How I’m Feeling about Moving Away to College | Screaming

Today marks a week before I move away from home for a year to go to what I affectionately call “blind college”. Essentially, I’m going there to increase my independence (learning how to cook, clean, get better IT skills) and also to do a few courses. Because it’s me, naturally, I’m just a little bit terrified at the prospect of moving away because although I’ll go back in half terms and the other holidays, I won’t see my family for a while.

Firstly, I’m not prepared. How do you prepare for going away for so long? How much do you pack? What do you pack??? Should I bring anything from my room? I DON’t KNOW! I probably should have sorted that out all before but I’m a massive procrastinator and always do things at the very last minute. Oops?

I’ve made a start on sorting out all my clothes, ready to get a lot of them packed. It’s only now that I realise just how many clothes I have and more specifically, how many of them I don’t actually like. Buried in my wardrobe are a whole Narnias-worth of t-shirts that I haven’t worn in months, possibly years. Not to mention that’s only at my mum’s house and at some point in the next 7 days, I have to transfer all of my clothes to one house to sort them out there.

The fear about change and that kind of thing is starting to set in. Of course, I don’t expect to be exactly the same at the end of the year but I’m so worried that I’ll accidentally get myself involved in drama, or that I’ll start being toxic to people, and not be able to get out. One of my friends who I call Robin, who went to that college for 3 years, has helped me to rationalise how I’m feeling. Another, S, who went to a similar school, has been a massive support as well. It’s still so nerve-wracking though.

I am really looking forward to it. It’ll be so different – a chance to express myself; a way of becoming more confident; a way of meeting new people. Right now, having done my exams and having received the results, it feels like I’m in a kind of limbo.

It feels like I’m on the cusp of something but not quite at the point where I know where it is. It’s almost, really, like I’m still waiting. Whether that be for the punchline or for the surprise that cements in my head that I can do this, that I’m capable. I just hope it’ll arrive before the week is out.

It’s not that I’m scared or soul-crushingly nervous. Rather, it’s that I’m anticipating a change, with no way of knowing how deep that change will run at the end of it. Maybe I’ll stay the same; maybe I won’t. All I want is to continue to be there for people – for the core of myself to stay the same.

I want to document it, as much as I can. My thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, without it becoming too confusing. Will I succeed? Again, I don’t know.

I just hope that this blog can remain my safe space.

Next Saturday, things are going to change but I’m as mentally prepared as I can be. This is a new beginning and I’m determined to make the most of it as I can.

If you’re starting University, Sixth Form or another year at school, how are you feeling about it?

Love from Elm 🙂

I Wanted to be like Everyone Else

On Thursday, a prizegiving event is being held at my school and I can’t make it. Not because I’m staging a wild protest – although that’s something I would do – but because I’ve got a prearranged appointment for something exciting. Even if I didn’t have that, Ow still wouldn’t go because the prize I’ve been ‘awarded’ has not only upset me but it’s hurt me, more than it would seem if you look at it on the surface. Will that make me sound arrogant or ungrateful? Perhaps but I’m willing to take that risk to show how sometimes, well-meaning actions can have the opposite effect.

Prizegiving is huge here for years 12 and 13; parents come, there are guest speakers and it’s held in a Church. Especially for year 13, it means a lot because it’s our last year here. You can get achievement prizes, academic prizes for a specific subject, attendance prizes and that kind of thing. Last year, I won a prize for achievement which I was so so proud of myself for because I worked so fucking hard on my GCSEs I knew I deserved those grades.

This time, from my Head of Year, I’ve been awarded a prize for ‘overcoming adversity’. That’s all I’ve been told: ‘overcoming adversity’, overcoming a difficulty, achieving despite your difficulties – and the only difficulty they know I have that could restrict my education is that I’m blind. Yes, it could be something else, like the fact that I struggled with mental health last year but that was nowhere near bad enough, or rather nobody saw it get bad enough, to warrant a prize for ‘overcoming adversity’. If they’d awarded it on the basis of mental health or external circumstances, hands down, somebody else would have got it – someone who deserved to get it.

It’s not that I’m not grateful. I’m happy they thought me worthy of a prize, when for the last year I’ve been thinking I’m either stupid or that nothing I do is worthwhile. It’s the prize itself: it feels like they’re awarding me for surviving the education system with a disability. It feels like they’re awarding me for existing, for ‘beating the odds’, for being disabled and still succeeding in education. And that would be fine, if I deserved it; that would be fine, if my disability affected every single thing I did to the extent where the act of going to school was difficult; that would be fine, if there weren’t so, so many other people who would deserve it more than me – who have had it much worse than me.

That’s the first reason I’m upset or angry. The other reason is much more personal and is the reason I cried earlier when I found out. I cried instead of being ecstatic and the “why” is quite simple.

The reason I came to this school was to get the best possible education I could. I didn’t want to go to an entirely mainstream school because the ones around my area weren’t that good and couldn’t have supported me anyway, such as preparing my work. I didn’t want to go to a school specifically for visually impaired students because I didn’t feel like that suited me, as I wanted to be surrounded by a lot of people and didn’t want to feel trapped. In short, I came here because I wanted to be like everyone else, without my education being thrown to the curb if I didn’t get good support. And, for the most part, Ow succeeded.

However, I’ve always been known as the “blind one”, or my year sometimes treat me with caution like I’m a doll or something delicate. People don’t often know how to act around me which hurts so much. I’ve always wanted to be recognised as more than my disability, with the blindness being a side thing: “Oh, there’s Elm, she’s short and takes the piss out of herself for it; she writes.” I’ve tried so hard to break free of stereotypes set for myself and others and again, for the most part and majority of people, it worked but the thing that hurts is that the school – the place where I’ve got such a good education – sees me as their blind person and as the one who did well despite a disability, not did well and that was the end of it.

