Hi friends! On the mental health awareness blog today I'm catching up with Daniel Kay. Daniel did an interview with me in 2020 and we spoke about his recovery from alcoholism and his mental health journey. Today we're doing a mental health check-in, seeing how sobriety is going, and also touching on what it's like for Daniel living with cerebral palsy. I'm so excited to have him back on the blog!! Check it out...
Please note: Trigger warnings for alcoholism and anxiety. Be mindful of what you do and do not need to read today.
Hey Daniel! How are you?
Hi Jemima! I’m good thanks. How are you?
I’m not too bad, thank you. How are you really?
I’m good, just finding time to rest.
That's important. Our first interview was in September 2020! And at the time we were celebrating you being sober for three years. How is sobriety going another year and 5 months on?
I haven’t had a drink which is good. I stopped early enough that I can still be around drink, and it not affect me. My family are supportive as well.
How do you stay on track with your sobriety these days? Do you have anything that really helps you?
Poetry helps me, because it gives me something to do to be honest. As I said before, my family make me laugh. If I feel down, I put a comedy on. But I go on a walk or to a tourist place near me once a week, and I find that helps a lot.
Finding those activities that distract us can be crucial. I love that you put a comedy on, I find when I feel down my instinct is to turn to morbid programmes like true crime which do not help at all! You've got the right idea with comedy to combat a low mood.
Did lockdown have an effect on your journey of sobriety?
Honestly, it didn’t. Mostly because I listened to IT as an audiobook and I went to online poetry events. Then we moved back in with my sister and brother in law in between lockdowns. I find if I’ve got nothing on, that’s when I start thinking about drink. So I try and have something to do, even if it’s one thing and I know I don’t need to do it right away, I’m ok.
We spoke about the fact you play powerchair football in our first interview, are you still playing?
Yeah I’m still playing. We’ve just started back up again.
I’m assuming Covid got in the way of playing your sport for a while. Did this, and any other aspects of Covid and all the changes it brought, have an impact on your mental health?
I didn’t touch a ball for about two years, so it was almost like starting afresh. It’s been hard, but it’s nice to see my team again. We’ve also signed two girls who have got potential, so that’ll be interesting.
You have cerebral palsy, for anyone who doesn’t know about it, can you explain what this means and how it impacts your life, physically or mentally?
There are many types of Cerebral Palsy (CP), and they say that no two CP conditions are the same. I’ve got Spastic quadriplegia, which is a specific type of spastic cerebral palsy that refers to difficulty in controlling movements in the arms and the legs. Those who experience this form of Cerebral Palsy will not have paralysis of the muscles but rather jerking motions that come from stiffness within all four limbs. In my case, I’m lucky because I only jump (or spasm) when I hear a loud noise or when something makes me jump. I always try and tell people, “Apart from being in a wheelchair, I’m like an abled bodied person.” I know what I can and can’t do, and I’m happy being in a wheelchair because, to be honest, I’m lazy. I wouldn’t have liked to walk up stairs.
You and I recently had a conversation about the fact you believe you suffer from anxiety. Firstly, thank you so much for sharing that with me and for allowing me to bring it up today. I was wondering whether you’ve been able to consider reaching out for support with this, or whether you’ve found any coping mechanisms which help you?
It’s no problem, I always believe in telling the truth. I was talking to my brother-in-law after I played a game and I was saying how before the games I always have to fight this feeling in my stomach. It’s not nerves, it’s just a feeling. And he said that’s anxiety. When he said that, it was like something clicked. Because I sometimes have that feeling if I go out to somewhere new or if I’m not sure if the place has an accessible toilet. I’ve downloaded the Calm app for when I need to sleep or slow my mind. I’ve got quite a sarcastic humour and I can see comedy in the weirdest things, so that helps. But I keep saying to myself, “Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.” And, “Everything will be alright.” And it’s working at the moment.
What would you say to somebody who doesn’t think it’s important to try to understand what it is like to live with a disability?
This arises almost everyday for us as a family. Either there are no dropped curbs, or there’s a car parked over them, small things like that. I’d say two things, “This chair is my legs, so just leave enough space please.” And, “if you’re not sure, ask me and my family, because we’ve been doing this since I was 2 years old. So don’t be afraid to ask.”
What would you say to someone who doesn’t think it’s important to try to understand what it’s like to live with mental health issues?
I’d say, “Would you say that if someone had a condition or an illness that's visible?” Everyone has got mental health, and you can’t always see when there's issues. So always try and be kind. Treat people as you’d want to be treated and again, if you’re not sure, just ask.
As a fellow creative, tell me about your current creative pursuits and where people can check out your work…
My YouTube channel is DK4 Poetry https://youtube.com/channel/UCkfI1gQda5vQf10rip_8SnA. On Facebook I’m Daniel Kay and DK4 Poetry. And on Twitter and Instagram I’m @dk4poetry.
Thanks so much again for this opportunity. I really appreciate it. Never forget how amazing you are Jemima.
Daniel, thank you so much for catching up with me today and yet again for being so honest and open about your life. I have no doubt that your story will be relatable in many ways for many people. You're amazing and a beacon of light within my life. Continue to look after you, you're important. And please continue to be as honest as you are, it's powerful and it helps to encourage change in attitudes towards things such as addiction, disability and mental health issues.
If you're reading this today and you're struggling with your mental health in any way, please reach out, you're not alone. See a doctor, speak to someone you trust, or you can visit the support page on this website where you'll find a list of crisis resources.