Chronically Fabulous: The Critical Role of D&D in an Isolated World

Covid-19, Gaming, Josie Quinn, Mental Health

By Josie Quinn

“In a year of isolation and fear, Dungeons & Dragons has not only kept me connected with the outside world, but has also allowed me to make some incredible new friends along the way, as well as giving all of us the much needed chance to escape our current reality, even if only for a few hours.”

For most of my life, I have suffered with a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety and PTSD, so over the years I have tried all manner of treatments and therapies: medication, counselling, CBT, meditation, workbooks, exercise, goal charts, light therapy; basically, if you have ever heard of something recommended to help boost mental health, chances are I’ve tried it! But something I didn’t expect was such a positive impact from playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Image
My Dungeons and Dragons Hoard!

For the uninitiated, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game, meaning all you need to play is dice, pencil and paper and your imagination. First launched in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons has remained the best-known, and best-selling tabletop RPG ever since, but the past few years have seen a huge resurgence of interest in the game, with record numbers of people playing for the first time. This is partly due to the streamlined 5th Edition of the game being released in 2014, but also due to the influence of popular culture, with TV shows like Community and Stranger Things featuring the game prominently, and webseries like the incredible Critical Role (currently at 1.15million YouTube subscribers) getting a whole new generation of gamers interested in D&D. Wizards of the Coast, the company who produce D&D, had their best year of sales to date in 2019, seeing a 300% increase in sales of the Starter Set Kits, and a 65% increase on sales of all D&D products in Europe.

I am not alone in seeing how beneficial D&D can be. Numerous organisations (such as Game To Grow, RPG Therapeutics and the Bodhana Group) use role-playing games like D&D as a therapy tool for a number of conditions, as well as to provide emotional support to teens and children. It can even give them a safe space to consider their gender, by letting them play a character of a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth. Therapists, teachers and parents have all praised D&D for helping children develop empathy, problem-solving skills, social skills, literacy and basic arithmetic; and the whole time the children just think they’re fighting orcs and adopting the occasional goblin!

Follow Women Like Us on Facebook and Twitter

Personally, having always been a gamer, once my EDS meant I was no longer able to use a videogame controller for any extended period, I started looking into playing tabletop-based games. As someone who enjoys writing, playing RPGs and reading fantasy novels, D&D seemed the perfect choice. I had already seen the excellent ‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ episode of Community, so started researching everything I could online, as well as watching Critical Role for character ideas and tips on how to play. By the time I managed to start my first in-person game, I was already pretty sure I was going to love this game; but I really didn’t anticipate the mental health benefits.

When I joined a game at a local game store a few years ago, I only knew a couple of the other players in the group and was feeling fairly anxious, as it can often take me a long time to feel comfortable enough to speak up around new people. Almost immediately, I began to feel more sure of myself in the group; I was making suggestions and talking and laughing with people I’d never met. It was a feeling I’d not experienced since my amateur acting days, and the reason I’d always enjoyed playing other characters. For those few hours each week, I was no longer the socially awkward woman in the wheelchair, embarrassed that she has to be physically carried up and down the stairs of the shop each week; I was Thia Nightbreeze, a stocky little wood-elf war cleric, who enjoyed nothing more than smashing bad guys with her warhammer, being a little too fond of wine and ale and hitting on every barmaid she encountered!

The biggest impact, however, has been seen since the first Covid restrictions began, almost a year ago. Like many people, especially those with mental health conditions, I have been finding the lockdowns and social-distancing measures increasingly difficult to cope with, but I can say with confidence that, were it not for my various online D&D groups, I would be in a much darker place than I am now. In fact, scrolling through my 2020 diary, without D&D, most of my weeks would have been fairly empty! No matter how tough it is to motivate myself to do anything at all most days, I never need to force myself to prepare for a game, and I am always excited, rather than anxious, about the upcoming session.

Get incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us in your inbox …


For one, or sometimes even two nights a week, I was in a video-chat with a group of friends, and for those hours we no longer had to be stuck alone at home, waiting nervously for the next awful news headline or lockdown announcement; instead we could be whoever and whatever we wanted to be, travelling fantasy lands, encountering memorable characters along the way, battling monsters, casting spells and, somewhat ironically, spending altogether too much time in taverns! We even had some holiday themed adventures: playing through a haunted house on Halloween, with most players in fancy dress; and spending time together over Christmas, battling Krampus whilst wearing Christmas jumpers and Santa hats.

