Blind fire walk for Guide Dogs!

I completed a sponsored fire walk for Guide Dogs… Twice!

 

When my mum and sister describe the size of the flames to me as we arrived at the Guide Dogs Liverpool training centre yesterday morning, they both had some trepidation in their voices. It still didn’t feel very real to me though. I could vaguely smell the fire but I couldn’t hear it or feel the heat so it still felt distant.

 

Whenever anyone had asked me if I felt nervous about the fire walk during this past week I had answered no, because honestly I wasn’t. I was more focused on fundraising than what I would be actually doing at the end of it. Admittedly, all of my fundraising was done online. But I was determined to reach my target and probably annoyed all of my Facebook Friends to death with my repeated posts about my crazy stunt.

 

It wasn’t until I was sat in the middle of the health and safety briefing that it really started to hit home what I was about to do. The fire was blazing outside and the instructor told us that the optimum heat for firewalking is 400°C. He explained that we would in fact be walking over the hot embers of the fire and that as long as we walked normally and at a good pace, it would be extremely safe. Still, this is when it finally started to feel real to me and I suddenly became very, very nervous.

 

There was a group of around 15 fire walkers in all, only myself and another lady were visually impaired so we waited at the back of the line to be guided safely by the instructors over the walkway. I was glad for this. The instructor counted the paces of the person firewalking, which usually was between three and six steps, so I could gauge the distance of the walkway and how long it took to walk across it.

 

When it finally got to my turn, I was really scared. I stood on the edge of the fire walk, an instructor either side of me holding my hands, and really really wanted to run away. For a second I was really afraid that I would disappoint myself and everyone else by chickening out.

 

I was scared because I was stepping into the unknown. Yes, people had described it to me, I’d heard others do it before me and I had a rough idea of what I was in for. But I’ve never done anything like this before; I had nothing to compare it to so I couldn’t really imagine it. I couldn’t see what was in front of me and I couldn’t picture it in my head. But that’s also what made me do it.

 

The instructor had told us that if we were nervous, to think of the reasons why we were doing the fire walk. So I thought of myself two years ago; how back then I was so afraid of the unknown that I barely left my room. I thought about what a difference having a guide dog has made to my quality of life, my confidence and my independence. I thought about how, with Jazzy with me, I never feel like I’m stepping into the unknown because I don’t feel vulnerable. So that’s why I walked.

 

it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done!

 

Strangely it wasn’t that hot. To be fair, it was over so quickly to begin with I barely registered what I’d done until I was safely on the other side with my feet in buckets of cold water. And once I did realise what I’d just done, I got right back in line to do it again!

 

It basically felt like walking over warm soil, until you got right to the end when it started to feel a bit more… burny. I’d expected to be able to feel the heat and smell the burning wood, but honestly I was so focused on walking in a straight line and not dying a fiery death I didn’t stop to smell the embers.

 

I want to say an absolutely gargantuan thank you to everyone who sponsored me to do this ridiculous thing. I set out with a target of £100. I cleared that within 24 hours of setting up my JustGiving page! So I set myself a new target of £500.

 

Having not planned any kind of fundraising events and hoping to rely entirely on the kindness of the people of the Internet, I hoped I could achieve something big and make a notable contribution to the charity that is so close to my heart.

 

After much tweeting, and somewhat desperate Facebook statuses, I did the fire walk having raised a total of £630 on my JustGiving page. This is absolutely phenomenal and I can’t explain how humbled and grateful I am to everyone who read my story and thought it would be worthy enough to warrant their hard earned cash. I promise you, your money is going to a very worthy cause.

 

You can watch me do the first fire walk here

and you can watch me going back a second time, this time being guided by my mum, here.

 

Click here to be taken to my JustGiving page.

 

As ever, thank you for reading 🙂

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Deferring my dissertation

10 May has been a date branded onto my memory for months now. Why? Because it is the deadline date for my dissertation. Or at least, it was.

