Anna Scutt is an actor, singer and hypnotist. In this blog she writes about the impact that adverts like ‘Meet the Superhumans‘ had on her, and how she’s come to accept that it’s okay to admit you’re not okay.
That ‘Meet the Superhumans’ advert. It, and programmes like ‘Disabled Daredevil’, used to make me feel inadequate for not doing something amazing like a bungee jump or a triathlon. Until two things happened last weekend to change my mind.
One, I read Kim Daniel Daybell’s blog ‘You don’t have to be an athlete to be superhuman’, and two, I got talking to a man sitting next to me at the theatre.
“How does your CP actually disable you?”
He was very impressed that I had come to London on my own. In the course of conversation, I told him I had also been to Milan to the opera, and that I’d sung in opera myself at university. At which point he asked ‘Forgive me, but how does your cerebral palsy actually disable you?’
That made me think. Things that I consider ordinary – I drive, I sing, I’ve got a language degree and can watch all those Scandi-noir dramas without subtitles – non-disabled people consider superhuman because they realise that those things are way more difficult for me than they would be for them. They’re not being patronising, they’re just being non-disabled. He was genuinely interested though, so I answered his question: I am in constant pain. I didn’t tell him I hate it. And it took me a long time to admit it, but it’s OK to hate it.
Never feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’
There are so many inspirational stories on the internet that not being OK with my CP made me feel like a failure. But who doesn’t hate being in pain? That doesn’t make me a failure, it makes me human.
All these inspirational people tell you that you can do anything you put your mind to, but actually, ‘Yes, I can’ might not apply to you. And that’s OK too. I mean, it sucks, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I want to dance – tap, jive, quickstep – but my body doesn’t. I am an actress and I would love to be in a lavish costume drama, but there aren’t many wheelchair users in Jane Austen. Feel sad about it, feel angry, but never feel guilty.
If you want to play sport, opportunities have improved thanks to the Paralympics. But if you don’t, nothing much has changed. Coronation Street did more to raise awareness for me. I used to get glared at in public if I got out of my wheelchair and walked, as if I was faking my disability. (I blame Little Britain’s Lou and Andy!) But since Izzy Armstrong stood up out of her wheelchair at the bar of the Rover’s, the glaring has stopped.
Equality is still some way off, but it’s OK not to be a trailblazer or an activist. Someone else will raise awareness; someone will take that inaccessible shop to court, but don’t feel guilty if it’s not you.
You’re only human, after all.
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