Hosted by Sophie Elwes, who knows a thing or two about overcoming difficulties, after sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2011. Each episode Sophie will interview an extraordinary guest who has faced and overcome enormous challenges and adversity and is achieving incredible things in spite of what they've had to deal with. She'll be finding out their story, about their greatest struggles and triumphs, and asking them what advice they would share with other people dealing with challenges of their own.
Sarah Orr - Breaking her neck at 16, backpacking across Australia as a wheelchair user and gaining perspective through working in developing countries
After breaking her neck at the age of 16 in a car crash whilst on holiday in the Highlands, Sarah’s life took a course that was far from ordinary. We speak about her rehab in the spinal unit, where, thanks to some ‘tough love’ from her physio she learned to become completely independent, despite being tetraplegic. She tells me about the early days of adjustment following her injury, how difficult it was going back to school as a wheelchair user, especially having been recently selected to play hockey for Scotland prior to her injury. We speak about the challenges she faced early on and about the support she found most helpful, which came in the form of meeting others who’d gone through something similar. She has travelled extensively, including backpacking across Australia and New Zealand for seven months, and has spent time in various developing countries working with disability organisations, to educate and inform about living with spinal cord injury, where people’s experience of living with paralysis is vastly different from in the UK. Her spinal cord injury transferred her attention from environmental matters to human rights, which led her to do a master's degree in human rights and she has spent time working with refugees. We speak about the challenges we face as wheelchair users, and Sarah shares the things that frustrate her in daily life. She’s a great friend of mine and is my go-to for advice about all things, not just SCI-related. She has some wise words of advice at the end which are relevant for all.
Marsha de Cordova MP - Growing up partially sighted, stepping up and becoming an MP to create change and being a voice for the voiceless
Marsha de Cordova is the Labour MP for Battersea since 2017 and is currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. She was born with nystagmus and is registered blind. We speak about her upbringing, with five siblings, where her mum fought for her to remain in mainstream education, she says if she hadn't, she wouldn't be where she is today. Marsha entered politics because she's passionate about fair and equal rights and wanted to be a 'voice for the voiceless' - particularly campaigning for disability rights. We speak about how Covid has unfairly impacted certain sectors of society and about how it has exposed existing inequalities in society. Marsha explains how it has had a greater impact on people with disabilities, with regards to both support but also in terms of deaths from the virus - six in 10 deaths was a person with a disability or underlying health condition. We discuss the disability employment gap, social care and access and inclusion and how far we have to go before we can claim to be inclusive as a society. Marsha is emphatic about encouraging other people with disabilities to 'make their voices heard.' She's also been involved in campaigning to make entering politics more accessible for disabled people.
Jonny Benjamin MBE - Managing mental illness, self-compassion and the art of listening
Jonny Benjamin MBE is an awarding winning mental health campaigner, writer, film producer, public speaker and vlogger. At the age of 20 he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar. Having been affected by mental illness from a young age, Jonny is passionate about improving mental health for young people, and has started up a charity Beyond. The charity held the first-ever mental health and wellbeing festival for primary and secondary schools during Children’s Mental Health Week in February this year. Jonny tells me his story about how mental illness has affected him from a young age and about the devastation he felt at getting a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder due to the stigma surrounding it. He tells me about his intention to take his own life and about the life-changing meeting he had with the stranger on the bridge and about how his words of positivitiy and optimism changed Jonny’s mind, which led him on, some years later, to create a campaign to find this stranger called ‘Find Mike’ with the charity Rethink Mental Illness which went viral and was shared by millions all over the world. We speak about the pressure on teachers to take responsibility for children and young people’s mental health and how more action needs to be taken to support this. We discuss compassion focused therapy and self-love – an area we are both passionate about. And Jonny emphasises the importance of active listening – something that many of us don’t do properly, but can be hugely helpful for people. There is still a damaging stigma around mental illness and Jonny is having an amazing impact in dismantling this. And for many people right now, poor mental health is absolutely rife and so I was so pleased to have this conversation with Jonny, to hopefully shine some positivity and hope for those struggling, that there are ways to get better. Jonny also gives some great advice for those wanting to help others. jonnybenjamin.co.uk educationsupport.org.uk mentalhealthmates.co.uk self-compassion.org @mrjonnybenjamin @sophieelwes