In a year of isolation and fear, Dungeons & Dragons has not only kept me connected with the outside world, but has also allowed me to make some incredible new friends along the way, as well as giving all of us the much needed chance to escape our current reality, even if only for a few hours.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

Like, Comment and Share the Love.

Follow Women Like Us


Random Thoughts: Dear 15-Year-Old Me …

Janine Norris: A letter of hope and understanding from the future to her struggling teenage self.

Giving Shame the Finger!

Louise Clare Dalton. “Let’s talk about shame baby, let’s talk about it and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the … oh wait. Hon, let’s not kid ourselves, there isn’t much ‘good’ to speak of when it comes to the shame surrounding sexuality and queerness.

Chronically Fabulous: Disabled and Sexy are not Mutually Exclusive Terms

Disability, Josie Quinn, Sex

By Josie Quinn

“In much the same way that cisgender men playing transgender women reinforces the erroneous and harmful idea that they are “women in dresses”, having attractive/sexual disabled characters played only by non-disabled actors suggests that sexy disabled people do not exist, that they have simply taken an already attractive actor and given them a CGI prosthetic.”

Considering many of us have spent the last three-quarters of a year mostly stuck at home, I suspect I am not the only one who has spent a large amount of that time binge-watching films and TV box-sets on the myriad streaming services which have popped up over the past few years. Something I began to notice quite quickly was that something was missing from the glamourous, sexy cast members, and from the steamy love scenes, which seems to have become more prevalent in recent years. There were no people with disabilities. There were disabled characters on occasion, but in general they were never involved in any romantic or sexual plotlines.

Rosie Jones - Home | Facebook
Comedian Rosie Jones

I am a wheelchair user myself, and as well as having friends with disabilities, I’ve also ended up talking to a large number of people with disabilities, either through treatment groups, support groups or online message boards. In my experience, disabled people are just as likely to be interested in sex and relationships as anyone else! We are also just as likely to want to feel, and be seen as, sexy or beautiful. I love dressing up to go out, spending time on my make-up and taking advantage of being a wheelchair user by wearing sexy, super high, high-heels; it helps me feel confident. That confidence does get knocked about a bit, however, thanks to some of the harmful stereotypes: whether by the idiot at the bar who, on meeting me for the first time, asked me if things “work down there”, or by the well-meaning older lady at the restaurant on holiday, who said it was wonderful to see what an effort I’d made “considering…”; she trailed off at that point and simply waved her arms up and down, gesturing to me in general, so I’m still unsure whether she meant my disability or the chair itself.

Follow Women Like Us on Facebook and Twitter

For anyone who doesn’t personally know somebody with disabilities, their only real point of reference is the limited number of disabled characters shown on screen. This is one of the reasons accurate representation of disability in the media is so important, because the way disabled people are portrayed can reinforce many of the negative stereotypes about disability. In a 2014 poll by The Observer, 44% of Britons said they would not consider having sex with someone who had a physical disability.

Despite 22% of the UK population having some form of disability, the Creative Diversity Network report found that disabled people make up only 7.8% of on-screen contributors to British TV, and GLAAD found that across all US primetime shows, only 2.1% of series regulars (i.e. cast members with recurring roles) had some form of disability. The disparity between these figures makes it all the more important to portray disabled people accurately, and to not fall into stereotypes.  

J from Indy on Twitter: "Although @GameOfThrones bypassed the Penny  storyline, if they were to cast Penny, Francesca Miles (Cherry) from @Hulu  Harlots would be perfect! This powder keg of personality would
Francesca Mills in the BBC/Starz series Harlots

Unfortunately, more often than not, characters with disabilities fall into one of a variety of outdated, sexless tropes. To clarify, when I say ‘sexless’ I am talking only about characters whose sexuality/romantic inclinations are disregarded entirely; I would have no issue whatsoever if there was a disabled character who also identified as asexual and/or aromantic. These characters are usually either: childlike, perpetual innocents (often taken on a platonic “date” or similar by a Prom King/Queen type, either out of pity or genuine friendship, but invariably to show what a saintly person the non-disabled character is); an object of pity, like Bella in Notting Hill; or twisted and bitter due to their disabilities, as with the character of Poison in Netflix’s Bright, or Will in Me Before You. Those last two examples even make specific reference to the impact the disability has had on the character’s sex life/romantic relationships: Poison states that his paraplegia means he is unable to have sex with his wife; and in Me Before You, Will decides that suicide is preferable to being disabled, and that his death will allow the person he loves to live a full life on her own instead of “half a life” with him.

