Personal Essay: A Win for the Disabled Community


[Image description: The book ‘Signs of Life’ propped up so it is facing the camera. The front cover is blue with a drawing of a bedroom on it.]

Article by Emily Bourne.

I recently had a short story of mine published in an anthology called ‘Signs of Life’, a collection of short stories all about - well, I’m sure Sarah Sasson, the editor, describes it much better:

“‘Signs of Life’ (...) peels away the layers of health so we can see the complexity underneath… Seen through the eyes of these talented writers, what we end up with is not despair and hopelessness, but a visceral understanding of the fierceness of being alive and the love that forms the scaffold of how we care for one another...This is not a book about death and dying. This is a book about life and how we live it. These stories reveal what is truly valued in this world, and speak to the ferocity with which we love.” 

The call-out prompt for this anthology was, “How do experiences of sickness or incapacitation change our bodies, who we are, and how we see the world? And how do they affect the people around us?”. The stories that came from this prompt are not just about long-lasting illness and all the horridness of it - but much more than just that. It lets the reader in on what it’s like to experience the loss of your breasts to Cancer, or care for an Autistic person, or what it’s really like to lose yourself to Fibromyalgia. It’s a collection of stories about the importance of caring, of believing someone when they tell you they’re sick, or tired, or scared. It’s a collection of stories about sick people and those who care about us. 

The reason I answered Sarah’s call-out for submissions was because I was so excited for a book entirely about experiences like mine. When I first started flaring with Fibromyalgia (a chronic pain condition), I searched far and wide for any books or zines by chronically ill people about being sick. I came up short. (Since then, I have encountered a few great publications on these topics, to name a few - Able Magazine, Sick Magazine and Drawn Poorly Zine.) That’s why I think this collection is so important - people need to see themselves in stories; they need to see stories about sick people that aren’t romanticised, they need to see stories about invisibly sick people, about sick people that aren’t inspiration porn written by an able bodied white man.

I am so happy to have contributed my short story to this collection, a story about a girl not dissimilar to me, surviving a period of her life in debilitating pain and trying/failing/trying again to heal from all the trauma inflicted by illness and ableism. 

In summary, what I would say is a take-away from this collection is that to make a difference in a sick person’s life, you don’t have to fix them and you don’t need to change them, you just have to be there, and care.

You can buy the book here, either in physical form or for Kindle or audio book.