Share: My first post on the Mighty

Wow, the Mighty published a blogpost of mine (regarding the tips for a gynaecological exam, as a rape victim/survivor). Never had that before 🙂 You can find the Mighty post here.

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Tips for a gynaecological exam

As a rape victim a gynaecologist exam was one of my biggest fears/nightmares. I couldn’t find enough information about how to prepare myself, how to make sure nothing would go wrong. Of course you can find the basic information on how it works, but that just wasn’t enough for me. I’ve a few tips gathered from my own experiences. I’ve also given the tips to gynaecologists and I’d like to share them with you in the hope that everything will go well. I’ve had very bad experiences (exam against my will) and not so bad experiences (exam went well, but it will never feel ‘good’ for me).

I’m talking about a “normal” gynaecologist exam, so not one straight after the rape to collect evidence. Of course these were the things that helped me, if you prefer to do it in a different way then that’s totally fine. I also haven’t been able to include everything I’ve ever found helpful, but I’m thinking about writing more blogposts about my experiences with doctors and tips I’ve come across.

First of all, make sure that you think your current gynaecologist is up for it. It was shocking for me to discover how little experience and knowlegde most gynaecologists have about treating/examining rape victims. They just don’t know how this might affect you and how to take it into account. How do you know if this gynaecologist if right for you? It’s important to know that you can always refuse the exam and can ask for a different gynaecologist (for example: I only want females).
1. He/she is calm, understanding and friendly.
2. He/she doesn’t pressure you to do the exam. And doesn’t get angry if you’re coming for the tenth time to try it and you can’t do it yet.
3. He/she doesn’t rush it and plans extra time for you.
4. He/she wants to prepare together before the exam.
5. He/she stops when you want, even if it isn’t finished yet.

With preparation I mean that he/she is willing to answer all your questions before the exam, tells you everything that is going to happen (unless you don’t want to know), makes agreements with you and you can tell him/her about the things he/she should or shouldn’t do. For example you can ask if he/she can stop every minute and ask how it’s going. Or you want the door to be locked (sometimes other people walk in) or you want it unlocked (because that gives you an escape route). Maybe he/she should not say certain words because the rapist said that to you, or maybe you don’t want him/her to touch your knees (the gynaecologist might think doing that will comfort you) etc. Very important to make this all clear, before you might do the exam.

I always want to get to know the gyneacologist first, so I don’t do it the first (few) time(s) when I meet her. I always take my partner with me, he holds my hand and can ask the gynaecologist to stop when he notices I’m frozen. Think about if you want someone else there too and where he/she should stand and what he/she should do. Do you want to be distracted or do you want to focus on what’s happening in the present? It both might help against flashbacks. Also make sure that the gynaecologist listens to that other person as well (some doctors only want to listen to the patient and tell me I’m “grown up enough” to tell them myself that they need to stop). Oh and very important: they aren’t allowed to force extra people on you: assistants, students etc. It’s very difficult for me to say no and I’ve also had bad experiences with some doctors who wouldn’t even ask. I personally think the doctor should not even ask a rape victim, but say no beforehand to the student.

It’s possible that you insert the speculum yourself or that you do the exam without lying in the chair/with your legs in the stirrups. If they want to make an echo, they might see enough with an external one (your bladder needs to be full for that). They can always try doing that first.

A gynaecologist exam isn’t a normal situation. If you don’t feel safe, don’t do it. There are other ways to examine if there’s something wrong (for example an MRI or some kind of self-test; I’ve done those two as well). And maybe it isn’t really that necessary to do the gynaecological exam. I’ve had doctors who wanted to do it, just because they always do it. No medical reason.

Last but not least, try to ignore all those people who will say/yell/scream to you that “you shouldn’t be afraid because the doctor’s used to it”. It’s about you, not the doctor. I wish you a lot of luck, strength and wisdom and hope everything will go well, if you ever decide to take an exam or have to talk with a gynaecologist.

Interview about my dream job

This is a translation of this blogpost, made by Sas from ‘I live for my dreams’. You can find my previous blogpost about this interview here. I have translated this blogpost/interview so all of my readers can read it. I’ve tried to translate it as literally as possible.

Dream job #17: Mel who despites a disability gets the most out of life.

You all replied to my post “I’m looking for you, tell me about your (future) dream job”. It’s amazing to read all the inspiring and different stories and see the enthusiastic emails pouring in. What is this column about? I let you have your say. Which is unique, because I only did guest blogs once before. I share a lot about myself on my personal lifestyle blog, but would like to hear about your future dream job or about the dream job you already found.

Mel graduated from HAVO despite her disability and is now doing a self-study VWO. She has a lot of interests and is trying to find or create her dream job in this way. Mel tries to adapt everything so she actually can do and accomplish things. I immediately had to think about the sentence: thinking in possibilities and not in disabilities.