There’s a silver lining to this. I was in the atrium, talking to two of my friends who I got close with when I went to Berlin about this and started crying out of anger and just general sadness. I told them that I felt like I wasn’t really getting an award, that people still viewed me as different when I wanted to succeed just as much as anybody else. They hugged me, sat with me for about 20 minutes and just talked everything out; chatting to people who don’t know me as well but are willing to put the effort in helped to make me feel more included. I love them for that; they took time out of their day to comfort me, along with another girl who didn’t know me at all yet said that she’d never viewed me as “the blind one”.

I’m still angry, still upset that after all I’ve done to try and stop my disability being the first thing people see, they would award me a prize that’s either focused on my disability or something similar. However, I do know that at least some people in my year besides those I’m with at break and lunch, who’ve known me since year 7, don’t view me as separate. I might not be able to stop the teachers from thinking that I’m “so brave” for coming to this school and getting good grades, but I have proved to some of the people around me that there’s more to me than the eyes. The others don’t matter because they never tried.

I’m only here until May and then I’m out. Then it won’t matter how the school see me. I’ve been here 7 years almost and I haven’t managed to prove to them that I’m successful not despite my disability but for my own merit. However, I’ve managed to prove to myself I’m strong-willed, more than that blind girl and I’m respected for myself, to the people that matter.

From Elm 🙂

Parties, Dogs and Getting my Life Together | A Life Update

The title of this post is probably a bit odd but honestly, it was the first thing that popped into my head to summarise what’s been happening for the last week. In my typical disorganised style, I’ll be updating you on the hopelessly boring life of Elm. Apologies if you fall asleep.

Knowing me, I’ll forget what happened this week – and a lot did – so I’ll write it down for myself, too. I’ve missed chronicling my cringy exploits for you to laugh at. I should start doing it more often. So, here we go: I’ll start from exactly a week ago.

Last Thursday, I went to a party in London where I only knew one person. It sounds like a stupid idea but really, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, as is most of my spontaneous and adventurous plans. It was my friend Silva’s birthday: she’s a girl who goes to school in Dorset and who contacted me a few months ago about me going to speak at her school – you can read more about her here. I went into the city by myself, met her and all her friends and went to her house. Not only was she lovely (and her puns are something special) but all the people she invited, as well as her parents, made me feel so comfortable that I forgot to be scared.

First of all, her house is huge and actually has a hot tub. I’d brought a swimming costume for the hell of it and it was great because I didn’t feel self-conscious about the idea of showing that much skin. I think that not knowing many people really helped with that, although throughout the evening I made friends such as a girl who shares my love for LGBTQ YA books, a girl who’s been trained as a sniper and a guy who honestly owns a lake. I sang at the top of my voice, had painfully deep conversations within 15 minutes of speaking to a girl and got dehydrated at one point so that I nearly fell over. It ended up with me sitting on a sofa at 3:00 in the morning, singing my heart out to a Taylor Swift song with 3 people I’d known for a grand total of 9 hours. Because it was so late, most of us stayed the night (someone slept in a cupboard) and in the morning, I was driven back to the station by Silva’s mum with another girl. It was honestly fantastic and, unsurprisingly, has increased my confidence: it turns out that I’m able to be myself around people who didn’t know me before.

Friday was spent recovering and I can honestly say I did nothing that day apart from complain about how tired I was. I’d got about 3 hours of proper sleep and couldn’t really interact with anyone without yawning. Saturday was a little more eventful: I went into London, yet again, for a meeting on a campaign in which I’m involved. The other two people that were there are amazing and before we got into organising anything, we had a 10 minute conversation about the woes of school (as I always do). It was great to meet up with them again and hopefully, we’re going to get the campaign underway: I can’t reveal too much about it because of anonymity. After that, I went home to my dad’s house and exhaustedly read some of the book that I was supposed to read for English ages ago. Oops… Sunday was pretty much the same as Friday: dreadfully boring with no excitement at all. I mean I wrote a post but that was about it!

Monday was the day of my mobility lesson. If you didn’t know, I’ve been having some mobility lessons over the summer – learning routes round my local area because I’m blind and had not much independence until now. My mobility officer is amazing (the amount of times we go off topic is brilliant) and she works with Guide Dogs, the charity, because at some point I really want to get a Guide Dog of my own. One of my best friends, L, has one and you should really go and check out his blog because it’s amazing. Anyway, it was what I thought was my last mobility lesson with her on Monday and we went to a bust depo, explored a bus, talked to two bloody lovely bus drivers and got driven around town. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while, dealing with the confusion of the public who saw a nearly empty bus driving past, having conversations with the bus drivers and wandering around. After that had ended, I spoke to my mobility officer and I may be able to get a Guide Dog sooner than I thought!!! As you can tell, thinking about that makes me so so happy because it would be a huge step forward for me, confidence-wise.

One time, I’ll write a whole post about why I really want to get a Guide Dog. I think it’ll really increase my independence and give me a lot more confidence which is, at the moment, the main thing that’s blocking me from doing a lot of things. However, it is a long process and isn’t as simple as saying “Oh hello, here’s your dog, byee!”

