For those of you who started following me more recently (and a general update for those who’ve followed me longer) I wanted to share a bit more behind the scenes and some personal insights in to my life. I still plan to do a ‘PG year in review and thoughts for 2024’ type post in the week about the business. But this felt important to share first.
I briefly mentioned my visit to San Marino for the UN World Tourism Organisation conference in November. So instead of only explaining and summarising some things around my health, disability, and two years of challenges. It made sense to explain the significance of getting back up on that stage (as seen in the main photo of this article) and what it took to get there.
Having Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2 has meant I’ve always used a powered wheelchair, required 24/7 care for all physical and every day activities, with the obvious challenges that all entails out about in the world, and more subtly needing to overcome ableism and stereotypes from some people I have met along the way. All of which wasn’t straightforward, but I always managed to keep positive, achieve my dreams and live a very fulfilled life.
I have briefly and sporadically written about some difficulties I had in late 2021 and early 2022. But with a little more distance I can now see and say that 2022 was a year I had to deal with a few health and life challenges. As is often the case it wasn’t one cause, one symptom and one solution. The causes were a mixture of overdoing it at work, multiple things from the pandemic, losing a close friend and colleague, struggling to find suitable care provision, and also a realisation of getting older and having changing priorities.
The symptoms were ultimately lower energy, less physical strength, and sometimes going dizzy particularly on video meetings. Resulting in lower confidence and lower self esteem. The solution was reducing anything that was having a negative impact at the time, to check if anything was fundamentally wrong physically (luckily it wasn’t), and ultimately just allowing time to heal and to find balance.
So while the initial shock, frustration and subsequent solutions played out in earlier 2022, there was a longer tail on finding my new normal, having confidence to do things when I might go dizzy, and ultimately coming out the other side of it all.
All of this is to say 2022 was pretty dark and then throughout the course of 2023 it feels so much better and like I’ve got my health, energy, strength, confidence and vitality back. Bit by bit I’ve dared to try things again that in 2022 were simply impossible. In and out of work.
So the man you see in the picture on stage is both happy he did it for the first time since February 2020. Obviously because of the pandemic restrictions and then my difficult spell. But it was also a reminder after a break from travels and speaking of the many logistics and plans I’ve always had to make for such an exhilarating experience like that in San Marino.
By this I mean with or without the health and confidence blip I had in 2022, I also have to factor in the following. I need to constantly secure my social care funding, so that my live in personal care assistants can enable me to choose my daily life. The same goes for my wheelchair, hoist and other mobility device funding, to maintain my independence. With my PA and equipment ready, the travel day started early with my PA dressing, hoisting and helping me get ready. We got an accessible taxi to Heathrow, went through all the commotion of checking in and boarding with a disability and a power wheelchair. Then after the flight to Bologna, to head to San Marino, something really scary happened…
Getting lifted from the aisle chair back to my wheelchair on the ambulift I was almost dropped by the two assistance staff. It was close and I was very lucky. However getting back to safety I did injure my left knee which hurt for a couple of weeks. I’ll explain more about the experience in the future. But this is sufficient for this post.
So I didn’t sleep well from the pain and the trauma. The next morning before my keynote speech I had anxiety from not having done such a thing in years, and from the pain and shock of the airport incident, and from the fatigue. Definitely not the best prep before speaking to 200 tourism professionals.
But do you know what? And this is the punchline and conclusion. I bloody did it! And I’m so proud I did it. I’m so proud I didn’t give up when I could have in those darker moments. I’m so proud I kept believing everything will be ok. I’m so proud I smashed that talk, despite everything. I’m so proud I got back to me and said yes to life.
I sincerely hope this article wasn’t too long or multi directional to follow. My wish is to update you on what a tough spell I’ve had, the ridiculous barriers I (and many others) still face in daily life, to also pass on the news that I’m back where I want to be, and the general message for everyone that despite all the odds (as my book says) everything is still indeed possible.
Thank you for reading and I hope even one line of this peak behind the curtain to my life was interesting and insightful. Stay tuned for my next year in review post!