When I started my third and final year of university, I made a promise to myself that this year it would be different. That I would get organised, manage my time brilliantly, get all my work done on time and meet all my deadlines. When I came back in September I felt wildly optimistic that I would power through the year and emerge on the other end with a first class degree. 

I say wildly optimistic because my time at university hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride. My struggle in Higher Education isn’t really something I have gone into great detail about on this blog. I intend to, one day, after I’ve finished my degree. But for now, those of you who don’t know me personally need to understand that it has not been easy. I’ve struggled socially, mentally and emotionally and I’ve been so tempted to drop out on numerous occasions.

I think the only reason I haven’t dropped out is because I’m stubborn. I have a fierce desire to prove people wrong; to show that I am just as capable as anybody else of doing everything, even getting a degree, despite my Visual impairment. In fact, this often leads to me wanting to overachieve, not just to do as well but to do better than everyone else to prove that I can. What this means is that I end up putting a enormous amount of pressure on myself. Worse, because I feel as if I need to be able to do everything on my own, because nobody expects me to be able to, I used to feel unable to ask for help for fear of being labelled incapable. Thankfully this has gotten much better recently, proven by my action of requesting a deferral for my dissertation.

In September 2015 I felt like requesting a deferral would make me a failure. I thought that getting extensions would make me a failure. I thought that coming out with anything less than a first class degree, would make me a failure. I want to stress again that nobody explicitly said this to me. It was all me, all these expectations and ambitions were in my head. 

I can think of a few reasons why I feel like this, one being that being undermined and degraded on a daily basis because of an impairment that has nothing to do with my intelligence or mental capability makes me feel so patronised that it drives me to want to prove myself. 

I’m not someone who lets been disabled get them down often. I’ve said before on this blog that I feel 100% content with who I am, blindness and all. The main thing that I struggle with is societies attitude and treatment of me because of my Visual impairment. This is why I’ve think I’ve developed this instinctual determination to exceed expectations. Because if you’re treated and meant to feel inferior for 90% of your life, then if you don’t have some kind of drive and faith in yourself, you will start to think of yourself as inferior.

Anyway, back to the point. It was this attitude that make me so reluctant and somewhat frightened of the possibility of requesting extensions. I’m not going to lie, third year terrified me. The pressure and stress I put on myself to be the best in everything often makes it hard for me to fulfil my potential. In first and second year I had been forced to request extensions usually because of institutional failings. With third-year being such an important year, I was determined that I would need to be on the top of my game to make sure that all of my materials were accessible, that all of my note takers were arranged, that I would have a suitable place to study and that everything I would need academically would be put in place. This did happen; ironically, and terms of accessibility my third year has been the easiest of my whole degree. 
What I didn’t count on was me sabotaging myself and my own ability.

 I spent so long focusing on how I could make sure that nothing to do with my visual impairment would get in the way of me meeting all my deadlines, I didn’t stop to think about what I could put in place to ensure that my mental health would not impact on my work either. So that’s what happened. I became ill, I eventually sort help and I was granted a deferral for my dissertation until August.

It was a very hard thing to be for me to accept, because when you’re so used to dealing with a physical disability, a mental illness is a completely different ballgame. One thing I’ve always prided myself on is the fact that in spite of how people treat me, my intelligence and mentality is not compromised by my disability. I have a visual impairment, this is what I tell people; my eyes don’t work, it has nothing to do with my brain. So just because I can’t see you standing in front of me doesn’t mean that I can’t hold a conversation, alright an essay. So, to then be dealing with a mental illness that does impact on that element of myself that I had always depended on being so stable was very disconcerting.

I definitely think a part of the reason I struggled to understand and accept my mental illness is also because of the stigma that surrounds mental health. Even me, as someone who lives with a sensory impairment and therefore nose in some ways what it feels like to be treated differently because of something that is out of your control, still subconsciously harboured these fears and misconceptions of mental illness.