On Monday evening, I prepared for school which was to be the next day. I had a bit of a cry that night because I was honestly terrified, not of school but of the coming year as last year was so shit. Even so, on Tuesday morning I got myself up and spent a while getting myself ready because I could feel the nerves getting to me. Sadly, it was a bit of a pointless day: we went in at 11, had a half an hour assembly and then an hour of form. We then had a barbecue to welcome the Year 12s which was run by our Student Reps (two of them are Wren and Red). I loved it but I don’t know if it was worth me going in, although I caught up with Pine who I hadn’t seen all summer, Wren, Red and my other friend Swan. The day ended with some of the Student Reps doing the Cha Cha Slide and Wren and I catching up and having one of the deepest conversations I’ve had in weeks. That bit was fabulous!

It turns out that I’m not at school until next Monday, where my timetable starts properly. Because I’m now allowed to have my Guide Dogs mobility officer instead of my local one, I’m going to organise which day I’ll have a lesson on. That’s made me feel a little more productive but still, over the last two days, I’ve had nothing much to do. All the work I’m supposed to do seems a little pointless: I know I have to do it but I can’t get the motivation to do it. I’m almost at a loose end but the thought of getting back into a routine, despite the bleakness of everything, has helped me through things.

At some point this weekend, I’ll do the Psychology work and English work that needs to be done. I also need to sort out a couple of worrying things to do with both my mental health and with some of my friends: it’s mostly trying to alleviate some awful paranoia I’ve been feeling. I just need to try and get as much negativity out of my life as possible because I get enough of it from my own mind anyway.

All in all, it’s been a hectic week. From parties to screaming over my new timetable, from periods of complete inactivity to hours where I’ve been reading non-stop and from thinking that I’ll never be independent to having that door thrown open again, things aren’t too bad. I’m honestly a little disgusted that I didn’t update you on it sooner; I’ve been painfully unmotivated recently as I mention in every single conversation.

How has your week been? Let me know in the comments!

From Elm 🙂

My Changing Views on My Sight

I feel like sometimes, people with sight assume that visually impaired people either really want to be sighted or really don't – more leaning towards the former. That may be a generalisation on my part but I've found that whenever I explain my (long) stance on it, I get a surprised reaction. I don't fall into those two neat categories. Instead of trying to force people to feel how I feel, I'll walk you through why I have such a complicated view on things because every single person is different, whether you're completely blind, partially sighted or are somewhere in between.

Shortly after I was born, I lost the majority of my sight to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity. Of course, being weeks old, I don't remember seeing. Although I have a tiny bit of useful vision, I have no real concept of true colour, faces or how things actually look – and, having never had anywhere near good vision, I don't even know how to describe that to you in a way that you or I could understand. Throughout my life, I've been content with that to varying degrees but as you'll read, the level to which that is has changed rather drastically.

In primary school, some years before the age of 11, I wanted to see in an abstract sort of way. I didn't understand what it was – before the age of 4, I thought I was like everyone else. To be presented with the fact that you aren't like other kids was something I didn't think affected me at the time. However, now, I can remember feeling quite lonely: I couldn't join in much at break with the sighted kids; I learned Braille and used a Perkins (a large Braille machine) which set me apart from everyone else; I did different art and had teaching assistants with me, including one who helped me at lunch to begin with. I knew my little school and though it brought me comfort, I felt sad because I couldn't run with the others. Though I never cried about it or never really registered it as an issue, I hadn't met any other VI people before the age of 8. My weird isolation turned into a wish to do things I couldn't, to see what I couldn't – I told a teacher once that I'd really like to see and she sounded so sad afterwards. I'm not ashamed to say that I felt like that: as a child, I still had a lot to learn about myself and it's so difficult to not want to see if you're presented with the fact that you can't every single day.

From the age of 11, I started to meet more and more people who had sight loss and really got involved in the community. I went to what I called "blind camps", weekends away, events with those in my local area and talked to my VI friends on Facebook. I go to a mainstream school with a unit for VI people because I thought it would give me independence. The majority of my friends were sighted (they still are) but even so, I loved knowing people like me because there were people who got it, whereas in my primary school – though they didn't pick on me – they just couldn't understand much. Instead of wanting to see, my attitude polarised: I absolutely didn't. This might be difficult to explain.

Being visually impaired let me do so many things I otherwise wouldn't. I met authors (although that's not common – it was for a thing which I was chosen for); I can meet beautiful and amazing people; I've done so many activities that have made me more well-rounded as a person. I wouldn't have started this blog if I wasn't VI: I'd be a different person and I liked myself how I was. Back then, the thought of a "cure" genuinely terrified me. I thought about how much I'd have to learn: to recognise things, learn to read and write again – which as an adult would be more difficult, learn to keep my balance (I have no depth perception) – it would be overwhelming. I'd also have to adapt to seeing out of both eyes, something which I've never had before. I have a huge fear of the unknown and I don't understand how people can cope if they see colour for the first time. I know that if I woke up one day to full sight, I'd be screaming in terror because everything would be too much and would, probably, feel unreal. Anyhow, I was utterly anti-me getting sight "back".

Now, it's not so simple. I totally understand why I felt how I did before: to me, they're both rational thought processes and are what many people do feel, both those who have lost their sight recently and those who haven't. However, I sometimes change from being frustrated at my lack of sight, to vehemently wanting to stay this way, to just not giving a shit on a daily basis.

In a word, it's messy. I can't give you a clear-cut stance: getting my sight would be useful, yes, but I don't know if I could deal with the changes. It's not so easy as to say "you'll learn" because if you present someone with something they have literally no concept of, they may not come out of the shock for a long time. To have changing viewpoint doesn't help me figure out what I really want: all the ways I, and you, feel are valid but it's tricky when for me, there isn't a set answer I can give. Luckily though, I have less fear than I did before.