 

First, tell me something about yourself. Who are you and do you have a blog?
I am Mel, 21 years old, I love animals, exercising, photography and doing other fun stuff. I have an English blog: enabilityblog.wordpress.com. I blog about things that interest me or things I come across, I actually blog about everything and nothing. I hope I can spread some awareness about different illnesses that I and other people have (amongst other things). I also like to learn things and by writing and not only reading blogs, you get more interaction, through which I can learn more from others. I live together with my boyfriend/partner who also has (physical) disabilities, which is why we can understand each other very well. Because of my disabilities I can’t just do everything, but this doesn’t stop me from trying everything and adapting everything, so that maybe I can do it after all.

Which studies did you do?
I am currently doing VWO. I’ve actually always done this, but it was increasingly difficult for me to attempt school and eventually I couldn’t go to school at all. That’s when I got my HAVO diploma a few years back, as an insurance, because my disabilities have been progressive till now and thus my health continues to decline (and secretly also because of my fear of failure).
I can’t go to school in a ‘normal’ way and actually do everything through self-study. It takes me twice as many years to complete a study and I also need other adaptations, such as adaptations for tests and special furniture. Last May I did and passed a couple VWO exams. I hope to fully complete my VWO study this school year. After that I’ll hopefully go to university. I have a lot of interests, so there probably is a study that fits me and my disabilities J

Which jobs did you have in the past?
When I was young and the disabilities weren’t (too) bad I did a lot of volunteer work and also different things. But it boils down to helping animals and helping people (including people with mental or multiple disabilities). I really enjoyed doing those things. I also had a ‘real’ job for a few months as a waitress in a restaurant. I couldn’t walk or stand anymore (amongst other things) so I had to quit.

What is your current job?
At the moment, I don’t have a job and I have been fully disqualified. I’m busy with school and I hope I will be able to work (a bit) in the future.

What is your dream job?
I don’t have a dream job right now. There are multiple things I would call a dream job, but I would also like to look realistically at what my qualities are and what I can’t do or aren’t very good at. I think I can develop a dream job this way, simply by itself. I also think there are multiple ‘types’ of dream jobs. Such as ones for which you use a lot of imagination: as in you have magic, you can do absolutely everything, what would you do. But also more realistic dream jobs: something you might actually be able to do in this world.

I, myself, am more occupied with goals and wishes than with dreams, because I found out that dreaming without boundaries makes me unhappy (because reality is simply different with my physical disabilities). But I have plenty of wishes (and you could see my wishes as dreams) and I certainly also have (high) goals.

What is the most important thing for you in your dream job?
I think the most important thing is state you enjoy it/that it makes you happy and that it gives you a meaningful feeling. Balance is also very important for my by, so the dream job has to fit in a life in which you need a lot of moments of rest (amongst other things).

What advice would you give my readers for finding their dream jobs?
Look at the things you like to do and which things you find important (such as doing something ‘meaningful’ and what does meaningful mean to you? For example helping other people). For the rest, I would advise everyone to listen carefully to your own body, to prevent overworking yourself during your search for a dream job (or if you already found it). I made that mistake and in the current society it seems to happen more often. But we all exist out of more than work and we need our body longer than that.

I would like to sincerely thank Mel for this inspiring interview. It’s beautiful to read how you’re trying to get everything out of life and find/create a realistic dream job. It’s magnificent to see how open you talk about your disability and how you handle it. You are a real persistent go-getter! I want to wish you a lot of luck with your education and your future.

Pushing a wheelchair 102

Welcome back, class! If you’ve lost your notes from lecture 101, you can find it here.

By now, maybe you’ve walked around with a wheelchair and encountered some other issues. This time I’d like to share some of my stories and tips about the behaviour of other people, when encountering a wheelchair.

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[Picture of a woman in a wheelchair and a man kneeled besides her, smiling at each other.]

