Yes, I have a disability. I have mental health problems, but I don’t consider myself a disabled person. Now we have that cleared up! I may have a disability but it should not – and will not stop me from going into journalism as a career. It’s stopped me once before, going into social work. My mental health problems won’t win again.
This may seem like a post for Monday’s – if you don’t know what I mean then check out my post schedule! But, I want you to give this some thought. Should I or anyone else be stopped from doing what they want to do because they have a disability? The answer should always be no, but maybe sometimes it’s reasonable to say yes? I’m not being discriminatory but sometimes a disability does what it says – it disables someone from doing something.
Note: I would always say no!
Alas, this post is not a general one, it’s about my personal experience and how I’ve been left inspired by a workshop I had yesterday with a man named Vidar Hjardeng. He’s the Diversity Consultant for ITV – and he’s also disabled. I won’t go any further, but when we asked him questions, his answers left me inspired.
As you know, I have mental health problems which I’m very open about. I asked Vidar about how he ensures that mental health issues are represented in production and in news items. His answer astounded me. He talked about the stigma of mental health and how it shouldn’t stop people, among other poignant things. In all honesty, I could have cried in that moment. That cemented the fact that journalism is for me, which is where the idea for this post came from.
I’ve always had a passion for writing, but my mental health problems got – and still do get in the way sometimes. But I’m determined to stop that from happening, because I can do this! I can battle my mind – everyday and pull through.
Journalism is my escape and my mental health shows that. I still have my mental health problems, but they’ve improved. I’ll be writing a letter to journalism (personified) on Sunday so stick around for that! That’s why I’m determined to stick at it. I genuinely can’t help the thoughts that flit in and out of my brain. They are unconscious thoughts that pop up at stupid moments.
Just because I have a disability does not mean I can’t do something. There may be anxiety there but if I’ve done it before then I can do it again. For example, I had a photography assignment to do which meant I had to walk across campus with just my socks on – to go and bounce on a bouncy castle. I found it difficult, but I did it. Just because I find things difficult, does not mean I can’t do something. It’s just my anxiety. It’s not an excuse, because it’s reality.
So that’s why it doesn’t mean that I can’t do journalism. In all honesty, I’m getting better at the things I find difficult. In fact, I’d probably go as far as to say, I don’t find a lot of things difficult anymore in journalism. I can talk to people in the street to gather their thoughts, I can stand in front of a camera and talk and I’m confident in my abilities and actively seek constructive criticism to improve. I would have found all of those paralysing before September came around.
It’s been a long road, but anyone that knows me well will know I don’t stop at the first hurdle. I keep going – because I’m determined to fight and I’m determined to make it in journalism. Whether I’m writing for an online publication or organisation, on the radio doing news, on TV (who knows) or writing for a newspaper or magazine – I will go into journalism because I feel at home and I feel comfortable when I write. Comfortable is something I haven’t been able to attribute to myself for a long time. And I mean a long time.
If something makes me feel better and makes me feel at home then surely that’s a great thing, isn’t it?
I’m determined to go into journalism because I don’t feel comfortable with anything else.