I’m not going to lie, 2023 was a bit of a rollercoaster for me. Personal tragedies have combined with professional changes – moving from one team to another, as well as moving office.

Ciara Lawrence

However, there were also some absolute triumphs, such as finally getting on Radio2 to chat with Jeremy Vine, as well as giving evidence in Parliament.

Plus, I went to some amazing conferences, not just attending as a guest, but speaking about my experiences alongside my Mencap colleagues, Will and Natalie. I’m so proud of them and glad I got the chance to hear them speak so powerfully. Sharing my experiences with other people with a learning disability is something I’ve always wanted to do, and 2023 was a really great step forward for that.

I’ve also continued my role with the Health Devolution Commission with Jackie O’Sullivan, Mencap’s Acting CEO, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to see policies that affect people like me being made at a high level.

People sometimes assume that people with a learning disability aren’t very reflective, or that we don’t feel negative emotions as strongly. We’re expected to be happy all the time, and make other people feel good about themselves. But that’s just not true! Even though I’m an upbeat person most of the time, I still get my down days, and I still want to learn from my setbacks like everyone else.

One of the big things I have learned in 2023 is how to ask for help. I’m a big believer that it’s OK not to be OK – as well as taking the time to really explore your feelings and understand them. This year, with its personal and professional challenges, has really brought that lesson home. I’ve seen that I can’t keep pushing my feelings aside, but that I have to advocate for myself and get support when things are tough.

Even if your highs and lows haven’t been the same as mine, I expect you will have similar reflections on the year that’s passed.

As 2024 begins, I want to take time to acknowledge the good and the bad and to reflect on everything I’ve learned and achieved. I hope you get the chance to do the same.

About Ciara Lawrence 
Ciara Lawrence is a well-known learning disability campaigner and a Shaw Trust Power 100 influencer. She has written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Independent. 

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There are currently 1.5 million people in the UK living with a learning disability, Mencap is here to help them live life to the fullest: www.mencap.org.uk