  1. People aren’t used to it. They won’t see you and they’ll walk against the wheelchair. It’s possible you hit someone’s heels, but usually it’s actually their fault. Because they aren’t looking and they are walking just everywhere. With a wheelchair it’s more difficult to have an immediate stop. People suddenly change direction and you can’t act that fast. They will usually blame the wheelchair user (not the pusher), but soon you learn not to feel sorry when it’s their fault.
  2. Don’t be too polite. This might sound odd, but I encounter so many people who will stand in front of the wheelchair user, so you won’t see a thing. Or jump the queue, block the road and don’t want to move even though it’s a lot easier for them and they always cut you off. Don’t accept it if 40 people are cutting you off and decided to take the small hallway/street first, even though you were already taking it and unblocked it first. This happens way too often and it’s really irritating if you have to keep waiting every time, even though it’s not fair. Also, you easily lose a group, if you’re having a tour for example. Because you are usually slower than people who don’t have to push a wheelchair as well.
  3. They might not hear the wheelchair user. I understand if you want to give an user some independency. And want to let him/her do some things by him/herself. However, they often won’t hear you (or everyone pretends, I don’t know yet), so then it would be nice if you could get the other person’s attention. Of course after that, the wheelchair user can probably do the talking again 😉 Keep in mind that they might be surprised, they often think a wheelchair user is very dumb and can’t speak.
  4. Wheelchair users often can’t reach things. It seems very obvious, right? Yet, people often forget and might even become angry, because I’m just ‘standing’ there. I can’t reach ‘high’ things or things that are ‘deep/far away’, while a standing person could. A bit like you have a 2-year-old with you (only on that part!)
  5. Always go straight up bumbs and ramps etc. Ok, this has nothing to do with other people and I’ve already mentioned this in lecture 101, but it’s very important. You really need to walk straight. Too often, I encounter people who want to … I don’t know, cut off a bit? Well, they will push me up from a weird angle and then the wheelchair will collapse. So just straight lines please 😉 Also keep in mind that you can’t just let go and let the wheelchair user ride themselves up a hill/ramp etc. It’s a lot harder to ride yourself than to push someone in a wheelchair.
  6. Other people won’t really understand if something is wheelchair accessible or not. You have to keep using your own eyes. People will block the way for you with themselves or with objects, thinking you can easily squeeze yourself till you are 1/4 of the width. Or they will keep standing on the pavement, because you can ‘so easily’ get on and off the damn thing (NOT). Or they will say their entrance is wheelchair accessible, since it’s only twenty stairs and extremely narrow.

Well, that’s enough information for now. I hope you’ll find navigating with a wheelchair even easier and that it’ll become more fun. See you next time 😉

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Pushing a wheelchair 101

Pushing a wheelchair can be pretty hard. Not if you’re used to it, but then there are all these different wheelchairs. And it’s not made easier by the environment, or the people in it.

I often joke that lessons or flyers should be given to those who are wheelchair users themselves and the pushers. Or maybe a wheelchair driver’s license? There are so many things I’d like to tell you, which might help you with pushing a wheelchair. You don’t have to discover the wheel again, right? I’ve decided to split this up in multiple lessons.

So, welcome class, to pushing a wheelchair 101!

Important to know is that you shouldn’t be afraid. Usually, we wheelchair users are quite tolerant to wheelchair pushers. It can be fun to hang out with a wheelchair user. Listening to the user’s tips can be quite useful and I always recommend that. Even more, because it’s awful to be so dependant and when people will suddenly move you around and you have no idea what’s happening.
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[Image of a drawn wheelchair with arrows to all the different parts, stating the names]

So my first tips:

1. There’s no shame in asking. Be honest if you’re unsure how the wheelchair works (there are soooo many different types!). Ask how to equip/(un)fold it etc. Ask what the other person prefers for speed (you could get dizzy or nauseous fast) and how to take bumps etc.
2. Pretend that you are 3 metres wide and 3 metres long. You are a lot bigger. If you’re unsure if it will fit, then don’t do it. Ask the user what he/she thinks, because he/she’s already more used to the sizes. Remember that wheelchairs also have these footrests, and those are really pointy and long. If you’re in a zoo for example, watch the fence, usually someone will flat my feet against it. And listen to the user’s ques. If you stop when you are in a beautiful spot to see the animal, there’s a big chance the user won’t be able to see it.
3. Look in front of you, in particular pay attention to the ground. There could be glass, or a tile which is lying loose, or dog poo (a wheelchair user might need to use his/her hands close to the wheels and touch them. And you might use a wheelchair inside buildings too).
4. There are bumps everywhere and every bump is too big. In the beginning always take them backwards. So you go first and pull the wheelchair. That’s a lot safer. If you go forwards and lift wrong, the user might fall out. Play it safe and take them backwards. Oh and very important: straight lines. Go towards a sidewalk, bump or ramp straight. Don’t take it from a different angle, because then you can’t get up well and it will stagger or the wheelchair will collapse.
5. Never let go of the wheelchair. Especially with hills. There are always these clowns who think it’s fun to run up and then let you go down. Never do this, even when you think it’s not so steep, or it’s quiet on the road. A wheelchair always has a deviation to the left or right. It won’t go straight, but will pump into a side and the user might fall out. It’s also almost impossible as an user to stop the wheelchair when it’s going fast. So someone has to grap you, or it might go really wrong. Just don’t do it, never. It’s really dangerous and not funny.

Last but not least, try to have fun. Especially in the city, it can be extremely irritating with all the people walking into you and cutting you off. But I’m always very happy and grateful when someone wants to take me. You can have a lot of fun with a wheelchair and mistakes are ok; you can always joke about it.