There have been a few films recently which have featured a disabled character who is either clearly meant to be sexy or is shown to have a romantic/sexual relationship, such as Sofia Boutella in Kingsman, Dwayne Johnson in Skyscraper, and Sebastian Stan in the Avengers series. Whilst this is definitely a step forward, none of these actors are actually disabled. And in much the same way that cisgender men playing transgender women reinforces the erroneous and harmful idea that they are “women in dresses”, having attractive/sexual disabled characters played only by non-disabled actors suggests that sexy disabled people do not exist, that they have simply taken an already attractive actor and given them a CGI prosthetic.

Get incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us in your inbox …


Personally, I can only recall a handful of examples of disabled characters, who are played by actors with disabilities, being shown as sexually active, and perhaps less who are portrayed as objects of desire. The best example of both of these that I can think of is the character of Cherry Dorrington (played by Francesca Mills) in the BBC/Starz series Harlots. Cherry is curvaceous, glamourous, confident and unashamedly sexy; she wears the same stunning corsets, gowns and make-up as the rest of the cast. She also happens to have dwarfism.

Mom Poses As Cinderella With a Glass Arm in Powerful Photo Shoot | Mom.com
Be the Spark Cosplay: Mandy Pursley as Cinderella with glass arm

Thankfully, more and more artists with disabilities are now emerging to show the world that disability can be beautiful, glamourous, sexy and that disabled people can (and do!) have sex. Models like Jillian Mercado, who uses an electric wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy, and has modelled across the world, posing for magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan; drag queens like Yvie Oddly, my fellow member of the EDS club, who uses the joint hypermobility symptom of her condition to contort her body into weird and wonderful positions, and won her season of RuPaul’s Drag Race; stand-up comedians like Rosie Jones, an out and proud lesbian with cerebral palsy, who shies away from neither her sexuality nor her disability in her material; cosplayers like Mandy Pursley, better known online as Be The Spark Cosplay, who reimagines classic characters by incorporating her disability, like Cinderella with a glass prosthetic arm instead of a slipper.

So, although it is clear we still have some way to go, disabled representation has definitely come a long way in the past decade, and I look forward to watching it continue.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

Like, Comment and Share the Love.

Follow Women Like Us


New Year, New Queer

Louise Clare Dalton on switching labels from Bi to Queer. But do we even need labels any more?

2020 Vision

Bi-sexuality, Covid-19, Josie Quinn

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ post by Josie Quinn

“This year, Christmas is going to look very different, and it’s going to be really difficult for a lot of people, but that just makes it all the more important to be grateful for whatever moments of cheer we can manage.”

No description available.

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year; some would even say I love it to a degree inappropriate for someone in her early thirties (and to those people, I would likely stick out my tongue and call them a Scrooge!). In fact, my brother and I still insist on our mum filling the advent calendars she made for us as children with chocolate each year, despite us both reaching adulthood more than a decade ago. I love everything about it: getting to wear Christmas jumpers/earrings, decorating the house, finding the perfect presents to get everyone, drinking hot chocolate whilst watching my dog run in the snow.

So when I got a stomach bug last Christmas, I’ll admit I felt pretty sorry for myself. My partner had come round on the night of Christmas Eve; but unfortunately by that point I’d already started to feel unwell. Hoping it would pass, we had an early night, but when I awoke on Christmas morning I felt much worse; I spent the first hour of the day alternating between opening presents and rushing to the bathroom to be ill, which wasn’t the cosy, romantic Christmas morning I’d envisioned! By the time my partner left to visit his parents, I had crawled back into bed, where I stayed until the evening. Christmas dinner is usually one of my favourite meals, but last year my entire dinner consisted of one pig-in-a-blanket, one bite of turkey, half a roast potato and a glass of water. More devastatingly, and for the first Christmas in the thirty-something years since I developed teeth, I didn’t manage to eat a single chocolate all day!