This may not even be how I feel in two years: I could have a viewpoint turnaround – who knows? For now, though, I'm happy to just live my life. It's not easy to be able to just accept things and I'm still learning how. Unlike before, I don't think about my sight that often – just when it comes up. It's just a thing that is and it's taken me years to fully accept that. I may have said I was okay with it but really, I wasn't; it's only now that I realise that I'm bothered sometimes but it's nowhere near all the time.

I'm just one person. There are hundreds of thousands of other visually impaired people around the country and the world who'll have a wildly different view to me. Some don't want to see and some do; some have gone all their life without sight and some have lost their sight only a year ago – each can have their separate stance on this which is all completely fine. Some people can't deal with sight loss because it's the loss of a sense; everyone takes their own time to come to terms with everything. People change and people are okay for changing.

I hope that me talking about my thoughts has helped you understand me a little better. Again, remember that I'm just one visually impaired person and someone else will probably give you a totally different answer. If you've got any questions, leave them in the comments below; I'll do my best to answer them! In addition, if I offended anyone by the words in my post, I'm extremely sorry.

If you'd like to talk about your experiences, you can always email me or leave a comment. I'd love to know your thoughts – either on having vision or, if you have another disability, how you feel about it in general.

From Elm 🙂

Perilously Happy

A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought I was prone to sudden changes of mood but here we are now and for a day, maybe even two, I’ve been happy. Not utterly happy by any means (I haven’t been for such a while) but if you’re looking at a scale from ecstatic to miserable, I’m slightly more than halfway leaning towards the happy side. Compare that to my last post and you’ve got a whole lot of confusion going on inside my head.

Yesterday, I got up at 6 in the morning to travel to Birmingham. It wasn’t just a random journey: my friends and I went to an annual event for visually impaired people. For once, I was barely stressed: I was meeting L, Violet (a great friend I’ve known since I was 11) and Rapunzel (my ex-girlfriend; an amazing friend) on the train after travelling independently for a bit of the way. I knew that everything would be fine. That mindset, I think, really helped me and set the tone for the day.

On the journey up there, the four of us managed to clear out a carriage with our loud voices, laughter and hug-fest when we saw each other. It took over an hour and a half to arrive and in that time, I crashed into the walls a lot, embarrassed myself and laughed so hard I screeched. To be honest, my laugh might have been one of the reasons that the surrounding people, erm, left. I’d feel bad but I was hyper as all of us hadn’t been together since February and I really needed to let my emotions out.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the event itself because I’m scared people will figure out who I am who might have gone there; I’m paranoid. What I will say is that we had to get a taxi there and one of our friends, S, was helping to run one of the stalls at the event. The original four of us (all with limited sight) eventually got sighted guide around the place because there were so many people and Violet couldn’t guided the three of us who had utterly shit sight around by herself. We got lost several times, or rather we lost each other; it’s surprisingly difficult to coordinate yourself when people want to look at different things but there was such a friendly atmosphere there that it wasn’t stressful.

My friends were the ones that made it for me. Another girl, who had gone to Paris with us in October, met us at various times, particularly after lunch. We then went and spoke to S who had had leave us to go back to his stall beforehand (I may or may not have laughed at him for it because I’m such a nice person). When we were all together, like that, it brought everything back yet it showed me that friendship is one of the strongest things there is. Our group have been through a lot with each other yet even for it, the dynamic of laughter still remained. We wandered around, me sticking with Rapunzel a lot of the time but also having deep conversations with Violet.

After leaving the place, we went and sat in Starbucks (sadly without S). When us “five blindies” walked in, apparently people started staring; I found it hilarious in a way. We screamed again; I fangirled over the cuteness between one of my friends and their crush; I also accidentally kicked L (I still feel bad for that).

Saying goodbye was the worst part. We took a selfie in the assistance room and lots of hugs were exchanged, of course. For the first time in ages, I didn’t cry. I felt fine; I knew I could see them soon. This day really instilled confidence in me; it’s shown me that not even Birmingham is beyond my limits.

My heart has so much love for my friends and the people around me. I almost don’t know what to do with it; it’s quite overwhelming. However, I’m happy that I feel even if those feelings are confusing me.

From running around M&S to unstable group hugs on the train; from answering S’s questionnaire in the most Elm way possible to yelling so loud in the taxi that the driver probably heard us, I had an amazing day. I utterly adore all the people I was with simply because they let me feel happy at a time when my mind was, and is still, ready to fall apart.

Not feeling panicky is almost making me feel anxious; that gives you an idea of how bad my mind has been acting recently. I haven’t had many self-insulting thoughts, either today or yesterday – it’s a break from the usual and I’m so glad.

I love actually being able to do things and I also love being around the people who can make me smile. It hit me, just as we were leaving, just how much I’d missed everyone. Being around them was refreshing, the 5 of us – a the end – grinning and taking a selfie that’s forever, in my mind, the one where I look tragic as ever. I mme feeling wonderful, as if I really accomplished something. Not feeling anxious is rare for me but that day was one of the ones where I honestly felt relaxed, okay – and dare I say, special in my own little way.

If it weren’t for L, I couldn’t have done this; he’s such an amazing friend who has the ability to get me across the country and let me laugh whilst I’m at it. I seriously owe so much to that fabulous person.

Even if the happiness doesn’t last, I’m glad it’s here. I’m not used to it but I’m really thankful that I’m feeling it.

