Updated: Nov 28, 2021
By Ross Tanner
Hello! To finish off this month’s topic of socialising I (Ross) decided to do something a little different and ‘interview’ Ally and Beth. I asked them 4(ish) questions and they asked me a couple questions at the end, trying to gain a greater perspective on the issue. I’ve tried to highlight a few of the major themes and answers that were given throughout the interview. Just to set the scene of the interview, Ally and Beth are laid on a sofa in Ally’s bedroom under some blankets, I am graciously perched on an armchair and their flatmate Jamie is laid on the bed, sleeping, probably.
Question 1: At what point did you realise that your health and wellbeing had to become more of a priority over socialising?
Both Ally and Beth gave very separate and different answers because of their very two separate journeys in terms of their health. Ally said that ‘one thing that sticks in my mind was when our friend was having a small gathering [in June 2018] and I had been in A&E for hours and hours with my parents and I still wanted to go, so I met you two [Beth and I] and went just feeling absolutely shattered and shit thinking this is it like how do you do both”. While I can’t speak on behalf of Ally there is one event which sticks in my mind of noticing that health would have to be a priority of socialising is our school prom. Ally had a seizure a week-ish before our prom and was still recovering from the unfortunate aftermath. I remember greeting her at pre’s with crutches and her noticeably struggling different aspects of the evening.
Beth mentioned that for her it has been a much more gradual process of finding a compromise between socialising and personal health and that “It is still a constant process where you don’t get to a point where you’ve conquered it”. I then went on to ask about freshers’ week and how they dealt with the constant going out, socialising and the physically demanding freshers’ activities. Ally instantly replied with “I lasted two-weeks before I ended up in hospital, so not very well” and Beth is “still recovering from last-year’s freshers’ flu”.
Question 2: On a night out how often is your disability mentioned?
With epilepsy being an ‘invisible disability’ Ally mentioned that it never comes up unless she’s with Beth and I as we like to check in on how she’s doing from time-to-time. She said that she rarely uses it as an explanation to why she might not drink or go out with other friends (yes, Ally does have other friends – shock, horror). Beth on the other hand has a very different experience; with JIA she often goes out with crutches or a wheelchair. This often sparks questions from drunk friends and questions, which is often appreciated and helps build friendships and ensures everyone has a good night out. However, Beth did mention that she prefers going to a bar or house parties rather than clubs because they’re often not accessible, albeit with stairs, lights and loud music being involved (stay tuned for next month’s topic!).
Question 3: Missing out on stuff...?
While this wasn’t really a question it tied on nicely from the previous question. Missing out because of your physical wellbeing can have a serious knock on affect to your mental wellbeing, which I will mention later. Ally mentioned that she often has to rain check plans and for various socialising activities, such as meeting friends at a café or going out for a friend’s birthday. Sometimes drinking alcohol and going to a bar wouldn’t be the best idea but rearranging plans to a quiet evening in and cooking dinner is possible without any serious physical consequences, however, you don’t want to feel like people have to arrange plans around you and your disability. Beth explained the issue of going out as a “cost/benefit” equation where sometimes the physical cost of socialising outweighs the benefits, such as nights out where the bright lights, loud music and overcrowded spaces make it difficult to have fun. Although, this can be reversed, where sometimes the cost on your mental health by missing out is not worth the physical benefit of staying in, a balance that is really tricky to get.
Question 4: How would you want people to respond to your disability?
Both Beth and Ally said that their greatest worry when telling people about their disabilities is how they might react or people being awkward about it. Ideally it would not affect their friendships and not be a big thing at all, but it could just be something at the back of people’s minds when they are making plans. Both of them also said that they would encourage people to ask them questions, no matter how stupid or silly people may think they are. They talked about a time during freshers when they were on the bus back to their accommodation after a night out and everyone had had something to drink so was happier to just ask, and their newly made fresher friends just asked them loads and loads of questions, which Beth and Ally really appreciated, and these are still good friends.
Question 5: Do I find it difficult to manage social situations with Beth and Ally?
No, not at all! I let them freely do what the hell they want because they are free spirited, strong, independent women. When we are in a club or at a flat party and there are flashing lights, I’ll check if they’re okay but if they say yes, I leave them to it because they know their bodies better than I do. I guess I try and make a comfortable environment for them where they can say “I’m going home” and that’s not an issue, or not even question why they’re not drinking. When making plans I never rule out going to a club because I don’t want to limit their choices, but I am so open to doing something that is quieter and works better for us all.
Finally, I would like to mention a massive concept that is so important in this topic: mental health. Throughout this chat mental health kept on popping up, I left it out because I felt like it would be better to feature at the end of the blog. The relationship between mental health and physical health is a double-edged sword; they are so intertwined and depend on each other so much. It is a topic OSAAT blogs will discuss further over the next year and I encourage you to be as empathetic, kind, and caring to all your friends.
Peace ‘n’ love