by Jemima Croft
When I was 15, I developed Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) which has since progressed into causing other conditions such as ME, Dystonia, and NEAD. Each day I deal with a wide range of symptoms including but not limited to; chronic pain and fatigue, memory loss, non-epileptic seizures, spasm attacks, and balance issues. I also use a wheelchair and walking sticks in order to get around. It took 3 years to get a diagnosis, and when that neurologist said the words “I believe you”, my whole outlook on the situation changed.
I am able to cope with my FND by focusing on the positives only. I preach this to other FND Fighters a lot, but honestly it works wonders! Each day, I look back on whatever made me smile and I focus on it entirely, however small. That way the negatives aren’t so overwhelming and I can be okay with having bad days. I’ve also learnt that patience is indeed a virtue, but unfortunately something I still have to practice!
Becoming ill has enabled me to learn things about myself that I didn’t previously know. For example, I had no idea I could be so determined and stubborn. I’ve had to fight for equality an awful lot since I’ve been a wheelchair user, and I didn’t know I was capable of changing other people’s whole perceptions about disability within society until I had to. I’m a lot braver than I use to be – for my birthday this year I am going to be doing the world’s fastest zip wire, something I definitely wouldn’t have done before. I’ve also found a new love for sports; it’s a bit ironic really that it’s got to the stage of not being able to use my legs very well before I decided to have an interest in exercise! In all seriousness, wheelchair sports have literally turned my life around so I am eternally grateful to my mum and my coach for forcing me to take part 3 years ago. My main passion however is horses, I am undoubtedly obsessed. I am currently turning my passion into a career, something I never even dreamed possible nearly 6 years ago when FND first said hello. I can still do the same jobs as able-bodied people, I just adapt and do them differently or at a slightly lower pace. If anything, I am a better rider since becoming disabled, as I am more in tune with how my muscles work and am able to apply that to different situations and horses.
For me, developing FND has brought about both pros and cons. Admittedly, if I didn’t have to deal with such extreme and debilitating symptoms, everyday life would be a lot easier. But I am a better person now with a strong desire to do as much as I possibly can and challenge myself. I have so many goals for the future, and plenty of achievements already completed.
So here’s my final piece of advice: never hold yourself back. Don’t put the blame on other who tell you no – prove them wrong by making your own decisions. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. And be positive, I promise it’s worth it in the long run!