Back in the spring I was asked to contribute to a video to be shown at the ITV hosted Disability Confident Conference which was held in July on the set of Coronation Street in Manchester. The aim of the conference was to support independent production companies in the North West and along with the Department of Work and Pensions encourage them to become disability confident employers. Whilst it was something I was initially hesitant to take part in, I soon realised that it was too good an opportunity to miss, and that my anxieties and nervousness were no excuse to not push myself and participate in the video.
For those not familiar with the Disability Confident project (I certainly wasn’t) it was launched in July 2013 with the goal being to “debunk the myths around employing disabled people and encourage employers to take advantage of the wealth of talent available”. More information about the scheme can be found on the government website. On a personal level I was less interested in the governments’ relationship to the project due to the inevitable political nature of such policies and programmes. Whilst clearly the central message is unequivocally welcomed and vital in terms of raising awareness of important issues, the fact that it is a government run undertaking poses certain questions concerning the motivations for starting up the project, as often there is an agenda or self serving reason for politicians aligning themselves with certain causes, and I’m not interested in that.
What I am interested in is the message at the heart of the scheme, and thereupon how it is put into practice, as it obviously involves an issue that I feel strongly about and have personal experience of. I decided to contribute my thoughts to the video for two main reasons. Firstly I thought the ITV hosted conference was being done for completely the right reasons, and therefore felt it important to play my part, and try and help people understand what the ramifications of working with a disability or health issue are. Secondly, my employer has been incredibly supportive of myself and my struggles, and I therefore felt it dutiful that I disclose my experiences on the matter in order to hopefully facilitate other companies taking the same lead as ITV. The questions asked were not so much about the intricacies and facets of my depression itself, but were more aimed at essentially opening up the discussion regarding illness/disabilities and their interconnection with work. It focused on the relationship between myself and my employer, as well suggesting ways in which employers in general can be more disability confident, and what facilities/structures can be put in place to to help overcome the hurdle of having a disability within the workplace.
Due to the very nature of my illness, this project was more stressful and nerve-racking that virtually anything I have done previously. Whilst opening up to strangers about the fact that I experience depression and anxiety was uncomfortable, it was actually the whole process of being filmed that caused the most anxiety as it has never been something I have been at ease with, and I prefer to stay as far away from the limelight as its possible to be. I believe this to be evident in the video, both in the fact that I’m sweating heavily from nerves (and the lights) and also by the numerous occasions that I stumble over my words, another reason why I’m much more confident in expressing myself in written form. But regardless of those issues, I’m content in the knowledge that I didn’t back out of participating (as I do with so many endeavours/activities), and I am proud that I managed to see it through to the end. Here is my part in the video:
My VT was edited together with various other clips of ITV employees to create a 15 minute video that ran throughout the day at the conference. ITV employees with a variety of disabilities (I hate that word, but cannot think of an alternative) featured in the video, and it was a fascinating watch as it opened my eyes to how people overcome such a plethora of challenges, and how vitally important it is to acknowledge the worth that these people provide. It was inspiring to see how people view their disability not as an infliction to hold them back, but rather as an incentive to push themselves further forward, and the successes that they have achieved within ITV are a testament to that. I don’t for one moment put myself in that group of inspirational people, as my issues pale into insignificance in comparison, but it was very rewarding to be part of a project that does encompass such a positive group of people.
Having now been back at work for 2 weeks I’ve negotiated myself back into the swing of things, and its refreshing to have a structure in my day once again. Unfortunately even after a week where I’ve felt I’m on a steady path, the darkness still manages to creep back in as it did on Saturday, a forceful reminder that I’m always one step away from the edge of the abyss. But hopefully if I continue to get involved with projects such as the Disability Confident video, then at the very least I can raise awareness for others and hopefully motivate them to ask for help when needed, and ultimately prevent them falling into the abyss as well.