Philippa Hanna tells us about her remarkable friend Richard who has overcome his condition and inspired the artist’s new album ‘Come Back Fighting’.
‘I was taking a walk with my friend Richard when I had a revelation about disability. Husband Joel and I often stay with Richard and his lovely wife Jacqueline in their cute, Cornish bungalow. They've taken care of us mid-tour for years, providing a coastal haven in the midst of the usual Travelodge blur.
On this particular day, we were hiking across treacherous rocks toward the beach with their dog Chilli. I was a little out of breath but stopped myself from mentioning it as I watched Richard edge resourcefully across obstacles, chatting guitar amps (his design baby) and making comments about the beauty of the coast. I was reminded that as a haemophiliac Richard has several fused joints and limited mobility in most. Despite this, (and not to mention that a fall could cause a life-threatening bleed) he seemed to tackle the uneven ground, fearlessly. He also seemed unmindful of his limitations, used to them I guess. And after a lifetime of gruelling treatments and health scares was simply very grateful for life itself. 'Disability is relative', I thought. 'because although Richards body works differently to mine, his glass is half full and his life...all the way full.'
I've met lots of brave people like Richard. It's actually among my favourite elements of being a performer that I get to meet really interesting people with fascinating stories of struggle and triumph. In 2011 I wrote a song called 'I am amazing' about my struggle with low self-esteem. As a young woman in the entertainment field, I felt tremendous pressure to look a certain way and fulfil a certain stereotype. It wasn't all my fault. I was actually TOLD that I didn't have the right look for a pop star and for many years lived with a feeling of being insufficient. Dealing with those feelings of inadequacy caused me to plummet into despair and depression which peaked at the age of 21. I truly believed I had no purpose and no future.
It was around then that I found faith and began attending church with some friends. I had a very big shift in perspective and began to share my story with others through music. I found that my very personal struggles were actually becoming helpful for others.
If there is one thing I've learned from people like Richard... a so-called disability, whether physical, invisible or emotional, doesn't have to define or even limit you. In fact, the very thing that makes you different could become your calling card. Richard can’t pole-vault but he can fix an amp quicker than anyone I know. Sure, I have a tendency to towards depression and anxiety. But I use those tendencies to empathize with others and write songs I hope will help them.
This I know with all my heart, what our minds and bodies can or cannot do has no bearing on our value. We can live lives of tremendous purpose in spite of and even because of our differences. I feel that my calling in life is to remind people just how precious they are and how much the world needs their unique beauty and contribution. ‘
Brand New album 'Come Back Fighting' is out 24th November and is now available for pre-order from www.comebackfighting.com
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