Follow Women Like Us on Facebook and Twitter

Looking back on things through the corona-tinted lenses of 2020, my perspective has changed drastically. With Tier-2 restrictions in full force, having to choose the two households I’ll be able to see over Christmas has made me seriously re-evaluate so many things: not only how lucky I am, but how grateful I am to the people around me, and just how much I appreciate, and miss, the social interactions that I’d been taking for granted.

Although a couple of days over Christmas last year weren’t great, I’m now thinking about the weeks either side: Christmas shopping with mum; wrapping up warm and meeting friends in town for fancy, overpriced, seasonal coffees; going to friends’ houses to drink Baileys and exchange presents. I loved getting hugs from my godchildren and those few minutes of their excitement on opening the presents I’d brought, before they became more interested in the next present/family cat/cardboard box which had contained the presents. At the time, they all seemed so everyday, just things that “always” happen around that time of year. But I now realise those moments are the reasons I’ve always loved Christmas so much, and they are the things I’m going to miss the most this year.

No description available.

This year, Christmas is going to look very different, and it’s going to be really difficult for a lot of people, but that just makes it all the more important to be grateful for whatever moments of cheer we can manage. So I’m still looking forward to the winter nights, watching Christmas films with friends, even if it will now be via webcam, and I’m going to enjoy playing Santa by doing doorstop present drops. But mostly I’m looking forward to this time next year when, fingers crossed, everything will be back to normal. Hopefully then, with the hindsight of 2020, I’ll be even more appreciative of being able to celebrate with friends and family.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

Like, Comment and Share the Love.

Follow Women Like Us


A Silent New Year’s Eve in a Field in the Middle of Nowhere

By Hayley Sherman: “At midnight, where fireworks exploded around the globe, just twelve hollow clangs of a cowbell sounded somewhere in the distance, then the disappointing toot of a depressed owl. Then more silence. Happy New Year to me!”

2020: Locking Down My mental Health

Covid-19, Josie Quinn, Mental Health

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ post by Josie Quinn

Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up.

I remember saying, on New Year’s Eve last year, something along the lines of “2020 is going to be my year!” (Finished laughing yet?! Good). Having spent the last several years putting in a lot of work towards improving my mental health, I was determined to keep making progress. I was volunteering at an animal shelter whenever able, had joined a regular D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) game group in town, and was even cast as the Cheshire Cat in a local theatre company production. So all in all I was feeling pretty good about things for the first month or so of the year. Then March arrived.

the new york times newspaper

When lockdown first started, I’ll be the first to admit I did not cope well! My depression and anxiety seemed to be vying for my attention at all times, locked in a battle which left me constantly bouncing between two states: either I stayed in bed for days at a time, listless and crying, or I was in a state of absolute panic, terrified that the isolation was going to undo years of therapy and hard work.

Follow Women Like Us on Facebook and Twitter

Not long into the pandemic, I caught myself, after a decade of not giving in to the urge to self-harm, looking at one of the knives in the kitchen and hearing that little voice once more, telling me how much better I would feel afterwards. Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up. I needed to find ways to feel connected (and, subsequently, sane), and it turns out that my fear of regressing was exactly the fuel I needed to motivate myself to do just that.

Despite having been a member of a number of online groups for some time, with the exception of ‘liking’ the occasional post, and having attended precisely one Book Group meet-up, I had never been particularly active in any of them. The first thing I needed to do was narrow these groups down a little, in essence creating a shortlist of those which (A) didn’t have an overwhelming number of members, (B) seemed more friendly/welcoming than argumentative, and (C) where I had something in common with everyone in the group, be they LGBTQ+, cosplay enthusiasts or tabletop gamers.

Get Incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us in Your Inbox …


Next was practically forcing myself to start commenting on other people’s posts; even if that meant setting myself reminder alarms to do so, or drafting and rewriting the comment multiple times until I felt comfortable enough to submit it. Admittedly, there were days where my anxiety would get the better of me, and I’d rewrite a comment ten or twenty times, then delete it completely, feeling like an utter failure. But on those days where I did manage to engage with other people, it began to feel like I was really on the right track.

