Yes, I have a disability. I have mental health problems.
I may have a disability but it should not - and will not stop me from going into journalism as a career.
It has stopped me once before, when I was studying for my social work degree. However, my mental health problems will not win again. For the record, I have health anxiety, social anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
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. Alas, with mental health problems like mine, I'm battling my mind constantly. What if? Did this happen? Will I?
But here I want to talk about fighting to the tooth and nail (metaphorically, of course!) with my mind. Day in and day out.
Alas, you may have realised that this post is not a general one, it's about my personal experience and how I was recently left inspired by a workshop I attended with a man who was also disabled. When my colleagues and I asked him questions about feeling marginalised, his answers left me inspired.
I'm very open about my mental health problems so I asked the man about how he ensures that mental health issues are represented in the production of news 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. I could have cried in that moment. It cemented the fact that journalism is for me.
I've always had a passion for writing, but my mental health problems got - and still do get in the way sometimes. I'm determined to stop that from happening, because I can do this! I can battle my mind - and pull through. I have done since January 2014, when my mental health reached crisis point.
Journalism is my escape and my mental health shows that. I still have my mental health problems, but they've improved. 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 any moment. I don't want these thoughts and it's important to stress that. I may be paralysed for a split second, but then I'm back to normality and I get back to what I was doing.
I'd also like to point out that just because I have a disability does not mean I can't do something. This is something that I've come across from many different professionals. I've noticed people in the general public can often put two and two together and say that I can't do something. I can - I just find it difficult.
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 for my journalism course 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. I am 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.
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.
You can follow my journey on my blog: https://socialworkjourney2013.wordpress.com.