Wednesday 12 October 2016

What Are You Here For?

Having heard some of the stories of PTSD experienced by incredible Ex-Servicemen and Servicewomen from the Armed Services, to see the drive of Olympians and their training, be it to simply become one, or to win titles for their nation, I wondered if the most important thing in life, is to know what you're on this earth to do? What are you meant to do in your life? What do you want your purpose to be?

I can't help but think that if you feel you have a purpose in life and are fulfilling it, it would make you're life incredibly rewarding. Of course this doesn't need to be as glamorous as becoming an Olympian, or as dramatic as serving your country on a battlefield, or in my own case, aiming to break records. It could be something as simple as feeling that you've become a great mother or father, or that you've helped someone in your life through the charity of becoming a volunteer. I think if you feel you have a purpose in life, you should never let that go and focus as best you can in achieving your purpose.

Of course your purpose can and probably will change in life, and with it can come a vacuum of the lack of purpose. Conversely however, you can also fill a vacuum too. You can become satisfied with a sense of achievement, a sense of having made an impact or a difference.

I think many people struggle in life, when they find themselves feeling like they haven't achieved enough, that they can do more, that they can contribute more and I know I may be a bit guilty of that myself. My sense of unfulfilled purpose comes from the burden of debt I feel from my life being changed beyond recognition and the fact I know there's still work to do to tackle the stigma of Epilepsy. But maybe as long as you can get to a point in life where you feel you've achieved your purpose, that could be a good thing? Maybe that's what achieves change and progress?

Of course things may present themselves to you, because of disability as well. It can make you realise where there are inequalities, or even opportunities. As the Olympians took their bow in Rio this summer, it was the turn of the Paralympics to take centre stage. There were many highlights of the Games themselves and of the surrounding coverage too, but one moment stood out and made me think. When Channel 4's Alex Brooker talked about the incredible quote of Alex Zinardi's, it made me realise, that how epilepsy had disabled me, had also led me down a path to my cycling, that it wouldn't have otherwise done, had I not had the break through seizure 11 years ago. Zinardi talked of a blessing, and while epilepsy has its challenges, the condition has given me a purpose and that to me, is a blessing.

I have friends who are affected with the condition in a very similar way I am, and while we could live pretty normal lives, there are barriers of a lack of legal protection, of a lack of understanding, that combined with how my own epilepsy disables me, meant I ended up as an Ultra-Cyclist. For the first time, I understood, through Alex Zinardi's words, that being disabled from driving, gave me the gift, not only to fight Epilepsy stigma, but specifically, to do it on a bicycle. Previously, I didn't think of myself as being disabled, but I realised this summer through the Paralympics that I am disabled from doing certain things through my epilepsy, but that I should never be ashamed of that and instead embrace it. So far, through RAAM, through century ride after century ride, I have and the reason is that I have an opportunity to make a statement about certain hidden disabilities, including my own.

More than anything, what I want to demonstrate through the WR attempt over 24 hours, that this idea, that someone would need a driving licence because they have to travel to meet customers, or to go to meetings, is a dud. Even charities which hold themselves in the highest standards in the UK are using a loophole, to discriminate against my disability and others, either through planning, or simply thoughtlessness. It's lazy and the simple fact is that these employers could be missing out on some of the most talented potential employees they could hope for. That's why alongside the ride, I'm aiming to challenge the fact there is no law in the UK from preventing employers from adding an essential requirement for a Driving Licence, even when the role only involves business travel. It's abused and I hope by cycling over half the distance from one end of the UK to another in a day, that it's also completely mad.

I'd encourage anyone in the UK that believes in it to sign in and hopefully together, we can change the law and the vacuum created in my life that was left, when I had to leave the Police because, legitimately I couldn't carry a firearm on my belt, in my CS Spray, wasn't created for nothing.