From Elm 🙂

A Day of Being Myself

When I got up at 4:30 yesterday morning, I wanted to crawl back into my bed and cry but for once, I had something important to do. On Saturday, I went and visited the University of East Anglia – the second Open Day I’ve been to (the other was Birmingham). After that, and it possibly the highlight of my month, I went and met Ocean – a blogger I’ve known for 2 years.

Driving to UEA took about 3 hours but strangely, by the end of the car journey, I wasn’t angry/exasperated at my father/exhausted from being in the same place for ages. Far from it: I felt full of energy. That didn’t fade as we stood in the queue for half an hour, waiting for the coaches to take us to the university itself. It was around 9:30 then and I managed to actually speak to someone my age in front of me in the queue. Typically, it was the kind of conversation which comprised the “what subjects are you doing?” questions but it was still something and I didn’t turn into a stuttering mess.

As I did with Birmingham, we went and saw the Student Support services first to find out about what kinds of ‘reasonable adjustments’ (as it’s called) they can put in place for me, such as extra time or maybe provisions for a Guide Dog if I end up getting one. That sent us to the Accommodation stand and I awkwardly explained my ‘needs’ to them. Although they haven’t had a severely sight impaired student for about 4 years, I was really pleased with how they were extremely open to putting in place measures to help me; all the staff in fact were very friendly. It eased the anxiety I felt considerably about the whole process.

During the course of the day, I went to four talks and an accommodation tour. The latter experience was very positive: I liked the feel of the buildings and it all seemed very centralised; there’s a village about 15 minutes walk from the campus itself but seeming as I’d need to concentrate on learning the campus in my first year, I thought it might be best if we looked at the accommodation on campus instead. We saw three buildings and I liked them all; the nicest, newest (and most expensive sadly) was my favourite simply because it seemed very spacious. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a good criterion for measuring whether I would like it or not but an important thing for me is that I hate feeling trapped.

At one point, whilst my dad and I were walking across the campus, I had a minor crisis about the amount of followers I had. It’s so weird to think that over 2000 people have clicked the follow button – it’s incredible to me that so many people have read my words, in whatever capacity. My dad listened to my ramblings and it felt great because I knew what I was talking about.

The best talk I went to was the one on Personal Statements. All but the English talk was held in a small hall and each person wore headphones so that they wouldn’t have to project their voice. This didn’t detract from the experience and actually made it feel more personalised. Afterwards, and without fear, I walked straight up to the woman who held the talk and asked her if I could put my blog in my Personal Statement. The answer was a resounding “yes” and she clarified that I didn’t have to say the name or anything that could identify it. This means that I can talk about what I love so much, which directly relates to the course I want to do. I left that talk feeling so much better about my opportunities!

I really did like the sound of student life and the amount of societies; it was presented by two students who spoke to us like we were human and not children about all the different things we can do. I really felt like it connected us to the idea of getting involved in student life. After having had lunch and seeing the street with shops and bars (it was adorable), I went to the English Literature and Creative Writing talk with my dad. The interesting thing about this course is that there are no end of year exams; all your modular grades and pieces of writing are added up which comprise your degree. The Creative Writing part is roughly a third of the degree. Sadly, I couldn’t talk much to the lecturer afterwards but I honestly felt more confident about everything despite the prestige of UEA as a Creative Writing university.

I really liked this uni, overall. I’ve got to be honest: the course didn’t thrill me as much as I’d like but perhaps that’s because I have high standards. The campus was more to my taste: I could tell where everything was and I knew I wouldn’t get very overwhelmed. I’ll have to give it time; I loved it but I have no idea if I loved it enough to study it. What made it so worthwhile to me was the enthusiasm of the lecturers and the people who spoke; I felt as if they loved the place and it made me fall in love with it that little bit more. Who knows? I need to see more universities before I decide on anything.

At around 4, we travelled into Norwich to meet Ocean. Because I’ve known her for 2 years and she was one of the first blogging friends I had, I didn’t feel that nervous. Of course, the excitement grew and grew as we got closer to our meeting point and I kept smiling because finally I was going to meet one of the people I admired the most. Honestly, it’s always a dream come true for me when I meet an internet friend because they n have any judgements; about you save for what you show them which, in Ocean’s case, was always my true self.

As soon as we met each other we hugged and spent a while absorbing that this was actually happening. Unfortunately, we only had an hour but it was an hour I won’t forget in a hurry. We walked round the high street and went to Café Nero: she’s really good at guiding me and unlike when you meet someone you don’t know, she knew how to help me almost instinctively which was so lovely. By the way, raspberry lemonade exists (I found that out yesterday) and it is utterly glorious.

All throughout this, we talked. She’s so funny and sweet; I think I laughed more than I have in the past few weeks. Conversations ranged from Jeremy Kyle to the hell of A-Levels, from serious to funny topics and I loved it. I didn’t have to try and find topics to talk about; sitting across from her at a table was so freeing because I wasn’t pretending, hiding or faking anything.

I hate saying goodbye. It’s especially difficult when it’s someone you respect so much but luckily, I didn’t cry. She isn’t worlds away; next year when she goes to university, I’m sure we’ll be able to meet more which makes me smile when I think of it.

All in all, Saturday was wonderful and writing about it brings all the memories back. From wandering around a street and listening to buskers to laughing over the stupid pose that Jeremy Kyle adopts, I felt like me. Plain and simple with a passion for English but also someone who is undoubtedly a blogger and a writer. I never want to limit my options and that’s why I do what I do: that’s why I want to visit so many universities and meet so many people.

It’s beautiful to feel like that. Have you felt so very like yourself recently?

