Book Review: Unbroken – Martine Wright

Unbroken - Martin Wright

One moment can change your life

On the morning of the 7th July 2005 Martine Wright decided to let herself sleep a little later and slightly changed her route to work after celebrating London securing the 2012 Olympics. By making these changes she found herself on a tube with a suicide bomber. After he detonated his device, Martine’s life changed forever.

In the UK the 7/7 bombings went down in history. I remember being 11 years old and hearing it over the radio while in the car with my Mum, while my Dad tried to get hold of his best friend. It was so surreal that this had happened in London and the first time I realised these things could happen to anyone.

The book starts with varying perspectives of those closest to Martine as well as herself as they all heard about the 7/7 attacks. We hear from her now-husband, her parents, siblings, friend, surgeon and herself. Her story is one that not only inspired but was also difficult to believe.

After being found horrifically injured a courageous and kind policewoman and fellow passenger stayed with Martine. Both of her legs had been blown off and she was fading fast. So much so that when she arrived at the hospital she was referred to as Hotel Unknown until her family found her.

We follow Martine from the moment she was clinging to life, throughout her recovery. She doesn’t make light of the situation she talks about the dismissal that she wouldn’t walk again, the tears she cried and times she wanted to give up. Despite everything, the months she spent in the hospital she continued to fight for the rights of those injured and the families of those killed in the struggle for financial justice.

I spent the whole book cheering Martine on, wanting her to live her life as best she could after the bombing. So, did she go back to her day job and settle down? Not quite. Martine went on to become a Paralympic hero in Volleyball, she represented her country in the city she loved with all her heart.

This is a story of survival, spirit and determination but also being human. Martine doesn’t claim she’s perfect. She shares her doubts, her struggle to carry on at times and more. However, this made me laugh so much. She’s genuinely funny and learns to live and laugh at herself.

Martine is a hero and this was an incredible read. Was it tough at times, yes but I came out with a sense of determination because if Martine can get through that, I can get through my struggles. Of course, I gave this 5 stars. A truly brilliant story and one you should pick up.

Sunday Seven: Seven TED Talks you need to watch

I have spent a lot of time in the past few years watching various TED Talks, it’s one of my favourite things to do when I need some motivation. I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite TED Talks, these are just 7 of many but I think they’re important because of the messages they give.

 

How do you define yourself? – Lizzie Velasquez 

Lizzie was deemed the ‘World’s Ugliest Woman’, she’s honest in the fact that of course she cried but what she did next was incredible. Lizzie came back fighting, not only does she educate people on her illness but she also knows when to joke and make light of the situation. Lizzie wanted to be a motivational speaker and after a google search and a few more steps Lizzie did what she set out to do and is one of the most inspiring people and even has her own documentary.

We gotta get outta this place – Piper Kerman

With all of the hype surrounding Orange is the New Black, a lot of people forget that it is somewhat inspired by a true story. For me the book and this Ted Talk are preferable and talk about the real issues and day to day life of prison. Piper’s talk was eye opening and a rally cry for change. I’ve also reviewed her book here.

A broken body isn’t a broken person – Janine Shepherd

I only came across this talk today and it was emotional to watch. Janine was in a horrific accident meaning which broke her neck and back and left her hospitalised for months. I love this talk because I understood a lot of what she was saying about your body breaking and letting you down, in fact it was very emotional to watch, because I’ve learnt similar lessons.

Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates

I watched Laura’s talk before buying her two books. I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure before I watched it but after I realised that there is so much that we are told to ‘just deal with’ when we shouldn’t have to. Laura took a stand and I’m so glad she did, we need more women like her.  

Confessions of a Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay

This was so important to me when I was trying to embrace feminism because she said what I felt like. Roxanne understands that sometimes you like things that ‘aren’t feminist’ and makes fun out of it as well as reminding us that feminism is so huge that it means so many different things to different people.

I got 99 problems…and Palsey is just one – Maysoon Zayid 

I love Maysoon, she’s absolutely hilarious. One of the things that can make people more comfortable around disability is injecting humor into the situation, which Maysoon does perfectly. It’s also a great speech about determination.

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Like Beyoncé’s track Flawless? You partially have Chimamanda to thank for that. This is another great talk about feminism and how we teach kids about what’s expected of them. This isn’t her only great Ted Talk, she also spoke on The Dangers of the Single Story in literature (another talk I referenced in my essays for university).

