Esther Ridgway

@estherridgway | contributor
I am an actress based in the North West of England. I have Noonan Syndrome and Periventricular Leukomalacia. Each day I fight my battles and have scars from the various surgeries but still keep smiling. I want to share my experiences and stories with everyone and let them know it's all ok.
Community Voices

What the recent Pandemic has taught me about my disability.

2020 a New Year and a New Decade the start of something new. I had fantastic opportunities lined up for me this year.

Then COVID-19 hit. A time of panic and uncertainty for everyone all over the world. How about us who have some form of disability who have to shield away to protect ourselves from this invisible war we are entirely up against again being even more isolated from everyone, though I  admit, I have left the house some days to do some shopping. I live with my parents, who are in their 70’s and also have health issues of their own. The majority of these past nine weeks have had me locked away in the comfort of my home. But what has it taught me?  Lockdown set by our Prime Minister on the 23rd March and officially being out of work in both my jobs. ( as a supply teacher and actress) I had plans to learn different languages and brush up on my maths, do more teacher training CPD courses, Sign Language and of course promote myself further as an actress through social media, read plays and books, listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I’ve kept myself busy with these activities and engaging in weekly zooms with my friends and acting webinars.

I miss being able to see people and go out. My disabilities mean that on weekends I tend to stay at home recovering from what I’ve done during the week. In reality, I had already been isolating myself from society, I’ve gone from being an extrovert to being an introvert where I would rather shut myself away even from my parents. During this time, I have had even more unlimited contact with people, and I am not too fond of it one bit.
So what has the pandemic taught me?

That it’s OK that I’m tired and in pain, all the time, but shutting myself away isn’t the answer. Once Lockdown has ended I’m going to make more of an effort to enjoy life and go out and social, though this will be difficult at first as social distancing will still be in place and many places won’t be opening back up straight away. I will be arranging visits to the park where we can relax and enjoy the warm weather as summer approaches, light, gentle walks in the Lake District and eventually going out in the evenings. Over the next few weeks/months, places will slowly be opening up and introducing events, and as society slowly brings themselves out of this, I will go at the same pace. It’s also taught me not to feel guilty about all of this and that I shouldn’t have to compare myself to others.

So during the rest of this time, I will relax and take care of my physical health but also my mental health, and slowly adapt back into society when everyone else does. And also agree that the odd duvet Sunday is acceptable and a good Netflix binge is still needed.

Community Voices

What’s one thing you accomplished this year that you’re proud of?

<p>What’s one thing you accomplished this year that you’re proud of?</p>
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Community Voices

To the Woman #Disability

To the Woman who just cut me up in the car park to take that disabled bay space even though you didn't need it.
To the Woman who didn't even come to take responsibility of your actions.
To the Woman who thought what she did was funny and seemed pleased of yourself.
To the Mother, I hope that one day you don't need to use the disabled parking bays for yourself or your daughter one day. I hope that no one cuts you up in the car park and take a space not designated to you, or cause an accident.

To Everyone who feels that they can park in those spaces. It's not OK.
Being born or end up having a disability isn't a choice for people. But being able to park in those spaces are they are opportunities for us to be able to go out and have the space to get in and out of our cars, to be able to park that little bit closer to the stores. I may not look #Disabled I have an #InvisibleDisability and I know that I get those looks that I shouldn't park there but I have the badge and the scars to prove it. Please next time you want to park in one of those spaces think about the person your taking that space from.

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Community Voices

To the Woman #Disability

To the Woman who just cut me up in the car park to take that disabled bay space even though you didn't need it.
To the Woman who didn't even come to take responsibility of your actions.
To the Woman who thought what she did was funny and seemed pleased of yourself.
To the Mother, I hope that one day you don't need to use the disabled parking bays for yourself or your daughter one day. I hope that no one cuts you up in the car park and take a space not designated to you, or cause an accident.

To Everyone who feels that they can park in those spaces. It's not OK.
Being born or end up having a disability isn't a choice for people. But being able to park in those spaces are they are opportunities for us to be able to go out and have the space to get in and out of our cars, to be able to park that little bit closer to the stores. I may not look #Disabled I have an #InvisibleDisability and I know that I get those looks that I shouldn't park there but I have the badge and the scars to prove it. Please next time you want to park in one of those spaces think about the person your taking that space from.

5 people are talking about this
Community Voices

To the Woman #Disability

To the Woman who just cut me up in the car park to take that disabled bay space even though you didn't need it.
To the Woman who didn't even come to take responsibility of your actions.
To the Woman who thought what she did was funny and seemed pleased of yourself.
To the Mother, I hope that one day you don't need to use the disabled parking bays for yourself or your daughter one day. I hope that no one cuts you up in the car park and take a space not designated to you, or cause an accident.

To Everyone who feels that they can park in those spaces. It's not OK.
Being born or end up having a disability isn't a choice for people. But being able to park in those spaces are they are opportunities for us to be able to go out and have the space to get in and out of our cars, to be able to park that little bit closer to the stores. I may not look #Disabled I have an #InvisibleDisability and I know that I get those looks that I shouldn't park there but I have the badge and the scars to prove it. Please next time you want to park in one of those spaces think about the person your taking that space from.

