* This post has been written by our Website Administrator. *
Hi, I'm Hannah! As a teen, I was very much a jack of all trades and a master of none, getting involved in all sorts of activities and extracurriculars. I was 16 when I first started experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia that would keep me home from school. When I was 19, I caught a virus that I never really recovered from. After what felt like an age of investigation, and one particular month spent mostly housebound and bedridden, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
For some time after becoming ill, I never really knew how to describe myself to people I met; managing chronic illness felt like my one full-time job, and the only defining characteristic about me. At the same time, I often didn’t feel justified in the struggles I faced and was constantly discounting my own experiences. I felt like an imposter and a faker, and that all my so-called “struggles” would easily disappear if I simply put in a bit more effort. Sadly, I think a lot of us can relate to internalising this ableist belief system. We live in a world that is so fast paced, so competitive, and often unjust and unforgiving. We’re taught – if not always so explicitly - that we should be aiming to come out on top all the time, otherwise our efforts aren’t worth anything.
Having faced a number of other health challenges over the years, I’ve been teaching myself to change my mindset. I believe I’ve done some great things! For one, I love pouring my heart into my hobbies and passions. Although this may seem like a bit of a flimsy achievement to some, I’ve actually come to learn that being able to do something purely for the love of it is a beautiful and powerful thing. Since the unpredictability of my health has meant higher education hasn’t always worked as planned for me, I’ve felt pushed to experiment with other things that matter to me outside of academia, at a pace that I can manage.
Trying things out feels vulnerable because failing feels vulnerable. But I am learning each day to be less intimidated by the prospect of trying and failing. I’m learning to be kinder and more loving towards myself, even when the world would incline me towards being harder on myself. I’m valuing relationships with those who won’t think less of me for changing my mind while I try and figure out the things I’m able to do.
I try not to look at my life through a lens of “if only I weren’t facing these limitations…maybe I might…” Instead, I look at who I am now, and who I have the potential to become. These possibilities are still so vast – infinities come in different sizes! Every day, I want to be kinder, more passionate, a more determined advocate for myself, and a more devoted ally to the communities surrounding me. Sometimes it does feel harder to maintain a positive attitude but thankfully, there are so many wonderful people in our community that encourage me each day through their honesty, vulnerability, and strength, and it makes it that bit easier.
My ultimate hobby is dabbling. I still love to try out new activities if only for the fun of it; making music, sewing, painting, and more. I hope to share with people that you don't need to be the best at what you do for it to be worth doing. And sometimes, in certain contexts, hardcore commitment isn't as crucial as we might think. So what if you only bake once every four months? So what if it took you a year to finish knitting that scarf? Be kind to yourself and hopefully, others will follow suit.
Much love, Hannah