FOR TV presenter Sophie Morgan, Covid lockdowns not only meant she was out of work, but also marked an important milestone – one she never thought she would celebrate, let alone write a book about.
“I had been non-disabled for 18 years at that point, and I had also been disabled for 18 years,” he says Sophia37
And so, while everyone else was baking banana bread, the Crowborough-born Crufts and Loose Women broadcaster began writing her story, which has now been published Drive forward: A journey of resilience and empowerment after a life-changing injury.
“I was in a car accident driving home from a party for my graduation from high school,” recalls Sophie, who was 18 at the time and had a T6 spinal cord injury.
“I crashed the car because I was speeding and got out of control.
“I’d only had my driving license a few months so I wasn’t particularly experienced and with the car full of my friends I was a bit distracted and it was late at night, around 3 or 4am on country lanes – it was real a perfect storm for a crash.
“I lost control of the car and damaged a lot of my face and also my spine.
“I was paralyzed from the chest downbut my passengers were fine – apart from the trauma, they were physically fine.”
We caught up with Sophie to talk about health, wellbeing and life after her accident…
You write that your mother admitted to thinking that if you were paralyzed from the neck down and didn’t die, she would have to kill you anyway. Were you shocked by this?
I know how she is and I don’t think she would have wanted that fate for herself.
And I think she assumed that her daughter, who knows me so well that I don’t want to live with it – these consequences of such a severe disability.
It was one of those reactive, protective ones [feelings] – My mother wouldn’t want to see me suffer like that.
But I also recognize that many people would have this perception; that being disabled is a fate worse than death.
And I’ve had people say to me, “I would kill myself if I were you, if I had a disability like yours.”
It’s something that people don’t think we want to live with, so I don’t find it that shocking.
I find it quite indicative of the kind of woman my mother is.
She’s just very strong and very protective of me and she knows me better than anyone.
But I also know that people come to these conclusions because we don’t really see the benefits of disability, we only see the negative side.
That’s why I wrote the book, to explain to people that my situation and the situation of everyone who is paralyzed from the neck down, paralyzed from the chest down, paralyzed from the waist down – any type of disability – is not as clear cut as yours think.
It’s not a dead end, it’s not the end of your life.
I’ve met so many people over the years who have found that their disabilities make their lives better.
My mother’s reaction speaks to a broader issue of how we feel about disability.
What was it like looking back on some of your most painful memories?
It was really challenging, more than I expected.
Looking back is something I don’t do often.
The process of going through my journals, then trying to tell the story as vividly as possible, taking the reader step-by-step how it felt at that moment – that was quite a challenge on that front.
But towards the end it just felt incredibly healing and empowering.
How important is it for the stories of people with disabilities to be heard?
For anyone who has a physical disability or knows the feeling of being marginalized and unappreciated and ignored or belittled – it’s not a pleasant one and I certainly felt that anger inside me, especially in the beginning.
I wanted to be seen like everyone else.
But now I have an urge to delve into the nuances and complexities of my specific disability because I feel like over the years, while the portrayal of disability and the visibility of disability has increased, we haven’t really gotten into the depths of sorts and In the way our various disabilities affect our lives, we are somehow grouped together.
I think we need to take these stories forward and show what different disabilities are doing to different people’s lives and explain that complexity – there are pros and cons to everything.
We need a lot more visibility of people with disabilities, we’re certainly not there yet.
What would you like people to know about disability?
The way it turns your life upside down when it happens to you and the way it affects your family, the way it affects every single part of your life – but not just the negative ones Follow.
I am very strong in outlining the way the negatives work out, all the consequences of being paralyzed in a negative sense but also in a positive sense.
I really wanted to outline how it has improved my life for the better and all the things I gained, the perspective, the relationships, a sense of purpose and meaning and all these wonderful qualities I gained.
It is about explaining the two sides of the coin.
How do you take care of your health in everyday life?
I am very careful about my gut health and take Symprove, a probiotic, every day.
That’s what makes me. I have this as a routine every morning.
I eat at regular times and I try to sleep at regular times but to be honest work is so busy at the moment it’s going out the window.
What about exercise?
The exercise I do is a SkiErg, which is a really amazing piece of equipment that allows someone who can’t stand, someone like me, with a disability like mine, to do really good cardio.
I do weights occasionally, but I do about a half hour or an hour of cardio two or three times a week and then the rest is my diet.
When it comes to taking care of your mental health, what really works for you?
I draw. I paint. I sketch. I use this as a tool all the time when I’m a little bit stressed or a little bit tired or a little bit angry or [feeling] all the feelings I don’t quite know how to deal with.
But I also do it for fun, it’s not medicine or just catharsis; it’s also really fun.
I listen to a lot of music. Music is really my outlet.
How about driving your specially customized motorcycle?
It’s the best thing in the world. I can’t put into words how much fun it is.
I love it. I never want to get away from it.
What impact do you hope your role on Loose Women will have?
With every work I do, whether it’s Loose Women, Crufts, a travel show I film, my Channel 4 show, Living Wild: How to Change Your Life, they show different facets of my personality and that’s really wonderful .
I’m so proud to be able to do that because I don’t just do shows about disabilities, I do programs where my disability is a little bit beside the point.
I’m not shying away from it either, but it feels like it’s an authentic representation of what it’s like to just be someone like me.
I want to represent my community – we need a lot more disabled people.
But I’ve come to a point in my career where I can see myself as a whole – it’s not just about me as a disabled person, it’s about who I am.
Being on Loose Women and speaking about things unrelated to my disability is wonderful, but I’m also very excited to be able to speak on the panel about disability issues.
Driving Forwards: A Journey of Resilience and Empowerment after Life-Changeing Injury by Sophie L. Morgan is available now, published by Sphere, priced at £16.99.
https://www.thesun.ie/health/8659017/crash-turned-sophie-morgans-world-upside-down/ My mom thought I was better off dead after the horror crash left me paralyzed, says Loose Women’s Sophie Morgan