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Outdoor fun for an indoor cat: the balcony

It is said that a cat needs to go outdoors (in general). Otherwise, it will get bored, which can lead to a lot of problems. The fresh air and the sun can also strenghten the immune system and your cat might get some extra exercise. However, there are a lot of reasons why a cat can’t or isn’t allowed to go outside. For example because you’re afraid your cat will get hit by cars. Cats often don’t watch before they cross the street and cars often drive fast and don’t pay attention to it. If you have an indoors-cat, there are many ways to get him an outdoor experience or to keep him busy.

Cats love looking outside windows, tracking everything that comes and goes. They also like lying in the sun. If you have a balcony, this might be even more interesting for your cat. Then it can also hear and smell ‘outdoors’. This doesn’t have to be the entire balcony of course, you can also give him a corner.

Very important is how you secure this place. You don’t want your cat to be able to really get outside and go to the ground. There are special nets for sale to protect cats, but if you’re handy, you could also make a little fence by yourself. Keep in mind that it has to be able to endure the different weather situations and temperatures. You don’t want to buy or make one every month 😉 Also keep your cat’s personality in mind. Does it like hunting and will it jump against the fence/net, when it sees a bird? Does it chew on everything? Then you need to make sure the materials are more sturdy.
You also need to check the regulations, if you live in a rental house/apartment. Maybe your landlord will have to approve this net/fence or some comity.

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[Photo of a beige cat sitting in front of a vertical net. Behind the net is a tree and a house.]

To make the balcony a fun place, you can put all sorts of things in there. A place where the cat can rest, in the sun and in the shadow (and shelter against the rain) or maybe a hangmat? (My hamster used to have one and he loved it!) Maybe an activity tree, if yours is active. If your cat is older and has stiff joints, make sure the resting place(s) are easy accessible.

A lot of cats also enjoy a pot with some grass (or other plants – but make sure they aren’t poisonous for cats). If you have poisonous plants and you don’t want to get rid of them, place them somewhere where the cat can’t reach it. They’ll probably nibble on everything that’s in their reach.

If you don’t have a balcony, you can also place a pot with some grass or catnip inside the house. Or a box with some sand, but this might get a bit messy!

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Common misconception: giving milk to a cat or hedgehog

Maybe you’re lucky to live in an area where there are hedgehogs. Hedgehods are lovely and it is only natural if you want to help them a little. Their life is hard enough because of humans, such as cars and building roads everywhere, which can shred their area. And of course they also have a lot of trouble with all the poison we throw in our gardens. But I would like to write a different blogpost about making your garden (if you have one) hedgehog friendly.
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[Photo of a hedgehog looking in the camera with a white background]

A lot of people give a hedgehog a platter with milk, when they see one. This is very saddening, because you try to help the hedgehog, which is a good thing. But by doing this, you’re making it worse. You should never give a hedgehog milk. They aren’t tolerant for the lactose in it and it will give them diarrhea and other indigestion problems. This is very dangerous and could lead to their death, for example due to dehydration.

If you see a hedgehog, you can give him some water, this can really help them with their journey and life. If you want to give him some food, you could give some cat or dog food or some cooked eggs or scrambled eggs without milk. Neder give pieces of bread (again lactose) or herbs.
Hedgehogs like humid foods. Hedgehogs are omnivores and a big percentage of their diet exists of worms, snails, wood louses etc. This is one of the reasons why  having hedgehogs in your garden can be great. Giving them water regularly, can make them come back to your place.

Since we’re talking about milk being bad for a hedgehog, even though a lot of people don’t know this, I also want to connect this to a similar case: cats. You shouldn’t give cats milk either, again because of the lactose. Adult cats can’t digest it, so you shouldn’t give it to them, even though they often do like milk.
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[Photo of five kittens next to each other (two are orange striped and three dark striped). From left to right: dark striped kittin sitting, orange striped kitten sitting and about to stand up, 0range striped kitten standing and has it’s paw on the head of the next (dark striped) kitten lying on the floor. And finally another dark striped kitten sitting, leaning on the lying kitten].

You shouldn’t give kittens cowmilk either. They don’t contain the necessary nutrients. There is special catmilk, in case you have a kitten who can’t get milk from its mother. You can also find special powder to make it yourself at the vet.

In a lot of pet stores, you can find catmilk. This is a treat for your cat and you shouldn’t give it to them regularly, even though it’s specifically for cats. Catmilk contains a lot of calories and doesn’t contain necessary nutrients. It’s best to always give water.

Please remember that it’s best to give water. Water is necessary for them and it’s very helpful if you give it to them. It’s not ‘boring’ for them or ‘sad’ that they always drink water. Also keep in mind that these animals often do like milk, so they will still drink it, even though it’s bad for them. So that’s not a good indicator of whether it’s bad for them or not.
If you encounter a situation in which someone wants to give milk, please tell them they (the animals) can’t have it. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing it or being wrong, but it’s so much better for the animals if we inform each other.

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