Let me know your favourite TED Talks! I’m always looking for new and exciting ones to watch!

Why Professor Stephen Hawking has become one of my heroes

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I’ll start this by saying that I’m absolutely hopeless at science, the only part of it I was good at was Biology, not Physics. With the release of The Theory of Everything, I took to the cinema with my friend Amy, intrigued by the story of Stephen and his Wife. I left with more than just a love for a film, but a new person to admire grately. I’d known that Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest minds on the planet for a long time, who didn’t? That said, as someone who was absolutely terrible at physics at school I never took a deep interest, until the film came out.

I watched this film and fell in love with Stephen’s determination and intelligence. I also marvelled at his then wife, Jane, who in her own right is incredibly intelligent. I watched the two of them and something awoke within me. Although not on the same level, I’ve battled with my own medical issues which time and time again have made people tell me that things I wanted weren’t possible. I read as much as I could about Stephen’s life and ambitions and used it as fuel to add to my own academic ambitions.

I’ve found myself getting angry at my body for not doing what it should and stressing out about the wheelchair, tonight I had a change of heart. I’ve spent all day either asleep or in bed with an hour here or there to eat. I ended up watching the BBC’s Dara ÓBirain meets Stephen Hawking and it made me think again, not just in terms of academics. Stephen’s had a whole life in a wheelchair, his movement and speech taken away from him and he still cracks jokes, smiles and it’s never taken away from his intelligence. I look at this as inspiration and it keeps me going while I have to use my own wheelchair.

Professor Stephen Hawking is perhaps one of the most intelligent men in the world, but there is more than that he also possibly the most persistent. He didn’t simply take his diagnoses and accept it and because of that he’s still here today. So as the above quote says, I’ll adapt to the changes my back brace/ wheelchair bring and I won’t give up.

Image from Pinterest 

Book Review: Breaking The Silence by Jo Milne

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For most of us, listening to the kettle boil, the voices of our families or the sound of a bird is something that we take for granted. These are just sounds of everyday life, right? Not for Jo Milne and thousands of others like her who are registered deaf. Jo was born deaf and after it being picked up in her early childhood in the 1970s, Jo was simply known as ‘the deaf girl to those around her who knew and loved her. With the support of a loving family Jo managed to live a relatively normal life and was happy.

All goes well for Jo who doesn’t let her disability stop her, instead spending her life to help others with disabilities. That is, until she is diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, meaning that as well as being deaf, she is also going blind. Her fear of being plunged into darkness and silence is always present (as it would be for any of us!). After battling for years with these feelings a lifeline was offered to her, the ability to hear via a cochlear implant to the brain. A video that went viral on Youtube, prompting interest around the world.

This is a story of determination, courage and love. I read this within 24 hours and was glued to it the whole time. I loved Jo’s spirit and that of her family who merely adapted their lives so that she was always a part of their life. Although it is clear Jo struggles, and some of the tales from school will make your heart fill with anger and sadness, she keeps bouncing back, never letting life drag her down.

I’ve always been fascinated by the deaf community, sign language and lip reading are both beautiful forms of communication. Jo has handled all of this and then has to learn again, this time to cope without her sight, which understandably she struggles with but she is so honest. I think the reason I loved Jo’s memoir so much is that she’s honest, nothing is sugar coated but she’s not bitter either. She constantly fights through and believes in herself with the wisdom her late grandfather gave to her. I think that struck a chord personally too, the connection she has with her grandfather reminded me very much of the connection with mine.

While you would expect this story to make you a little low, I can tell you with certainty it doesn’t. What Jo does is make you realise that each day is different, that even in truly dark times where you feel like your body is betraying you there is a way around it. She has a kind heart and the steely determination of the Geordie roots she is so proud of (and so she should be!).

I’m giving this book 5 stars *****, because if anything it’s one of the most inspirational memoirs I’ve ever read. I remember watching Joanne on TV when the video first came out and I could have listened to her all day, reading her book has made it possible to understand her world. I feel like EVERYONE should read this, if anything just to understand what life is like for someone with disabilities. This is a truly amazing book and I hope you all have the pleasure to read it.