From Elm 🙂

My Blog In The Real World

A week before my first exam, I received an email which changed the way I look at my blog and which could lead to something exceptionally exciting. I’ve got permission from the people involved to post about it and so here goes!

This email was from a girl called Silva, who had found my blog whilst looking for ways to procrastinate revision, which I thought was absolutely hilarious. Silva comes from a school in Dorset called Bryanston, an independent school; it also has students who live there in a boarding school setting. In this school, there’s an Equality Society which is pretty much run by her. They discuss and debate issues pertaining to wider problems in society.

Because I have strong views on that which I express through my posts, Silva asked me if I would like to come to their school and speak to the Equality Society about inequalities I face in education as a result of my disability and how I’ve overcome challenges to do with it. She said that it was a “tall offer” and that it may be far-fetched but that she loved my content and thought it was just what they needed.

As I’m an incredibly put together, professional person, naturally I started screaming as soon as I had processed what was happening, which took about 5 minutes. It was 10 o’clock at night and I was so shocked by the email that I couldn’t have replied to it if I had tried; it was only the next day, at school, that I answered. For me, that was more important than revision at that stage. After all, when would this opportunity happen again?

Of course, my first thought was that it was a scam as I was disbelieving that anything so momentous could happen to me. However, I searched up the school, managed to work out how far I lived from it and heavily analysed the email to check for any inconsistencies. After surmising that there was a 99% chance it was legitimate, I began to truly think about whether I wanted to do this. It only took me a day or so to come up with the answer: yes. I did.

Over the next few days, I was still surprised: it may not seem like much but to me, to be contacted on the platform which I love with everything I have, to be asked to talk about something I’m so passionate about and to have my opinions listened to is a dream come true. I know that here, I can make a difference. I started to plan how it would happen, emailing Silva when I could in the mayhem of exam preparation.

Silva gave me her number and after we’d spoken for a while, she asked me if I would like to talk to the Equality Society on the Monday preceding half term. Upon agreeing, we arranged a time and called. It was utterly surreal; I was sitting in my bedroom having a discussion with people I’d never talked to before, about something which was so huge to me.

I answered a few of their questions and it felt wonderful to be able to talk about my feelings. Questions I was asked ranged from how I knew what colour clothing I was putting on in the morning (that has to be one of the best questions) to how I access my work. I had an answer for each and felt almost like a fire was being lit inside me because I felt purposeful, comfortable and most of all? Powerful. One of the things I said was the smallest actions can mean the most or hurt the most and I needed to speak to the people there like I would talk to any other: without patronising, without treating them differently because everyone’s human.

According to Silva, when we spoke afterwards, more than 30 people turned up and were in a small geography classroom, with more arriving as I was speaking. It made me feel so accomplished. Though it was Silva who had advertised the event so brilliantly, it was my words to which they were listening. It’s a foreign feeling that I’ll never get used to because then, I wasn’t just that weird Elm girl. I was somebody who could change the opinions of people I didn’t know, using the only resource I can: my words.

I have barely told anyone about this but I’m still so incredibly excited. The first person to know was my dad who is totally on board with it; sadly, my mum can’t know the true origin of this as I refuse to tell her about my blog. We need to get the logistics sorted but at some point, we can make more sound preparations.

Hopefully this September, I’m going to travel down to Dorset to speak to them. Even some of the staff members know which is mildly terrifying. However, doing this is something which I’ve set my heart on. I want to help; I want to show people that even if disabled people have difficulties, it’s not the end of the world and there are ways to live and be happy.

Not only is this a dream for me but this is also drawing my blog out into the “offline” world. The people at Silva’s school know my real name as they would have to. One wrong word or accidental blogging or real life name reveal would end my anonymity but strangely, I don’t care as much. The fact that I was specifically contacted through my blog, not a VI charity or otherwise, shows how blogging doesn’t just have to be reserved for the online world. I am both my blogging and real-life persona: they aren’t two separate people.

Blogging got me to this stage in my life and will continue to shape how I act, how I feel and what opportunities can be gained. I couldn’t be more thankful for that; instead of being the “visually impaired one”, I want to be the one who can help people. Having a blog has let me be that person.

I’m really, really looking forward to this; it’s possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to my blog. Remember that your words can mean something; it’s words that can change people’s minds and let them understand things which they otherwise wouldn’t.

I may not be able to help everyone or do everything I want to do. However, what I can do is worth it. What I can do is help as many people as I can and speak as loudly as I can.

Don’t be afraid of taking new, potentially scary opportunities. It could change your life, or the lives of others, one day.

From Elm 🙂

My “Fear” of Buzzing Insects

Here are a few facts that everyone knows:
• Bees will only sting you if provoked and they die from stinging, meaning they wouldn’t usually do it
• Wasps won’t sting you unless angry
• They’re more scared of you than you are of them
• They aren’t actually concentrated on you – either they’re finding a way out or just flying around
• English flies are harmless. They can’t hurt you. Seriously.

Now, I know all this: when I’m away from something that buzzes, I’m totally fine. I list all the reasons why I shouldn’t be scared. When I hear one? I completely, completely freak out.

I’m asked a lot why I have such an extreme reaction to anything – literally anything – that makes a buzzing sound. My token response – “I’m blind so can’t see where they are or what they are, meaning it could be a wasp and I wouldn’t realise – works in most cases. However, even when I know it’s a fly or a bee that wouldn’t harm me, I have the exact same reaction. I can’t ignore it; everything in me becomes focused on where it might be, listening out for it and avoiding it.

