An interview with Tom

Name: Tom

Age: 32

Interests/hobbies: poker, live music, sport

What is your disABILITY? Super Ventricular Tacchiochardia (SVT), Type 1 Diabetes

Do you think having a disABILITY can be seen as a positive thing?

Strangely, I have never seen myself as having a disability. I have had diabetes since I was 18 months’ old and SVT for 13 years, so they have both become an integral party of my life. I think that the most difficult aspect of having a different condition to other people is how they view and feel about it, not necessarily how I view it or feel about it.

Diabetes is an ongoing condition which can have a significant impact on my life if I am not careful in managing it. This really is – believe it or not – a positive thing. It forces me to think about the way I approach every day and consider the impact of certain foods on my health. If I didn’t have diabetes, I might neglect areas of my life which benefit from the structure and effort I have to put into maintaining my condition.

What are the main challenges you have faced and what do you see as your Ability within disABILITY?

Nobody knows anyone is a diabetic until something negative is happening to them (low or high blood sugar level usually). Most people react to diabetes in a number of socially-media driven ways, considering that a chocolate bar might cause my death or an injection might save my life. The truth is usually the opposite, but the key challenges are (i) perception of diabetes (ii) the events throughout the day which might be impacted by diabetes (or on rare occasions SVT, which is unfortunately unstoppable for me without hospital intervention!) and (iii) maintaining the structure needed to look after my condition whilst my diary is increasingly blocked out.

My ability, in the face of these challenges, is to adapt to my day, my meal, the people I’m with or the event I’m attending naturally. That takes a lot of planning, but 31 years bears out the concept of ‘practice makes perfect’.

It’s important to note that the only way it’s possible to achieve this balance is not to consider yourself as a disabled person making room in your life for plans; it’s simply a case of a person making plans. When clients speak to me on the phone, they don’t ask for Tom ‘the diabetic’ or Tom ‘with an occasionally irregular hear condition’, they ask for Tom. They don’t view me through a frame of disability, they simply look at what I am capable of. Everyone should do that.

What advice would you give to others who feel limited by their condition in respect of employment?

Disability isn’t a coat we wear as disabled people, it’s an unwanted hurdle in life’s race. For many people it’s a difficult hurdle in their lives. The important thing about hurdles is that they are something to jump over – to reach higher, push yourself and achieve in spite of, not fall down because of. It’s important to know that getting where you want to (whether in a corporate environment, retail or otherwise) will involve these hurdles and that falling down is absolutely fine. Everyone has done it. It’s getting up that’s important.

The hurdles may be higher for some people, there may be more of them, and the amount of effort and determination needed might be difficult. How we tackle these hurdles is what defines us as people – not as disabled people – and however hard the experience might be to achieve your objectives, they are the other side of the disability hurdle. Once you’ve cleared it, it’s worth it.

Final thoughts…

“‘Normal’ is what different people come home to and sit on. It’s comfortable and reassuring – but I’d leave it at home “

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