Also, here is the viral video of Jo being able to hear for the first time, prepare to have tears in your eyes! 🙂

 

Review by Chloe Metzger

Living with a ‘disability’

As far as I was concerned when I applied to university I wasn’t disabled, I’d never been disabled and I just had to get on with my life in the best way possible.Little did I know I’d suffered with at least one disability my entire life. Now I’ve written before about being Dyslexic but I haven’t really gone into detail about how it can impact on my life at uni or otherwise. The majority of people here and at home that are friends with Ali and I are shocked and sometimes don’t believe me when I say I’m registered with the Dyslexia and Disability department, they ask me why and sometimes still make their own assumptions about if I’m ‘really’ disabled.

It’s a funny word that I never really use about myself. When most people hear the word disability they think of something physical, a wheelchair, a walking aide, a white stick are all a lot easier to understand. Depression and Anxiety isn’t visible and I have gone for years with some people not having a clue. As with the Dyslexia, I went nearly 15 years in the education system without it being picked up that I was not only Dyslexic but severely Dyslexic and not just stupid as I had thought. Both of my ‘disabilities’ are mental, I explain a lot that it’s not uncommon for someone with a mental health condition to wish it was physical, people understand that.

So I wanted to use today’s blog to talk about some of the common misconceptions about disability as a student and how my life is impacted by BOTH of them.

1. People with Dyslexia only have problems reading or writing

This is a HUGE misconception that simply needs a little bit more education. Whilst I was at school it was thought I couldn’t be Dyslexic as I was in the top class for English. Although my CAT scores were lower and I constantly struggled with little things like paragraphing, punctuation and spelling it wasn’t really looked in to. Even at uni some of my seminar leaders admit they know nothing about Dyslexia and if I ‘try a bit harder’ I might pick up these things. Dyslexia has a massive spectrum for me my weaknesses are processing information, spelling (I will change a whole sentence if I can’t spell a word sometimes), grammar, basic skills and the speed in which I do things.  

2. Depressed people don’t have fun, they’re constantly unhappy

This just isn’t true for the majority of depressed people. There are flickers of light even in your darkest days but because of the way you’re thinking it’s just harder to see them. I’m out of the darkest part but on a low I find it hard to think positively. With gentle encouragement and time there can be good days for someone with Depression. We can be fun too!! 

3. You’d know if you were dyslexic

I found out I was dyslexic at 19 years old studying for a degree in English Literature. I knew I struggled a lot but it was my tutor who suggested getting a test. A lot of things make sense now as to WHY I struggled. 

4. You don’t need a fancy new laptop from the government for uni

There is a lot of jealousy over disabled students because we get DSA (Disabled Student Allowance). I have been insulted many times saying that I don’t need help. I do get help in the form of a dyslexia tutor and a mental health mentor. I got a laptop, programming, a printer and a voice recorder to help me with my studies because sometimes I struggle. There are people who play the system to get what they want but it’s not all of us!! I hate being accused of being a ‘scrounger’ by people who spend all their student loan on booze. I’m really grateful that I got the help I did because it makes life SO much easier!

5. Anxiety is just a part of life

I was actually told this after my diagnosis by a member of staff who I believe thought I was lying. Yes anxiety is a part of life but living with it is different. The most minor things will make you fret and worry constantly, losing concentration, sleep and generally making you quite poorly. That is anxiety, trust me.

6. It’s all attention seeking

No. Just no.

7. You can’t have a learning difficulty, you’re smart

8. Why do you get money? It’s not really fair is it?

Going back to number 4, I don’t get direct payments but some people do to help them cover costs. I have an amount for extra books, ink, etc. Just think if you became disabled wouldn’t you find that help a relief? I certainly do, it means I don’t put unnecessary worry or strain on myself or those around me and can get the help I need.

9. How do your disabilities affect your day to day life

More than you may think! In terms of dyslexia, it effects my reading, writing, spelling, memory, processing things quickly (which makes exams horrible), the time it takes for me to do things, my driving (I’m on my 4th test now) which really bugs me. I’m learning to adapt to it. My Depression/Anxiety makes me a worrier, can put me on a low where I’m really unmotivated, can make me irritable, tired an honestly can mean I’m not a great person to be around. Occasionally I’ll have to miss a day of class because I’m feeling that crappy. I’m lucky that I have a good group of people who understand around me.

10. Is it hard?

Yes. It can be but I wouldn’t change it…well most of the time anyway. I find ways to get around things, to smile and carry on to the best I can. Now I understand why I struggle with certain things and for me that’s great! I can learn how to fix them 🙂

So there it is, hopefully some questions have been answered. If you have any more PLEASE! comment below or tweet me!