no regrets. What I have learned throughout the last few years has changed my life for the better and made me a stronger person. Now it is time for me to create new dreams and ambitions and find a way within my limitations to make these a reality. Don’t ever give up hope and don’t ever stop believing in yourself. Believe in compassion, honesty and love. Believe in your dreams and your ability to achieve them.

Be unafraid. Be proud. Be yourself.

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Thinkstock photo via Zoonar RF.

5 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You Have Chronic Fatigue

A video showing 5 things people with chronic fatigue can do.

Word "thank you" written on a vintage typewriter

The Thank Yous I Need to Say to the Friends Who Help Me Fight CFS/ME

Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis and post-viral fatigue) is one of many invisible conditions out there. It’s thought around 250,000 people in Britain are affected by this illness (I guess it’s nice to know I’m not alone!) but it’s still not very well understood. This makes it extra challenging for those who haven’t experienced it to wrap their head around what it really means.

For me, although my myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is nowhere near as bad as it once was, it can still come back to bite me every now and then. Recently I’ve been reminded just how overwhelming that can feel. More importantly, I’ve been reminded how incredibly lucky I am that, when it does, I have people around me who understand what it means, and they what I need – and what they can do.

So to my friends, and to those helping others fighting against the all consuming monster that is fatigue, here are some thank yous I’d like to share:

1. Thank you for understanding why I cancelled on you…again. I know it can be last minute or might not make sense when I managed something the day before, but thank you for knowing I wanted to be there and didn’t have a choice.

2. Thank you for continuing to invite me to things. Thank you for not giving up on me and knowing that if I can I’ll always be there.

3. Thank you for sending that message to let me know I don’t need to worry. I’ll still feel bad for letting you down, so it’s nice to hear you tell me it’s okay and you understand. It means I can switch off and rest.

4. Thank you for knowing when I’m just not myself. I know sometimes you can tell just looking at me or if I’ve gone very quiet. It means a lot that you know that version of me isn’t the real me.

5. Thank you for knowing sometimes I need quiet and sometimes I need your energy. It’s so great that I can let you know what I need and you accept it even if it can seem contradictory at times. You know sometimes I can kick-start myself again by feeding off your conversation and energy and other times it can all just be too much to cope with.

6. And to those who talk openly about their experience of fatigue, thank you for sharing when you feel the same way. I read your updates and blogs about fatigue and I’ve seen your comments on mine saying you really do get it, and I know you do. It makes the world of difference to know I’m not alone.

One of the reasons I started my blog at was to be more open about my experiences with conditions like fatigue. I appreciate they won’t be the same for everyone else, and for posts like this, I hope you understand all I can really do is share what I know myself.

And now, I’m off to rest up for a bit.

Love, as always,


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You can follow Laura’s journey here.

Thinkstock Image By: Txema_Gerardo

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