I’m very lucky that I get to make a living out of something I’m passionate about. However, the fact that my job is so connected to such an important part of my life, is often a detriment to me.
I always wanted to be able to give my community a voice and be able to shout about the issues disabled people face on big platforms, but in doing so, I use a lot of emotional and mental energy. It’s almost impossible to stop focusing on the things that I do for work.
We’re always told to have a healthy work-life balance but this isn’t always the case when your work is about your community and directly about the issues you face.
I realize how privileged I am that I got to forge a career where I can work from home, and not only that but one that allowed me to write about the things I’m most passionate about. But it must be noted that working from home for me has always been a necessity, not something I was allowed to do.
Nevertheless, I always counted myself as one of the lucky ones because I got to spend my days doing the thing I loved and being paid for it.
As a writer, getting to rant about how terribly the respective governments treated disabled people was the dream. I was getting to finally give disabled people a voice, a platform and highlight the important issues that were often never spoken about.
My work meant that I became known as an expert in disabled issues and I fell into activism by virtue of speaking up on Twitter. I now get to spend my working life fighting for the rights of my community and using my platform to make a difference.
However, this is a double-edged sword. By working from home and specialising in something that is so personal and important to myself and my community means that it’s never something I can shut off from. And it’s something that deeply affects my mental health to write about.
While many had the privilege of turning off the news or closing Twitter, I knew that it wouldn’t make much difference, it would still be there and still affecting my community when I come back to it.
The government is letting disabled people die and doesn’t care. I am exhausted, I am sick of having to write the same sentences on Twitter: stop killing disabled people.
I just feel hopeless, there is nothing I can do but tweet and write, but then writing gets too much and I want to scream and cry. So I do that. I shake and I scream and cry. And then I have a website to run that needs updating.
So I attempt to take time out. My husband physically takes my laptop away from me and puts it in another room. My best friends give me tough love that is littered with memes. I delete Twitter from my phone and watch my favorite Tv shows instead – FYI BBC’s Ghosts is great if you need 30 minutes to 6 hours of escapism. I go for walks in the woods and beach with my dog.
But taking breaks and ignoring the big enveloping cloud only works for a certain amount of time. The final blow comes when I have what seems like an endless bought of illness between March and May. I get a virus then an endometriosis attack then covid-19 all within a 6-week period and my body is destroyed.
I push myself with work throughout and forget to take my antidepressants for almost a week leading to the lowest depressive crash I’ve had in years.
I have to face facts. I’ve reached burnout.
To those who follow my career on Twitter it looks like I’m the most successful I’ve ever been, and honestly, I am proud of everything I’m achieving. In the last few months, I’ve spoken at conferences about starting my own publication, led a workshop for the British media on how to report on disability and I’m working on big projects. But on the inside, it’s far from rosy.
The truth is I’ve got articles that are months late, some up to three and I’m terrified I’m ruining all the connections I’ve spent so long building within the industry, as well losing the respect of my peers.
I’ve gotten to the point where it’s gotten so hard to write about these things that it’s made me hate writing. But this hatred is misplaced. Writing, journalism and giving those without a voice a chance to be heard is all I’ve ever wanted to do, why should I be made to hate it because I’m being ignored? When has that stopped me before?
I’m trying to get back to where I was, slowly but surely, but that also involves a lot of listening to myself and slowing down. I’m not pushing myself to write about and engage in every fight.
Disabled people are seen as constantly resilient, but that’s one of the most damaging narratives there is. We deserve time to rest and be supported, especially by those with the power to help us.
So this is me admitting that I’m not always strong and cutting myself the slack to take time off from being in work mode.
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