To illustrate this, a situation happened to me today which brought my fear into sharp focus. I was home alone – my sister and dad went to an art gallery which is pretty much useless to me. I had just finished my lunch when I heard the horribly familiar buzz of something – wasp, bee or fly I still don’t know.

After that, I had one of the worst freakouts I’ve had in a while. Some of it was documented on my Twitter but what happened was that for half an hour – perhaps more – I sat in the same seat, shaking so hard and frantically messaging anyone, just to try and keep my mind under control.

I kept on hearing it. It flew into the kitchen, flew around me once and went towards the window. It quietened for a bit – it just stopped – and every time that happened, I stayed stock still because I knew it was still there. After a few minutes it’d start up again, faintly in the living room but soon coming back into the room I was in. Every time I heard it, I would sob “No please!” and gasping – honestly crying out of terror and not even logical terror. At one point, I thought there were two of them; I was unable to do anything. I called my mum, telling her I was bored and wanted to go to hers, trying to minimise my shaking whilst on the phone.

Now I’m out of the situation, it seems strange to me how terrified I truly was. That is until I remember that all the windows were closed and all the doors to the rooms in my house were open. That meant that the insect couldn’t escape but it was able to fly anywhere; i would have no idea where it was. Because of that, I was so scared that I didn’t want to move and then couldn’t. I couldn’t bypass the fear – what if it appeared whilst I was walking? What if it was just inside the other room and I would be faced with it? What if it was right behind my head and when I moved, it’d continue buzzing?

I managed to run upstairs – I spoke to my dad, barely able to stop myself from shrieking when I heard the thing again. When I got into my room and was alone, having slammed the door, I sat there crying in shock for about 10 minutes because I hardly ever react that badly.

I suppose it was because I was alone. Whenever I’m around people, it’s not so bad; I can just talk to them loudly and try to ignore the buzzing. I don’t want to go out into the garden in the daytime just in case – especially if I wanted to do work out there. When I’m in the park, I’m never alone and the insects don’t bother me because if I hear them, I can run as grass and paths are stretched out before me. It’s avoidance tactics at its best.

Luckily, I know it can’t be a diagnosable phobia: I only display a small percentage of symptoms. One key thing is that when I’m away from them, I’m not terrified because if I hear a bee on TV and am assured it’s not in the house with me, I calm down completely and can carry on as usual. It doesn’t affect the entirety of my life or intrerupt everything I do. However, it’s horrible.

My main problem is that people don’t understand. I’m aware that my fear is illogical but if you put me in the same room as an insect which buzzes and leave me, I’ll scream up a storm and would probably resort to tearing at the walls if I felt like I couldn’t get out. People say that they’re harmless and I know that but that knowledge doesn’t transfer into the situation when I’m in it. There’s only one person I’ve found who fully understands this and that’s All the Jazz who has honestly been a lifesaver to me today. Just no know that there’s someone who gets it and doesn’t think I’m either being pathetic or stupid for crying my eyes out because of a fucking tiny thing with wings is such a comfort.

Apart from forcing myself to be around bees or anything that buzzes, there’s not much I can do about my… Rather extreme reaction. It never used to be like this when I was a child – or I don’t remember it being – but nothing traumatic happened involving insects for me so I have no idea why it’s such a huge thing. Maybe it was because I spent so long avoiding them because of the little fear that it’s now grown into something almost unmanageable.

You’re not an idiot for being scared of something. Only you can tell yourself that your fear is illogical or not because only you can describe and experience your personal “brand” of it. To other people, it might not make sense but to you, the heart-pounding, tear-inducing fright makes all the sense in the world.

From Elm 🙂

My Brain Can’t Handle the Future

When I actually post this, I’ll be in the middle of wandering round stalls that different universities are at – over 150 of them – with one of my teaching assistants, not socialising with other people because of it, panicking at the sheer amount of unis and, as usual, having a minature crisis about what the hell I’m going to do. Really, I should have at least an idea by now…

For context, I’m in year 12, studying my AS levels – they’re History, English Literature and Psychology so after having dropped French around two weeks ago, I’m doing 3 which is much better for my mental health. I’m also blind, which heaps a bunch of stress onto me: not only tomorrow – today technically but I’m writing this the night before – will I have to think about universities, but I’ll also have to think about whether they can meet my needs. Wooo, sometimes being disabled is a tad inconvenient at times.

There are some things which I know. After I finish Year 13, I want to take a year out to increase my independence at what I nickname “blind college”; I’m already making preparations to start that process, having planned over a month ago to go and visit there in the Easter holidays. In my mind, it’s set in stone as I have to consider how I’d actually survive studying, plus looking after my health: even if I feel worried about being ‘left behind’, there are more important things for me.

The next few years are kind of blurry. I know I want to do a three year ‘undergraduate course – if I get into uni – and that I want to be on a campus rather than having Lectures and things like that spread across a huge area like a city. Where and what course is still a mystery to me; I was searching things up earlier today and stressing so much because there were too many options, to which I got a headache and couldn’t do much.

English is my passion, and always has been; I love both reading and writing: creating ideas but also seeing how others create theirs. That’s the thing: I don’t think I could do either exclusively because I’m indecisive and need a variety. However, anything not related to English might bore me: I could do History but that might make me despise it; if I do journalism or media, I’d most likely realise that wasn’t the career path I wanted. At my heart, I don’t think journalism is for me, although I’d love to work in publishing. I’m keeping my options open.