5 people are talking about this
Esther Ridgway

Self-Care With a Disability

We are at the start of November, and I am writing this story on the train to my latest acting job. I am gearing up for a busy month of teaching and acting work and opportunities, as well as the stresses and strains of the Christmas season. I’ve realized that my health needs to really take priority over these next two months, but what if you don’t have time? As someone who has a disability and depression, I need to fit “me time” into my schedule. I was speaking to someone the other day when I said I don’t know when I’ll have my next “lie in day.” And the thought is tiring me. Working as a teacher, I’m up at 6:30 at the latest. As the days draw closer in and nights seem longer, seasonal affective disorder can kick in. Even though winter is my favorite time of year — the spices in mulled wine, spiced scented candles and roaring fires can be great — not having much sunlight can be horrible for our mental health. Also, the cold mornings aren’t great for my joints. I’m in no way complaining about the work I’m getting and I’m forever grateful for what I am achieving right now. But when I’m getting home at 5 p.m. and going to bed, too tired to eat or even run a bath, it’s hard to fit in some relaxation time or look after my health. Even if I had the bath run for me or my food cooked, using that energy to get undressed and get into the bath is hard. Even picking up a fork to eat is exhausting when your entire body is screaming to sleep. So what do I suggest to myself and others who feel that life is getting too busy and you can’t seem to slow down? Try to give yourself one day off. Next week I’ve penciled a day in my diary where I won’t work. I won’t apply for castings or anything — I am having a day off. I’m planning on not leaving my bed that day. Even though people may say being cooped up in my room isn’t great for my mental health, it will be, because that physical and mental exhaustion will disappear. I will be able to have a bath, scrub my body and do things I struggle with when the tiredness and pain are too much. Self-care is so important. It took my dad to remind me of that last night when he expressed his concern about how busy I am. I knew I was pushing myself too hard, but hearing it from someone who loves and cares about me is important. Listen to others. Speak to people you love about how you are feeling, so they can support you as you seek balance in your life.

Community Voices

Find happiness in the smallest of things

The other day I came home and received a thank you note on my story I published on here in September. It really made my day and even it may have not reach many people I was so happy and thankful for the recognition that I got from it. It lifted my spirits that day and felt that I was doing something right. When there are days I feel I'm a failure or really struggle I can look at that note and remember the feeling that I had when I opened it.
#ChronicIllness #selfcare #YouGotThis #keepgoing

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Community Voices

If your #ChronicIllness was an animal, which animal would it be and why?

<p>If your <a class="tm-topic-link mighty-topic" title="Chronic Illness" href="/topic/chronic-illness/" data-id="5b23ce6f00553f33fe98fe39" data-name="Chronic Illness" aria-label="hashtag Chronic Illness">#ChronicIllness</a> was an animal, which animal would it be and why?</p>
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Esther Ridgway

My Life as a Performer With a Disability

Ever since I was little I have always wanted to be a performer. It started when I was picked at 4 years old to be Mary in my primary school production of the Nativity. I have kept on pursuing my passion with workshops, classes, GCSEs, AS Levels, BTECs and a degree. My one-person performances in the car are legendary. Throughout all of this, the only thing that has changed is my disability. The pain is worse, and the fatigue hits me with such a force that some days just trying to sit up straight can be difficult. Despite the Botox and ankle braces I’ve worn over the last four years, I lose my balance or my legs are so stiff that standing for a long time is too much. And when in bigger cities I use a walking stick to get about. I think back to how much stronger I was 10 years ago; I was barely on medication. I needed hardly any pain relief, no muscle relaxants, no medication for my IBS, Nothing for my heart. No antidepressants. Just inhalers. Now I’m taking a small concoction three times a day just to function. As an actress I have to preserve my energy. I must take care not to overdo it in one rehearsal, performance or shoot day or the next day I will be unable to perform. The day before an audition I have to focus so hard on my lines, but again make sure I don’t overdo it so I don’t have brain fog the next day and forget my lines. But what you won’t see me do is complain about my condition. You will see me get up and do my scene. In a recent performance I was doing a physical theatre piece and I was being thrown about. When in rehearsals my cast mates knew about my condition and made sure I was OK with the movements we were doing. I allowed myself to trust these people. We all worked together; if there was a move I couldn’t do, we adapted it to fit me. This was amazing and I felt really included. There are plenty of directors out there that are probably scared to hire disabled actors because they don’t know what needs that person will have. My advice is to ask in the audition room; you may be surprised at what they say. Yes, I’m in pain all the time. My legs will stiffen up so much that I struggle to walk and stand. I have to massage them and wear my braces and compression socks to stop the swelling. And will be tired, covered in Bruises. But the thing is with this is that I want to be a performer more than anything so I have dedication.

Community Voices

Letter to my teenage self

Over the last year I have really pushed my acting career but also doing things for myself.
If I could pen a letter back to my teenage self I would say that life gets better. That the people that didn’t believe in you or bullied you will make you #Stronger . And that maybe you’ll become an inspiration to other people. I struggled academically at school due to the learning difficulties both my conditions have given me one is a brain injury from the lack of oxygen at birth (#PeriventricularLeukomalacia ) and the other one is due to having #NoonanSyndrome where we don’t send the right signals throughout our bodies. All I want to say is the despite the #Anxiety and #Depression you will be amazing and be successful in your own unique way.