Millie Gooch: Hangover anxiety, creating Sober Girl Society and why sober dating is superior to drunk dating
Millie Gooch is the founder of Sober Girl Society, an online community which destigmatises sobriety, and brings women together who want to connect and have fun, without the booze. Millie quit drinking in 2018 after experiencing one too many blackouts and the terrible accompanying ‘hanxiety’, leading her to read Catherine Gray’s The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, which kick-started her sober journey. We both talk about our relationship with alcohol, the scary situations its landed us in, and the contradiction of how many of us are so mindful about our health, yet ignore the fact that alcohol is a toxic substance. She opens up about how things were in the early days of sobriety, sober clubbing, and that smug feeling of feeling great when everyone else is worse for wear. We discuss how we both have used alcohol as ‘dutch courage’ and she shares about how quitting forced her to step into her anxiety and sit with her discomfort. Millie talks about her book, which I found was an absolute breath of fresh air, and provided a really positive stance on why getting sober or becoming ‘sober curious’ has myriad benefits and is an option definitely worth exploring. We speak about the narrative we’ve all been given around alcohol, thanks to its gigantic marketing budget to persuade us that drinking is the right option, the memes about gin o’clock, to the automatic assumption that any sort of celebration requires cracking open the bubbly. Millie tells me about how, for her, sober dating has been such a positive experience and also about the events they run at the Sober Girl Society from dance classes to boozeless brunches.
Megan Hine - How routine saved her life, recovering from Lyme disease and how to find your inner resilience in these challenging times
Megan Hine is a survival consultant, producer, adventurer and television presenter. She is also the author of Mind of a Survivor. During her career she has survived a snakebite, Lyme disease, being shot at and hunted by a lion, amongst many other things. An Ambassador for Scouting UK, Megan is passionate about enabling children and young people to experience the wealth of benefits that being in the outdoors and in the wilderness can bring. We talk about how we are not equipped with the skills to cope with the stresses of modern day life, she shares some valuable thoughts about finding our inner resilience as well as some great advice about having a healthy relationship with social media. Often being the only woman in a role that is typically held by men, Megan is on a mission to diversify representation in the industry. We discuss the power of routine, and how its actually saved her life in the past and how creativity can be the key to survival. Working with a wide range of people from A-list celebrities, to local tribespeople, she is extremely versatile. It was fascinating about hearing her experience meeting uncontacted tribes and how these experiences have taught her a great deal about communication and working with others. @megan_hine @sophieelwes For more information about Lyme see globallymealliance.org
Karen Darke MBE - Training her brain to become a Paralympic champion, climbing El Capitan as a paraplegic and learning to enjoy the process
Karen Darke tells me about being injured aged 21 in a mountain climbing accident and how she overcame her fear of heights following this accident to eventually climb El Capitan, as a paraplegic using just her arms. She shares with me her story from first riding a handcycle to becoming a Paralympic champion in Rio in 2016, helped, along with a lot of training, motivation and hard work, by an understanding of how to train her brain and reframe negative thoughts in order to manifest a positive outcome. She tells me about her trip when she cross-country skied across the Greenland ice cap where the challenge lay not only in the physical exertion for a month, but in managing her disability under such extreme conditions. She credits being part of a team with a common objective as a huge part of what makes each adventure particularly special. Karen has done a lot of work in personal development and brain training and shared some fascinating insights about how to combat negative self-talk and achieve goals. She works as a transformational coach and, alongside training for the next paralympic games, is passionate about helping others remove blocks to success and reaching their potential through helping them train their brains. karendarke.com backuptrust.org.uk accessadventures.co.uk @sophieelwes