Well, I don’t know about you but for me August has felt like an incredibly long month. The heady heights of the summer heatwave feel like a lifetime ago now, especially with the grey skies and rain we’ve seen in recent days. It has certainly been an intense month for me, which is probably where this feeling is coming from, but all the same it has been a month with a lot of promise. Here’s my August in review.
August is probably the month where I’ve tested and pushed my body the most since way back in February and, if we set aside the huge amounts of rest and sacrifice to get myself through, I’m happy to say it passed. I’ll leave the explanation of what I was up to for the work section of the blog but it’s safe to say my body has served me better than I had imagined it might through an intensive contract. I’m feeling the strain a little now, though, so am giving myself some much needed down time before throwing myself into new projects.
This month also saw me take to the airwaves to discuss the impact of M.E, aiming to raise awareness as part of BBC Radio London’s focus on invisible disabilities. The drive time show dedicated an hour to M.E on 23rd August and Action for M.E kindly asked me to represent them alongside two young people, their parents and the charity’s Head of Youth Services. If you’re interested in giving the interview a listen you can find it here. The segment on M.E is from the top of the show and I come in at around 36 minutes.
If I’m honest, I had mixed feelings about the experience. It felt to me like the hour could have been better prepared for and given more of a focus around what needs to change to improve the lives of those with M.E. Instead, it felt a little directionless and I personally felt that the approach to me lacked sensitivity, leading me to spend the interview feeling like I was defending myself instead of being empowered to openly call for change and express how living with chronic illness has affected my life. That said, I’ve received some lovely feedback about the interview, so I do hope that what I did manage to say has made a difference, but it has certainly got me thinking too. What can I do to make sure that conversations around invisible illness are productive and positive? In particular, how is it possible to break down the idea that if you look well you are well? (If you listen, you’ll see why that question in particular has weighed on my mind.) It was an interesting experience and one I would take on again but perhaps with a little more determination to shape the narrative in a way that felt more comfortable and meaningful.
I spent the first three weeks of August working with FutureVersity as a programme tutor, supporting young people aged 14-16 through an intense series of challenges and workshops for their Vacation Education project. I absolutely loved the experience, watching and supporting young people to grow and develop significantly over even a short amount of time. The programme was designed to both support young people to gain new skills for the future and also to remain in a learning mindset so that they could return to school in September ready to get back into their studies from day one. Reading young people’s feedback and seeing how they had benefited reminded me why I love youth work so much and made the toll the work took on my body worth it.
I also had the absolute joy of spending the afternoon at Redmond Community Centre last week, running a drop in zine making workshop ahead of Hidden River Festival next month. It was so lovely to have the chance to share the ‘how to’ of making mini zines and it has made me so excited for the day itself. I’ll be co-producing a festival zine with the local community, as well as running the same drop in style workshop so that festival attendees can make their own mini zines to take away.
As the end of the month has approached, I’ve been looking ahead to plan my autumn schedule. My calendar is slowly filling up with workshops and projects but I still have space for new work and clients, so if you or anyone you know is looking for freelance support, do get in touch!
Now, you might have guessed that this section of the blog was going to be pretty sparse this month. All work means no play and makes Lucy a very dull woman. Chronic illness management is not the most fun of tasks.
That said, I’m delighted to have a new piece published by Dear Damsels today as the final story for their August letter, on the theme of “youth”. As soon as I saw the theme I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Over the years I’ve spent so much time sitting with “what if’s” about how my teenage years turned out – what would my life look like if my mum hadn’t died/I hadn’t developed M.E? I wanted to explore the what ifs and consider whether a “normal” youth would have been better – would I want to trade everything in? At the time of writing, I don’t have the direct link to the piece but you can rest assured it’ll be plastered all over my social media if you want to give it a read.
So, that’s it for August and I’m off to start September with a trip to Wales to see my grandparents. See you next month.