Emily’s Story - The Red Warrior Challenge, Coping with Lockdown and beyond

Updated: Apr 25

Being born with a disability like cerebral palsy doesn’t come without its challenges but do I let them define who I am? From being born 3 months premature, weighing barely 2 pounds, years of hospital, doctors and physiotherapy appointments to the daily challenges I face today. My cerebral palsy mainly effects my legs and learning to walk unaided was one of the biggest, the struggles of having to wear plaster casts, use a walking frame, wear splits and orthopaedic shoes as I grew are still real in my mind today but did I get there? Yes I did. A lot of people say to me school must have been tough on you but in all honestly school was nothing compared to what I’ve faced in my life as I've got older, mentally more than physically. In my mid/late teens, slowly realising that life for me wasn’t going to be easy and as I faced the reality of leaving school and going out into the world on my own I started to suffer with depression and anxiety. I cut myself off from all my friends and spent a lot of time at home hiding away, to me that was easier than having to explain how I felt to people.

Over the next few years my depression was up and down but managed well with medication.

I manage to live pretty much a normal life, I have a job and more recently I’ve moved into my own home, I can do everyday tasks easily.

About 18 months ago I really started to struggle, my depression and anxiety was at its worst, to the point where I wouldn’t go out the house by myself at all. I would make excuses to avoid going out or seeing anyone. I would have panic attacks, thinking I was going to trip over or fall. Even the thought of walking out of my front door to my car, something I’ve done hundreds of times before would upset me. Like most people I ignored it at first just hoping it would just go away. Eventually it started to effect my work, I was late most days, I wasn’t concentrating when I was there, I was constantly worrying and sometimes I would just drive around avoiding going home.

There is only so much a person can take, although some of my close family did sort of know what I was going through I avoided talking to them and never really spoke to anyone about it as somehow I felt like I was burdening them and trying to keep everything to yourself only makes everything worse.

I was completely at my lowest point, I was lonely and felt like I had no where to turn. I started to think about taking my own life and even self harmed, not even that made me realise I needed help. That moment came one Monday morning when I broke down and had a panic/anxiety attack at work. This time I couldn’t hide it from anyone not my boss, colleagues, friends or family. Within the next week or so I went to the doctor, who changed my medication and I started to see my counsellor regularly again. Slowly things started to get better, my confidence started to grow I started going out by myself and seeing my friends again. Things were getting better but I still wasn’t happy within myself, I still felt as though something was missing. That was when I friend suggested to me why don’t you start going to the gym?

At first the thought of me going to the gym sounded totally ridiculous, what was I going to be able to do at the gym? But once the seed was planted it was something I couldn't stop thinking about, what if I could?

So eventually I plucked up the courage and went along to a consultation and we talked a lot about me and what I wanted to get from this and what I wanted to achieve. One of the main words used in that conversation was confidence. I came away from that thinking, just give it a try what’s the worst that could happen?

My first session went exactly how I excepted it to, I was really nervous and thought I wasn’t really achieving much but I was there. When I left that session I realised that my biggest challenge was just walking through that door and I’d done that so what was stopping me from going again, nothing.

Over the next few weeks and months I kept going regularly and with right support and guidance from Richard my confidence grew daily. Slowly I started to see some progress physically and mentally and I started to realise that I could do anything at the gym it just takes a bit more time patience. 10 months later and can’t imagine not going to the gym now, I’ve achieved some amazing things from being totally freaked at  the thought of pull ups to actually doing them and even deadlifting! It’s not always easy and there are a lot of things we do have to work around but we always find a way. Everyone’s gym journey is different, we are not all the same.

One thing I do know for certain though, the gym is and will be part of my life now and finding a PT and friend like Richard who has shown so much belief in me even when I didn’t see it in myself to help me on my journey means so much me. I’m actually excited about what the future holds for me. Who knows what I could achieve in the next 10 months?

I’ve faced a lots of challenges in my life but on October 6th this year I will be facing my biggest, toughest one yet.

I will be taking part in The Red Warrior Challenge 5k obstacle course race in Pembrey Country Park.

In signing up to this this we decided it would be a good idea to raise money for charity at the same time. In the last few weeks I’ve been working really hard trying to raise money for a charity called Bobath Wales, a charity based in Cardiff that specialise in helping children born with cerebral palsy using different therapy techniques and is also somewhere I went when I was when I was a child.

Now, I know this isn’t going to be easy but the support and positive reaction I’ve had from family and friends has been amazing, I’ve even had encouraging messages from people I don’t even know which I am truly grateful for. This is another thing in my life I am determined face head on and conquer. If I can do it, surely you can too?  And when I get to the finish line, with a smile on my face hopefully, I can know that I've help make even just one child’s life a little bit easier then it will all have been worth it. 

Only three weeks to go until the event now! To say I I have mixed emotions would be an understatement, I’m nervous, excited, scared everything possible but mainly determined.

I know it’s totally normal to feel all these kind of emotions when facing such a big challenge but also with the added pressure of taking part in this event with my disability makes me a little bit more wary.

Can I do it? What if I fail? These are just some of the questions I asked myself over and over again while thinking about taking part in the event, I thought I’d never be able to do it but the more I thought about it and the more I talked about it to my friends and family they convinced me. Why can’t you do it? What’s stopping you? The answer to that was my mind and nothing to do with my physical capabilities, after all I’ve been deadlifting at the gym for months now and to me that was impossible not so long ago. So with the team I’ve put together and the support and belief people have shown in me over the last few months it has made me even more determined to do this. Most of of all I have to remember to enjoy it, it’s all well and good wanting to do well and raising money for a charity that is really important to me but this event is meant to be fun and is there for people to enjoy. So I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself, worrying about what ifs or how long it’s going to take me and just do it with a smile on my face and have fun. Who knows I could take part in more events in the future?

Race Day - Sunday 6th October

Firstly, Sorry its been so long since my last post, life has been so busy with work and preparing for my big challenge. What a day Sunday was, I don’t even know where to start. Sunday morning I was surprised at how calm I was about it all but knew I’d worked hard and I was ready for it. Arriving at Prembrey Country Park and seeing everyone there and my family and friends start to arrive I did start to get nervous. As you know I have been fundraising for a CP charity, Bobath Wales and there was a representative there to support me which meant a lot. I wasn’t leaving that place without crossing that finishing line no matter how long it took me. I’m not going to lie, it was one of the toughest things I have ever faced in my life, physically. The first half was okay and I even surprised myself at h