So, English it is, but what? English Literature would be great but I don’t know if I love it enough to do it on its own. I want to combine the two things I love – reading and writing – to do a degree that I want to do; I think that’s one of the most important things. I’m either going with English Lit and Lang, or English Lit and Creative Writing. I have no idea if I should do a combined course but what I do know is that only doing one thing can leave me feeling stifled.

With the former, I know that it would get me good employment and it’s got high qualifications, ordinarily, that you’d need to meet to start the course – I think I can do that. I’m just worried I’d bail halfway through or realise that language was dull, despite me being fascinated with how language has transformed, both spoken and in the written text. With the latter, I adore creative writing but I’m not sure if I’m good enough; I haven’t been writing much recently except on here and the occasional poems but that’s certainly not dedication to it. As well as that, I don’t know if it’s as prestigious as Lit and Lang; I know that I’d love it but I have to balance with getting a new job because employment figures for disabled people worry me and I want to have a good job – is that shallow? I don’t know.

Not only that, but there’s the issue of where to go. If I manage to select the course I want to do, there’s also balancing which unis are good for it – the qualification is a BA Honours for most courses and I’m just terrified that I’d pick the wrong uni. I think that I’m overthinking as usual but it’s so important that I get good results and balance that with my mental health and happiness because if I’m miserable, what will I achieve? I kind of feel overwhelmed.

I know that there are a thousand people I can talk to, both blind and sighted, who can help me with every aspect of it. Going to open days is a big priority, along with getting advice from people at school, people at the universities itself and friends. How will I know which advice to take? How will I know what’s right, what’s good for me and how do I connect with my emotions and worries enough to do that?

Tomorrow, I’m going to be okay but I may be even more tense than usual. I just want to sort out my life but I also have to deal with A-Levels, the history coursework I’ve barely started and unpleasant feelings of stupid guilt to keep my health in check.

If you’re thinking along the same lines as me then do let me know; if you also know of any good unis for English especially, as well as open days, then drop me a message. We can go through this together because this is a huge step for the majority of people around my age.

From Elm 🙂

My Body is My Own

One of the only times I truly appreciated myself, how I looked, the way I stood and how a smile felt on my face – was at my Prom in June. That, and when I kissed someone, but the latter was more of an affirmation that I was attractive and not a failure at ‘romance’.

I’m not some great beauty, some kind of princess or queen because if anyone called me that, I’d laugh in their face and ask them to list every positive physical attribute I had, interrupt them halfway through because I was laughing too hard and then refuse to let them continue. Or… Perhaps I’d be so shocked that I’d accidentally hug them. So, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Even so, I don’t lord myself as someone who’s immensely attractive: I know my flaws, often get insecure about them, but at the end of the day if someone judges me on them, it’s their problem. I learnt today that I didn’t hate my body – not like I thought I would. My flaws, for once, didn’t bother me.

My stepmother bought a bunch of clothes for me today, to prepare for something I’m doing tomorrow which means I won’t be at school. After the disaster of yesterday, where I felt like a puppet because I was made to try on clothes of hers because I had no appropriate ones of my own, I was all set to be furious when I came back from school. I hate it when people buy things for me, especially if I wasn’t told before, because I need to be in control of what I wear and how comfortable I feel in my own skin. Often, I feel as if people control that without realising, and I don’t speak up to stop it.

I was waiting to snap, to feel disgusting like I did yesterday, to want to take every little part of my body and rip it apart. I was expecting to have the world crowd in on me. That time didn’t come.

My stepmother showed me the clothes – it probably helped that we started with shoes and they fit, which meant that my mind immediately quietened because not many shoes fit me that look nice. I laughed, joked around, did stupid poses and barely got annoyed when I couldn’t stand how she wanted me to.

For me, it was a shock. I’m used to criticising myself, to saying “NO – you look awful; no one thinks you look okay and you know you feel bad in your body. Who’d want to appreciate you, seeming as you can’t do it yourself?” I wasn’t angry; in fact, I revelled in knowing I had clothes which I liked. Yes, it would have been better had I bought them myself, but I’m still figuring out what kind of style I like – HA, I’m hopeless with fashion!

Today was a rather steep learning curve for me. I don’t like my body necessarily, but I don’t despise it. What people think of me – whether they want to kiss me or not if I have a certain bloody type of top on – doesn’t matter. If someone truly cares for me, they won’t give a crap what I wear. The age old saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that matters,” really applies here.

You aren’t somehow less for liking to wear different things. Your body is not Unattractive, and only you can have enough faith in yourself to tell yourself that. So many people can tell you you’re beautiful, but if you don’t truly believe that in your heart, you’ll continue to think you’re ugly. I can’t see you, even if you were right in front of me, but bloody anyone can be beautiful to themselves if they believe it. I will never see myself in the mirror, but does that mean I can tell myself I don’t look attrocious? Yes. I can still do it, heedless of the fact I don’t understand what a face truly looks like.

Don’t believe me? One day, when you’re strong enough, when you can, find things about your body you like. List them, without any negative adjectives because realistically it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you feel miserable with your appearance, no amount of makeup oR product can change that. If you hate your body, the only way to improve it is to realise: “I’m not hideous. To myself I’m not, and fuck what other people think.”

I’m nowhere near perfect because I always find ways to critique myself, but I’m working on it. I have over 40 photos of me on my phone right now, which is more than I’ve ever had at once, and I refuse to call myself narcissistic. It’s one step at a time and that one step, today, was feeling happy enough with myself to take control of my body, because it’s mine. It’s not anyone else’s to judge, to own, to comment on: I literally own it, and you own yours. Don’t forget that, when you feel like everything’s getting too much.

From Elm 🙂