When I first signed up to take part in the second series of BBC Two’s Employable Me at the beginning of last year, I thought I knew what would happen. I’d learn about job hunting, I’d show people that the hardest part of working for me is the commute rather than the actual job, (hopefully) millions of people would learn things about disability they’d ever considered before, and then I’d go back to my life.
And I was right. These things did happen. But so did something else. I learned a lot about my own disability and myself as a disabled person. I’m sharing them with you today, because you have no idea how life-changing these things were.
Disabled people will not judge me for talking about my pain
Before this process, I felt self-conscious talking to other disabled people about the pain my cerebral palsy gives me. I worried that they’d think I was being ungrateful for what I have, or worse, that I was a whimp. If anything, I’ve learned that people disabled people don’t mind at all. It means they can talk about their pain too, with people who understand it.
Older disabled friends are important
I don’t have many disabled friends in my ‘real life’ – they’re mostly online, and many of them are my age. When filming I met Simon Minty; who presents the BBC Ouch! Podcast. He talked to me about how his attitudes to his disability changed as he got older. He told me things he felt at my age that he didn’t know I was feeling. He gave me the permission I’d been craving to voice them. I needed that I he knew it. That wouldn’t have been the same coming from someone my age.
No one expects me to be Superwoman, and I shouldn’t either
Perhaps the hardest lesson I learned was learning to admit that I’d been holding myself up to ridiculously high standards that I would never expect of anyone else, because I was afraid of being judged. And the only person who suffered because of that was me. It turns out that no one cares if you take a wheat bag into the office as long as you get your work done. Facing up to the fact that I’ve been putting myself under unnecessary pressure for years is so hard.
People want me to be honest
Now, I talk freely about my pain in real life, rather than just doing it online like I did before. People respect that. And do you know what? It turns out that most of them just leave me to get on with it and manage it in the ways that work for me.