“A small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.”

Beginning to join actual online events and video chats was a little more daunting. In pre-covid times I’d managed to attend one meeting of a local LGBTQ+ Book Group, so when I saw that they were still meeting via Zoom it seemed the perfect place to start, and hopefully build from. Though incredibly anxious in the build-up to the first group video call, once it started I soon began to feel much calmer, and afterwards was so happy that I hadn’t talked myself out of attending.

macbook pro displaying group of people

Ever since that first online meeting, things have just snowballed in the best possible way. Not only am I still attending the (now bi-monthly, and slightly expanded) Book, Film & Music Group, but also regular online D&D and board game nights; recently I’ve even helped set up a new group and have hosted some of our online game nights.

Somehow I have made more friends in the last six months than in the previous six years, and my diary is fuller now than it was before lockdown and social distancing began.

So maybe 2020 isn’t going to be the year of glowing progress I hoped it would, and that’s okay. In all honesty, I’m a little proud that I managed to make any headway whatsoever considering all that has happened in the world this year; a small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

Like, Comment and Share the Love.

Follow Women Like Us


Small Steps: Teaching During Section 28 and Beyond

By Janine Norris: “Don’t get me wrong, the insults still come thick and fast. Most recently I have mainly been ‘a short-haired, lesbian bitch!’ My general response to this is something along the lines of ‘You can’t insult me with fact and I’m not always a bitch’.”

2020 Vision

By Josie Quinn: “This year, Christmas is going to look very different, and it’s going to be really difficult for a lot of people, but that just makes it all the more important to be grateful for whatever moments of cheer we can manage.”

The Journey to Living a Queer Life

By Louise Clare Dalton: “This year I’ve had a chance to be that kid again. To follow my instincts. I marched into a salon hungover and chopped my hair off just because I fucking wanted to. I came out to my mum over the phone on Pride, I even asked my now girlfriend (she’s fantastic btw) out on our first date …”

Surviving Abuse: Finding My Strength in Breaking My Silence

Josie Quinn, Mental Health, Surviving Abuse

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ Post

By Josie Quinn

Content Warning: Domestic abuse, sexual assault

The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

My experiences of domestic abuse and sexual violence are something I never thought I would write about; for a long time it was something I didn’t think I would even speak about. After all, I was away from my abusive ex-partner (whom I will refer to simply as he/him from this point on for anonymity), so shouldn’t everything feel okay again now? Then, after a few years of denial, and probably one too many cocktails, I spilled the whole sordid story to a close friend. I’d been afraid that no-one would understand, that I would be judged for staying in such a toxic environment for such a long time, but she empathised completely, even sharing her own experiences of domestic abuse with me. Our conversation lasted for hours, and wasn’t the awful, shameful confession I’d been dreading; instead it felt like a catharsis. Suddenly, I was not alone.

The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Follow Women Like Us on Facebook and Twitter

Many years after the end of the abusive relationship, I was still suffering from flashbacks and night terrors, as well as having panic attacks when I saw anyone who resembled my ex-partner. When I finally spoke to a mental health professional about everything, and they told me I was suffering from PTSD, I nearly laughed! “Surely PTSD is only for serious trauma, like people who have served in the military or been violently attacked?” But when they broke it all down for me, the last fog of denial finally lifted: just because the sexual assaults happened within a relationship did not make them any less traumatic, nor any less a violation of consent. This was not something I would be able to just push through without help.

Suffolk Wellbeing were able to provide me with a course of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing) and, being the science nerd that I am, I thoroughly researched the treatment first! As well as finding it fascinating, I also found it helped my understanding of PTSD. Basically sometimes, when trauma is experienced, the brain is unable to process this information properly into long-term memory. This means that when something triggers a memory of the traumatic incident, the brain responds as if it were happening now, rather than in the past. EMDR uses rapid eye movement to try to assist the brain in processing the trauma into long-term memory, emulating REM sleep where this would usually occur naturally.

