Cressida M.R Hale

@cressidahale | contributor
Cressida is an aspiring young author and Zoology major. Although battling several chronic illnesses and becoming a service dog handler, she continues to spread positivity in her advocacy for mental health and disability awareness. She also really, really likes dogs.
Community Voices

An Open Letter to The Frey Life

When wandering within the difficult world of illness, it is easy to feel like you are alone and to lose your reason to smile. I have succumbed to these feelings before, and now I want to share my utmost gratitude and love for people who have pulled me out of that darkness.

As one does when confined to a bed with #Insomnia, a late night excursion on Youtube led me to the channel of a young couple, known as The Frey Life. Mary and Peter Frey (and their service dog Oliver) document their day to day life and battle with Mary’s #CysticFibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects several organs but mostly the lungs. They began to document their daily life to bring education and awareness to the incurable and fatal disease. Along the way they have also brought joy and inspiration to many viewers, including me.

I had never considered myself as an overly optimistic person, let alone joyful. There have been many times in my life when I desperately wished I could have been a happier person. It wasn’t until recently within the last year that I became chronically ill, did I truly strive to find more joy in my life as everything became more dull.

My life had completely turned around and I felt frustrated, lost in a new overwhelming world of doctor appointments and medical tests. My #Depression returning was unavoidable, I needed a little bit of joy more than ever.

Mary and Peter have given me more than just a little bit of joy, they have taught me to be more grateful and reminded me to laugh every day. Mary’s perseverance and positive attitude has never failed to bring a smile to my face or inspire me to do what I think I can’t do. The Frey Life is about more than just Cystic Fibrosis awareness, as well they have brought together a networking community of support for people with all kinds of disabilities and illnesses.

I personally want to say thank you to Mary and Peter for everything they do and bringing me so much happiness and positivity when I needed it the most. I want to thank Mary for teaching me how to listen to both my body and my heart. I want to thank Peter for teaching me kindness and enormous compassion. And I want to thank Oliver for being the finest specimen and and always making me laugh.

If at all you ever feel like you’re alone in the fight against #ChronicIllness or you just need to smile, the Frey Life will always be there.

“And, as always, we will see you tomorrow. Goodnight!”

Ambulatory Wheelchair Users Exist

As science and medicine continues to evolve over time, hammer-wielding advocates and a new generation, devoted to both awareness and education, shatter outdated stereotypes. However, there’s still a battle for awareness about ambulatory wheelchair use. The term refers to individuals who are disabled and use wheelchairs, but are capable of walking in some circumstances. I am one of these individuals. There are many reasons why a person may be an ambulatory wheelchair user. My own reason is my debilitating fatigue, unsteady, injury-prone joints and syncope (or fainting). Other reasons may include lower body injuries, joint pain, or unsteadiness. The list continues on, because mobility aids are not just for geriatric and paraplegic use. Mobility aids provide people of all ages and illnesses with a sense of freedom. Medicine continues to advance and is beginning to recognize both invisible and chronic illnesses among the younger generations. In fact, young people account for the majority of mobility aid users. Yet the harmful and outdated stereotypes surrounding wheelchair use often get used as a public weapon against young individuals, especially those whose disabilities may not be visible. Many ambulatory wheelchair users report harassment and discrimination simply because the public is unaware of ambulatory wheelchair use. In my experience, there is nothing more humiliating and frustrating than needing to explain your physical health to someone who is judging you for needing a mobility aid. We do not require able-bodied individuals to disclose personal information to strangers, yet we demand this of ambulatory wheelchair users simply because they don’t fit a stereotype. Here are some of the common myths and comments we face, followed by my responses. “You’re taking away from the people who really need it.” Just because we can walk doesn’t mean we don’t need mobility aids. Our lives would be a whole lot simpler if we did not need these aids in the first place. Also, it’s not like there is a wheelchair shortage. “You don’t look paralyzed.” Well you don’t look like a doctor. We generally consider judging someone by their appearance to be impolite. Judging someone’s health by their appearance is a guaranteed way to make a fool of yourself. Unless you have been to medical school and you are my physician, please keep your assumptions to yourself. “You’re too young to need a wheelchair.” People commonly say this, and it makes very little sense. If I were to say, “You look too old to be standing on your own two feet,” that would be considered rude, so why is it OK for you to say it to us? It’s time to destroy the stereotypes we associate with disabilities and wheelchair use. Awareness is key, and we are raising our voices. An awareness movement took off on Twitter using the hashtag #AmbulatoryWheelchairUsersExist, and many of those who spoke out were under the age of 30. Let’s open a conversation, create awareness, and spread positivity and acceptance to everyone, including young ambulatory wheelchair users. We just want the same independence everyone else enjoys.