Your health: Poetic justice
A creative outlook gave Donna Scraggs, 46, from Liverpool, a release from her painful condition
Hobbling down the street with my walking aid, I let out a pained groan, as I felt the muscles in my leg tighten uncomfortably. As if the pain and stiffness wasn’t bad enough, I felt embarrassed as other pedestrians sighed impatiently, brushing past me.
Born with spastic paraplegia, a rare and incurable genetic
Writing took me away from my body, to a different world
condition, I suffered weakness and stiffness in my leg muscles.
When I was younger, I missed lots of school to have operations on my legs, and struggled to keep up with the work.
Relying on my wheelchair and walking aids, I was often frustrated with the limitations my body enforced on me.
Feeling so restricted all the time took a heavy toll on my mental health.
I had no self-confidence, and struggled with depression and anxiety.
My only outlet was creativity – I loved writing, painting, any such activities.
In the summer of 2000, I was on a jewellery-making course when I got chatting to one of my fellow class members. ‘Hi,’ he said, eyes twinkling. ‘I’m Christopher.’ ‘Hello,’ I smiled.
Kind, patient and funny, he was unlike anyone I’d ever met before.
He wasn’t scared off by my disability, either, and soon we fell for each other.
As our relationship progressed, we started talking about starting a family.
But I was terrified of passing on my condition. ‘I’d hate for our child to struggle with everything I’ve already been through,’ I said. ‘They might not get it, and you’d be an amazing mum,’ Christopher replied. He convinced me not to let my disability hold me back, and when our daughter Georgia was born in 2008, we were over the moon. Georgia hadn’t inherited my condition, and she grew into a beautiful, energetic little girl.
But although I loved my family, the constant pain and frustration got to me.
In 2016, I had counselling for depression and, in the waiting room, I saw a poster.
It was from the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), a charity dedicated to adult education, and it was offering creative writing classes.
So, in January 2017, I nervously went along to my first class.
Writing took me away from my body, as if I were in a different world. But the thought of reading out my work left me shaking with fear.
The ladies in the class were so encouraging, though, and I soon managed to muster the courage to share my
writing with the group.
Then, in June last year, I went on stage at our local theatre, as part of my poetry group’s showcase.
I was anxious but, as soon as I saw my Georgia, 10, and Christopher in the audience, I took a deep breath and went for it.
Since then, I’ve been performing at open mic nights.
I use words as a vehicle to express myself, and help my mental health.
Creativity has given me a voice, and I’m not going to let my condition keep me quiet any longer.
With daughter Georgia
Me, Christopher and Georgia