I am however pleased to say that I feel much better. Even though my year didn’t go to plan and I ended up doing the thing that I dreaded most, I’m now quite proud of the fact that I have asked for a deferral. It doesn’t make me less capable, it doesn’t make me less of a person and it doesn’t make me a failure. I think it makes me someone who understands themselves, someone who is self-aware and better for it. 

So even though the 10th of May is almost been and gone, I will carry on chipping away at the D-Word, I will feel proud of the achievement of just completing a dissertation never mind what grade I get, and I will take the obligatory submition selfie in August 😉

A huge congratulations to everyone who has submitted their dissertation so far, everyone on my course who submitted their dissertations today and everyone who will be submitting in the next few weeks. Be proud of yourselves! You did it!

Walking through fire for guide dogs!

Hello readers, today I come to you asking for your help.

 

On Saturday, 21 May I will be completing a sponsored walk to raise money for guide dogs. Being only about 5m long, you may think that this sponsored walk is a bit of a cop out… But there is a twist! I will in fact be walking through fire!

 

The sponsored walk will take place at the guide dogs Liverpool fun day, held at their centre on Youens way, Knotty Ash, Liverpool, L14 2EB.

 

Fire walking refers to the activity of walking over hot embers of up to 1200F without burning the soles of your feet. I will attend a health and safety seminar before embarking on this challenge.

 

I’ve decided to complete the sponsored fire walk not only to raise money for this charity that is very close to my heart, and the fact that I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but also because it strikes me as an appropriate way to mark how Jazzy has changed my life.

 

Two years ago, when I decided to apply for a guide dog, I was not in a good place. I was isolated and felt very restricted by my visual impairment. Getting around independently was only an option if I use my white cane, which was a source of great anxiety and was to be avoided if at all possible. This meant that I rarely went anywhere on my own and was completely reliant on other people to get out and about. When I think back to how I felt two years ago, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come. Now I often feel like I have to pinch myself, because two years ago I honestly would have regarded a five minute walk to the shops on my own as daunting of a prospect as walking through fire.

 

The freedom, confidence and independence Jazzy gives me is indescribable. It may seem like nothing to anybody else, but just the fact that I was able to pop into the city centre the other day to pick up a few things from the shops without a second thought is such a massive difference from two years ago, and I have guide dogs to thank for that.

 

It might sound melodramatic to some, but I struggled to describe the fear and anxiety I felt just thinking about getting around on my own. Looking back, I think it was a combination of low self esteem and lack of confidence that restricted me to depending on others all the time. Something that in itself becomes a source of guilt, because nobody wants to feel like a burden. So eventually it meant that I often wouldn’t get out, for fear of doing it on my own and fear of being a burden on others if relying on a sighted guide.

 

It was meeting Lynette Who now works as an engagement Officer at guide dogs Liverpool, and her guide dog Pippa that initially convinced me to apply for a guide dog back in May 2014.

 

Meeting them and seeing how their partnership worked up close made me realise how much I long for that kind of freedom. After my mobility assessment and initial discussions with a guide dogs mobility instructor, I was put on the waiting list. This is what motivated me to get myself back on track; to let people know how I was feeling and how I was struggling, and to make more of an effort with my mobility lessons so that I would achieve the necessary confidence using the white cane which is required before training with a guide dog.

 

I was matched with Jazzy in November, we trained after Christmas and were qualified by the end of January. Since then we have had highs, lows, laughter and tears which has all lead to a phenomenal partnership that I can’t express how grateful I am for.

 

This is why I want to give something back to Guide Dogs, because in giving me Jazzy they change my life for the better. This is why am asking for your help, please sponsor me so that guide dogs can continue their life changing work.

 

I’m hoping to make a small contribution to Guide Dogs by raising £100. You can sponsor me and support guide dogs by visiting my Justgiving page here.
As ever, thank you for reading , keep your eyes peeled for my updates regarding the sponsored fire walk and wish me luck!