Stillness in a Challenged Landscape

26th July 2023

Living with disability brings such a different perspective. The things people take for granted are difficult, such as simply taking a shower. Chronic disease and illness not only bring an unrelenting range of symptoms but also sap energy and cause fatigue. Medication side effects contribute and expenses rise to run equipment; not all people are eligible for support and it is a daily battle.

The Quakers in Britain Swarthmore Lecture in 2023 shared Esther Loukin’s experiences and is open to everyone to watch on YouTube. Empathetically I found myself in an everyday, familiar territory, but it shouldn’t be like this.

Quakers reach out to all inclusively to embrace equality and improve our lives. We all have health issues with setbacks in life and we all respond differently to them. This doesn’t rise to judgement. I don’t compare my pain with others. Internally I have my own pain scale because I have experienced them all from a minimal 1 to an unconscious 10; this doesn’t mean that everyone’s scale carries the same symptoms.

This is much the same in Quakerism, our differences are encompassed in love.

Being a Quaker has helped me to embrace this by living adventurously through my difficulties. Friends support me, never judge me and welcome me to participate in actions. Our values, sometimes referred to as 'Spices', of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Sustainability enrich my life.

When I am upset from pain, physical and/or emotional, I have Friends who understand and who check on me. I can talk over judgements where I have been accused of exaggerating or faking. It is enough to navigate the disabled world without proving yourself and that is how my Quakerism holds me tightly. It is a warm embrace where my peace can be restored.

All of my life I have held Quaker values and found Quakerism in my 30s. I came home to a world where everything is possible, but maybe in a different way and Friends help me to accomplish dreams.

An internal voice of conscience is nurtured by Quakerism. I find strong love in peaceful silence which gives time for my body and mind to rest whilst connecting with others around me. Individual beliefs mould me into who I am and my uniqueness is encouraged and acknowledged. It is an important mental health aspect to chronic illness giving purpose and normality through connection.

Disability turns you upside down as the grief cycle spins. Each new symptom leading to another diagnosis makes you question your way of life once again. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance reroutes your internal navigation. The fight or flight response triggers stress which leads to inflammation. Frustration over misdiagnoses and disbelief angers your honest outlook. Hopelessness upsets wellbeing. Then reaching out to others finds support and ultimately acceptance to move on in new ways. Adapting to life and resetting your boundaries gives a refreshed, peaceful journey. It is with Quakers where I find this quickly and supportively.

Throughout society barriers block the way. Choosing to fight over the top of them, retreat away or to sit quietly next to them opens different pathways. By sitting in silence and allowing thoughts to disappear, worries settle, and listening to my spiritual world provides an answer. Energy dictates whether to challenge, how to challenge, and it slows down the fast, spinning world. So many ways to report, blog (like this), talk and make connections are more accessible now. Online Zoom sessions enable inclusivity and a way to give back and help others which brings happiness through difficulty.

Lived experience can gently open up comfort to people entering their grief and bonding with kindness nurtures integrity. All of these natural, loving ways is Quakerism.

Who would have thought that adapting to mobility problems would not hinder personal growth? Learning to adapt and do things in another way gives me the choice to share examples of how not to give up. And there are many times when you want to give up, so I settle into peaceful silence for restorative gratitude.

A Friend shocked me recently. I explained I would do this, because of my illness. I was told in kindness that I shouldn’t have to. Society was responding to different needs by offering to adapt for me instead of the other way round. That is true inclusiveness. We assessed a site ahead of the event where I took a tour with my mobility scooter and my needs were accommodated so I could take part equally and as independently as possible. Quakers care and support, gently guide with kindness and I feel safe to reciprocate love.

Smiling is fraught with danger as common perspective is to judge that happiness is not possible in pain and disability. Invisibly disease creeps on insidiously, wrapped up in a life of fitting in, pushing through and ignorant misunderstanding.

I broke this by realising I am loved, I am enough as I am with no need to disguise. And I found this within me where my God and Light lie always.

Are you a Quaker? Does my experience resonate with you? You are welcome, everyone is, we are all equal.


Amanda Jones – Okehampton Quaker Meeting

You can find more from Amanda on her website and social media channels – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.