Following on from that, I was enrolled in the Freedom Programme, a 12-week course for survivors of domestic abuse, which is run by Lighthouse Women’s Aid (a fantastic charity, and brilliant resource for people who are either currently in a domestic abuse situation or who have left but are still feeling affected). It taught me all the different, subtle ways in which an abusive partner exerts control, how they can make us feel like we are going insane, or that we have no choice but to stay with them. The programme also allowed me to speak openly with other survivors, and to realise that there is no weakness in not being able to cope alone, in needing help. 

At the time, I had somehow managed to convince myself it wasn’t really happening. After I finally left, I was disgusted with myself, ashamed that I had stayed so long, allowed these things to happen. Now I’m just angry; he manipulated me, gas-lighted me, controlled me. And the words I still can’t say aloud, even after a decade: he raped me and sexually assaulted me. I’ve been told by my current counsellor that my anger is a step in the right direction, as I’m now finally putting the blame where it belongs.


So I know I have a way left to go before I reach a stage of acceptance. Even saying or hearing the word ‘rape’ still makes me feel nauseous. But thanks to a lot of work, EMDR treatment, and the support of Lighthouse Women’s Aid, as well as my family and friends, I can finally say these words aloud: “I am not a victim; I am a survivor. And it was not my fault.” Perhaps most importantly, I now actually believe them.

Lighthouse Women’s Aid provides advice & support for women in Suffolk who are experiencing, or have experienced, domestic abuse: www.lighthousewa.org.uk or call (01473) 228270

24hr Freephone National Domestic Abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 999 5428

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

Like, Comment and Share the Love.

Follow Women Like Us


Chronically Fabulous: Coming Out All Over Again

Bi-sexuality, Disability, Josie Quinn

By Josie Quinn

I was a proud, confident, bisexual woman, with every future stage of my life and career meticulously planned. At that time I had no idea that a few years later I would have to come out all over again, as someone with disabilities.

In my early twenties I thought I was done with coming out: the long, awkward heart-to-hearts, the well-meaning friends who wanted to be supportive but weren’t quite sure what to say, the comebacks prepared and my skin thickened ready for the ignorant remarks and judging looks of strangers. I was a proud, confident, bisexual woman, with every future stage of my life and career meticulously planned. At that time I had no idea that a few years later I would have to come out all over again, as someone with disabilities.

Before I turned 30 I had moved back in with my parents, after Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as the associated pain and medications, brought my legal career to a halt. Due to worsening mobility and pain, I had also started having to use a walking stick or wheelchair at all times, and although these helped me get around, they also effectively outed me to the world as a disabled woman.

Anyone who saw me could also now see that there was something “wrong” with me, and although in general people try to be kind/helpful, I have lost count of times I have been asked, by total strangers: “What’s wrong with you then?” or “So what did you do to yourself?” or similar questions. People would talk to the person pushing my chair rather than to me, lean on the back of my wheelchair, and even push me out of their way without speaking to me at all!

Follow Women Like Us on Facebook and Twitter

At first I thought the best way forward was to simply appear as able-bodied as possible; I tried to avoid taking my wheelchair places, and would force myself to walk with my cane despite excruciating pain. Eventually I nearly stopped going out altogether, and I remember how depressed I felt at the time, believing that my disabilities were stopping me from doing so much.

It took a few years, some hard work, and a fantastic support group to bring about the now obvious epiphany: it wasn’t my disabilities stopping me, it was just my anxiety about how the world views my disabilities.

So now I wear wristbands proclaiming Chronically Ill & Chronically Fabulous, and am so thankful for my wheelchair, which gives me the freedom to still go out and have fun. I’ve used my wheelchair on the dancefloor, I’ve even used it to see Pompeii! And most importantly, I now speak up when someone thinks it’s okay to treat a wheelchair-user like a piece of furniture!

Check out art to ease the mind by Nicola Copsey

Because I realised that my disabilities are just like my sexuality: I didn’t choose them, but I can choose to be proud of them.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us.


Growing Up Hated … Shona’s Story

I’ve been hated for my skin colour, for my sexuality, for my mental health, things I can’t change. People are going to hate me whatever, so I might as well be who I am. I don’t care what people think anymore … Read More

BLOG POST: Hitting Barriers

I can’t prove or disprove that sports are trying to put barriers up for trans-athletes, I can only tell you how I feel, and it certainly feels like sports are putting up any obstacle they legally can. Read More