In 2012 I left home to study English literature at university, but little did I know just how much my time away would impact life outside of my studies.

University can be a lonely experience: I found it hard to be self-sufficient, and everything was difficult: shopping, chores, reading several books a week and planning for multiple assignments at once really began to take its toll. This, along with many hospital appointments, became unsustainable.

I’ve always been disabled: born with a form of cerebral palsy called hemiplegia, I was well acquainted with visits to the hospital, regular medications and a variety of pains and fatigue. Now though, my pain levels were reaching unbearable heights, fatigue was through the roof and my mental health began to spiral out of control. Pretending things were fine and putting up with ‘my lot’ was not going to cut it anymore.

So – perhaps unconventionally – I logged on to Twitter to seek answers.

Social media gets more than its fair share of bad press. One mention of it brings an onslaught of naysayers; those who doubt it as a ‘good use’ of time. It’d be naive of me to forget that sometimes social media is not always used for good, but I felt compelled to look into it and harness its potential for positivity. I typed into the search bar #Hemiplegia. And, just like that, my eyes were opened to a new world: there were countless others describing their lives and difficulties as if they were my own. From then on, I no longer felt alone. Though these interactions couldn’t soothe my pain or remedy my physical symptoms, these shared experiences paved the way for my disability advocacy.

I reflected on this during a coach journey to London on a chilly October morning. I’d been named on the Shaw Trust Power List as one of Britain’s most influential disabled people, and was headed to London’s Southbank Centre for its launch.

I never got into campaigning for disability rights for recognition: I do so because it matters, and because disabled people deserve better. But to be recognised in this way – amongst the likes of politicians, Paralympians and TV personalities – is truly humbling, and I am so honoured to be part of #DisabilityPower100.

About Heather Lacey…

Heather began advocating for disability rights through her blog, providing an honest and open look at disability through her own lived experience. Her writing aims to raise awareness of disability and the ways it affects other aspects of a person’s life. Using her own experiences of cerebral palsy, Scheuermann’s kyphosis – a form of spinal curvature – and fatigue, Heather writes about the many ways disability influences other elements of her life. She uses Twitter and her blog to share experiences of anxiety and depression, and discusses her experiences frankly to give readers both insight and solidarity. Her other passions include gin, guinea pigs, books and recipes.

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