Behind the smile

For years, I’ve struggled to feel a sense of self worth. I’ve never been good at sport, because my disability has meant that I was never allowed to properly play most sports (and now I can’t even move enough to play). I can’t go to gym, again because of my disability; plus I get way too much enjoyment out of triple cream Brie; so I have a few extra love handles and my body is all weird proportions. No matter what I do, or how many different things I try, I feel like I’m forever cursed to have bad skin. And because of all that, I have never felt typically attractive, and, as a result, have felt largely excluded and separated from the gay community.

To add to this, because of my disability, I am incredibly dependent on others to assist me. I can’t make a meal, or put my clothes on, or do many of the other ordinary daily things we all have to do, without a large amount of assistance. I can only do a few very limited things by myself, independently. I sometimes feel like I am so dependent on others, and yet I can do nothing in return to help them.

In addition, I now move around in the slowest, most painfully awkward manner. And still, every time I sit in my wheelchair, I feel like it’s an invisibility cloak. As soon as I am in it people no longer see me. No matter that I’m a fully qualified lawyer who lives in his own apartment. People still turn to whoever is with me to ask about me, rather than asking me. And people wonder why I don’t like using it.

In my darkest hours, I have felt like I am forever destined to be alone, and unhappy, and useless, and that I am worthless. How could someone else ever love me – so why should I bother trying to?

It can take all my strength sometimes, when I start going down this spiral, to catch myself and remember my blessings.

Sure, I may not be typically fit, or skinny, or masculine, or attractive – but I was born with a decent brain that has allowed me to far surpass what many people told mum and dad I would be capable of in my lifetime. There are many, including many with disabilities, who have not had the opportunities that I have had to assist me in getting where I am in my career – to be able to go to good schools and meet the people I have along the way.

I also am the very opposite of alone. I may not ever have a partner, and that’s ok. But I do have an amazing network of loved ones, family, friends, colleagues, and more, who have joined me on my journey. We really don’t need a single, special person when we are able to realise that we have so many amazing and wonderful people who are there with us, and for us, and who bring so much love, happiness and kindness into our lives.

And more than that, for myself, I have to realise that my situation doesn’t render me unhappy, or alone, or useless. Only my attitude does. I am worth something. I could have taken my blessings, squandered them, and accomplished nothing. But I didn’t. I could have sat at mum and dads and given into the fear that comes with a progressive disability, and not bothered even trying to go to uni or get a job. But I didn’t. I confront my fears, and I go out into the world, and I get on with my life. I may not ever be physically fit, but my determination is 100 kilograms of pure muscle.

It can be very hard to remember when we’re in our darkest mindsets. But we always need to try and remind ourselves to be proud of who we are and what we’ve accomplished. We are all unique, special, amazing, and beautiful individuals. 

23 thoughts on “Behind the smile

  1. Your spirit shines brightly and what a big heart you have. I wish good things for you and that you get your heart’s desire.

  2. Ollie, you’re absolutely amazing! You have so much to be proud of yourself for, you’ve already done thing that I always wanted to, but never mustered up tje courage, or strength. Sometimes in life, we find ourself saying “if only” or “only if” and for me, this is one of those times..

    You’re admired & respected by countless people, myself included!

    You are definitely a very strong willed individual, & have achieved astonishing levels of success in life, despite numerous obstacles trying so hard to hold you back, yet you just keep on persevering, for which makes those of is fortunate enough to know you, to only love and admire you that much more. Never stop being who you are, because you are more than enough!
    Wishing you the very best, now & always!

    – Robin

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Robin. I think FOP teaches us a lot quicker that we have to jump on opportunities when they come up, because, even more so for us, we never know when the FOP beast will rear it’s ugly head and our whole physical life will be dramatically shifted we have to adapt to a new normal again. So lucky to have more experienced people like you shining the way through the FOP maze! All the best to you as well

  3. What a brave and honest blog. You really are so inspiring to so many people – lawyers, family, friends, gay community, disabled community, youth, mental health sufferers. Your attitude is admirable and inspirational. We love you for being a truly wonderful young man.

    1. Thank you so much Jenny. It means a lot to ready your lovely comment. The journey has certainly been made a lot more enjoyable having lovely friends like you and your beautiful family along the way. Lots of love

    2. Thankyou for this Ollie. Such an honest portrayal and inspiring acceptance and example. Thanks for this blog. It will help so many people and deepen our gratitude. We love you and admire you and are so very very grateful that you are in our lives. Thankyou XXX

      1. Thank you for your lovely comment Clare. So lucky and thankful to have you and your beautiful family in my life

    3. Ollie, you are such an inspiration to so many! Thank you for writing your blog, I hope the younger Fopers are reading it, because it might inspire them to greatness! Lots of the time I feel that I didn’t push my Sara enough and now I feel she has just given up, I wish I had done more when she was younger because Fop has now ravaged her poor body terribly. You are a wonderful writer!

  4. Can’t help but admire your outlook on life Ollie. Your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings enriches us all and must encourage others who struggle with their own version of fears, self doubt or mental / physical challenges in life. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you Mandy! I think that while our journeys may be different in some respects on the surface, there are definitely common themes to what we as people go through and think about. Even though some may look at me and think they can’t relate, hopefully being able to peer back behind the curtain will help show that we’re all much the same underneath the surface

  5. Your beauty so extends beyond the physical Ollie. I watched you grow up, weather the storms, get knocked down & get back up and fight so many times. Your intellect, your expressions of truth and your quick wit…make my world brighter place to live in. The most evolved human beings are those that find their truth and live it honestly…not necessarily the guy with the nicest body or clothes or even the most friends. I can imagine the guy for you is out there, he just needs more work to be ready for your clear soul.

    1. Having you and your wonderful family in my life makes my world a brighter place too Amanda. As I said, I have so much love in my life already with beautiful friends like you, as well as my amazing family. I am already so blessed in that regard

  6. Ollie, I always enjoy reading your beautiful, heartfelt and inspirational words. It is incredible what you have achieved, despite your very significant and ever present disability. These photos are wonderful too and show how much love snd genuine friendships you have . Looking forward to sharing some triple Brie with you sometime! Love, Wendy

  7. Ollie, I’m Dad’s age and love your “ticker” . Everybody has a disability my friend, most aren’t visible. It’s the way we deal with it, the impact we make on others and the good name we leave behind us that counts. You have more than many others, the love, respect and admiration of friends and loves they would envy. As long you don’t follow the All Blacks you have mine too

    1. Thank you for your comment Kev. I know I am lucky to have many supporters walking on this journey with me. Hope you and the family are well!

  8. Oh Ollie, you are incredible. Disability can be horribly lonely, especially when people exclude you, either actively or passively. It is something I constantly struggle to reconcile and accept. Your comment that you sometimes feel so dependent on others but unable to help them in return, also struck a chord with me. But at the same time, my very first thought is that you do help others. You are brave. You are open and honest about your experiences, and you have such a positive outlook on life (despite those inevitable dark moments) that you shine. I can’t help but be inspired by you. But more than that, when I see photos of you, I smile – every time! It is because you are so genuine – your kindness and positive attitude shines through, and is so infectious it makes me happy. I love this blog. Keep up the great work!

    Also, triple cream brie is my all time weakness too! *drool*

    1. Thank you so much ash! That’s why our work in the group is so important. Hopefully we will get to a point one day when disability will be normalised, and we will all be celebrated for being individuals – whatever our story is! Glad you enjoyed 😊

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  10. Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is useful. Many thanks for sharing! Bel Benjamen Ambie

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