Life is tough, and the minute it stops being so is probably the time that you’re number is up.
2017 has been a monumental challenge for me so far, and in more ways than I could list in this blog. I’ve been through the main ingredient of emotions – happy, disappointed, angry, determined, curious, and now the best way to describe my state of mind would be ‘at a loss’.
I feel at a loss and uncertain of my future. I’ve still got the same passion for disability advocacy, sports journalism, radio, and public speaking as I ever had. It’s just that right now – it seems to feel so much harder. Health wise, my strength and energy is at an all-time low and I am currently in the process of trying to get help with that.
Like any normal person I have my good weeks and bad. When I have things to get my teeth stuck into is when I find that everything else, including my self confidence and sense of being, becomes that much easier. It also becomes that much more enjoyable.
What isn’t enjoyable, however, is worrying about what other people think about the work that you do and what you post online.
My Take On The Story Regarding Parents Using Facebook To Detail Lives Of Their Children
The story I did on Colemans Crusade and Mitchell’s Journey, two highly public pages surrounding disabled children, was probably a good example of me dealing with negative feedback in all the wrong ways.
I understood going into that particular piece that I was going to touch on a lot of peoples nerves. That’s what happens when you tag a page in your article, and while I stand by every single thing I wrote that week, the biggest mistake I made was engaging with the criticism.
When you engage negativity it breeds negativity – and it is something I should’ve learnt well before now. At journalism school you learn these things, and if you are a writer that is worth the platform you post on, you will not take down a story that offends people if you know that you did your homework and researched it first.
The mistake wasn’t writing that story, or even tagging Colemans Crusade and Mitchell’s Journey into it even. The mistake was how I reacted to the criticism I knew was going to come anyway.
But that’s all history now – I can’t go back and apologise to all the parents of disabled children who’s nerves I struck. I also can’t suddenly spawn a child of my own just to lay claim that I knew what the hell I was talking about.
I learn’t who my friends were and who weren’t.
The benefit of social media is that information gets shared so easily, and even after I was blocked by certain people, others were sending me all the conversation threads anyway.
“Mike has a habit of writing things like this and then crying freedom of speech when people disagree.”
“Mike isn’t a parent so he doesn’t have any real world knowledge of what he is talking about. I am sure he is also mentally unstable – far from an advocate if you ask me.”
Then the best one:
“I’ve suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts for my whole life. Mike’s article has pushed me to breaking point because he is targeting my intellectually disabled child.”
Advocacy isn’t always positive, and nor is life itself. If there was anything I learnt that week; it was that people will always misinterpret what you say and twist things around to suit their own point of view.
None of this last section has been written to offend anyone or restart conversation either – I just needed to get it off my chest.
A Better Person Than I Could Ever Hope To Be
On the positive side of things; I’ve also got a lot to be grateful for in 2017. I’ve got a new kitten (cute little Rocky who is now 6 months old), and my amazing partner Jess who has been such a massive part of my life over the last couple of years. We’ve had our ups and downs, plus more than a few outsiders who’ve questioned her ability to date a guy in a wheelchair, but the last year of our relationship has been all about us… and that’s seen it grow.
She always tells me that I need to focus on myself more – and she is great at reminding me that not EVERY battle is worth digging your heels in and fighting for.
Jess really is a much better person that I could ever hope to be. And yes – she was all for me getting the kitten!
Looking Forward To Further Challenges Heading Into 2018
Who bloody knows what the future holds for me.
Recently I’ve gotten back into Powerchair Football with the Waikato team and I am having an absolute blast being a member of that squad. The only dumb thing is that I am about 15-years older than all the other players… so I’ve got to act mature at all times!
I want to get back on the public speaking circuit and continue to advocate for the rights of disabled people. The disability sector is in a sorry state right now, and if it isn’t fixed fast and certain attitudes are allowed to rule the roost, then things will go from bad to worse in a hurry. We need to get away from the notion that our journey’s as disabled people are other peoples inspiration porn, and the right people need to be put in front of the right audiences to ensure that change does happen.
Getting up on a stage and talking about your own journey, and what individualised funding can do for you, is the wrong way to go about this. We need to get away from telling people what to do, but we need to show them what to do and allow a level of flexibility that allows the best possible chances of real independence.