Friday 14 May 2021

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Soulla Christodoulou - Author

A Cup of Conversation with author Ilana Estelle

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Hello and welcome to A Cup of Conversation where I am joined by author Ilana Estelle who talks about how her blog about living with Cerebral palsy translated into a fabulous book published by Red Door Books; Cerebral Palsy A Story, Finding the Calm After the Storm. Congratulations Ilana.

I’m grateful to have received a copy of the book a couple of weeks ago and in advance of this interview. I have since had a read and admittedly I still find myself drawn to its pages and I dip in and out of it. It’s a fascinating book of courage and resilience, inspiration and change; it gets you thinking and feeling a lot.

In this A Cup of Conversation interview Ilana reveals her experience of living with cerebral palsy, her writing and her future plans too. So thank you for joining us and thank you too to Lizzie at Red Door Books for linking us up!book

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1. Your Cerebral Palsy diagnosis was hidden from you until the age of 46. How did you find out and what impact has it had on you?

My mum had just been diagnosed with cancer and she mentioned in passing that my birth was difficult. Soon after she passed, and not knowing about my disability, I decided to make an appointment to see my GP. On looking through my medical records, I found out I had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 2.

It was difficult not knowing, but not knowing made me even more determined to find out. I never gave up hope and it was that hope that carried me through. I always knew that I was different… I’d had a gut feeling for some time that I would eventually get to find out why. I was sure about that.

2. What inspired you to blog about your CP?

I was inspired because I knew I had something and needed to find out. I also needed to find out more to help bring understanding. When you have something, you are aware of and you know you struggle, you want to know why you struggle. Being able to talk about my disability was a turning point for me.

3. Do you have a favourite life quote which inspires you and keeps you motivated? What is it and how does it influence you?

The serenity prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I love the words, they’re simple, deep and powerful. This quote holds true for me in my cerebral palsy journey.

4. How did the transition from blog to book evolve?

Completely unexpectedly, about 3 years ago, a publisher emailed me asking if her client could do a ‘Guest Blog’ for my website and her email got me thinking about my own set of circumstances. I knew that I needed to know more about my disability. I was sure writing a book would help me with that.

5. What do you hope readers will take away with them after reading your book?

I hope they will see that even though our life may be tough, and that just because we start off in one place, we don’t have to stay where we are. Our lives are for us to change, and we can. My experiences prove we can. We have to be determined, strong and steadfast and believe in ourselves, because we can change certain elements of our lives. I would like all of my readers to take away an overriding message of positivity.

6. Congratulations on your book’s release Cerebral Palsy A Story. Can you share an extract from your book and tell us why you chose this particular part of the story?

Thank you. I would like to share the following extract from my book:

“Without my experiences to draw upon for inspiration, I couldn’t have done and achieved what I have with my life, or with my blog. Trauma or anything else you want to call it is never OKAY: but I understand. I know that without my experiences, I would never have become an Author, writer or blogger and whilst I cannot change my experiences, my blogs act as a reminder that there is always a message, a silver lining and a way through our experiences.”

I chose this piece, because this paragraph sums my blog, me and the book up in its entirety. Not knowing I had cerebral palsy until I was 46 meant I had a lot of catching up to do, trying to understand my struggles and my experiences, what I saw as my failings needed to be understood and accepted. There was a lot I needed to come to terms with. I could never have achieved any level of acceptance or understanding of my life without writing the book.

7. In one of your blog posts, you say, “I was an angry child with a disability I knew nothing about and emotional issues that weren’t being addressed or going away.” How have you since addressed these issues?

I wasn’t consciously aware I was angry as a child, because I was too young to make the connections with my physical or mental struggles. Without the help to understand what I felt, around a disability I didn’t know I had, made my life impossible in some respect. I was aware of some of my physical issues because you could see those, but it got harder the older I got to deal with my emotions around my physical issues.

Although my disability was never discussed, and counselling did help a little, being able to write about my feelings in my blog and my book has helped tremendously. We have to be able to make the connections with ourselves and our lives for counselling to work. My website and book have both helped me achieve that.

8. Mental health and well-being are a huge concern in our society. What three things do you advocate for helping us to feel better in ourselves?

Accepting we have a problem is the starting point. It is hugely important to talk about how we feel, and it is okay to ask for help where we can’t help ourselves.

9. What is the highlight of your blogging experience? 

The height of my blogging experience is undoubtedly the increased understanding that blogging has given me. Also, although having autism makes my understanding of my disability difficult, particularly when I have to describe my symptoms, overall my blog posts have helped me understand my life and that has brought about a new confidence in me.

10. In relation to writing, what advice would you give a new writer?

I feel it is important for a writer to be open and honest about his or her experiences and to write from the heart with integrity and without compromise. Above all else, persevere.

11. Do you have plans to write any more books? What themes might you include and why?

Yes, I do have plans to write another book. The next book will be about my spiritual life, my more soulful blogs and its many teachings. This is a part of my life that I have come to rely on and find comfort from, particularly because I deal with cerebral palsy and autism, only finding out I had autism in January 2019.

12. What three things are on your 2020 to-do list?

My aims are to continue to publicise my book and get messages of positivity out there, while I continue to write more blogs on my @thecpdiary website, and of course keep everyone updated and involved through social media.

Thank you for joining us, Ilana and I wish you all the best as you promote your book! I certainly enjoyed reading it and have fond it both informative and inspirational.

And to my weekly readers, if you would like to link up with Ilana you can do so on her links listed below.

Until next week, Happy Reading, Happy Writing, Happy You.

Big hug, Soulla xxx

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