One person, many facets: disability, ethnicity, mental health, being a woman and youth.
On this month's show, we are delighted to welcome Doaa Shayea. In her 22 years, she has packed in an extraordinary amount.
Doaa talks frankly about her mental health challenges and what she's learned about herself and the world she lives in. Energetic, resilient and determined, she faces the future with optimism and confidence. She also believes as disabled people we mature much more quickly that others as we become aware of others around us ands their reactions.
Born in Yemen with spina bifida. She and her family settled in the UK when she was aged 6. Attending a special school in the UK, Doaa quickly learned how to survive
At the age of 11, she was spotted as a potential wheelchair track star (Simon is so jealous) and still trains twice a day, every day. Doaa set up her beauty business in 2019 and has added disability advocate to her working portfolio.
As a young woman of colour with a disability, as you will hear, she has faced all sorts of difficulties. She missed out on the qualifying time for the Rio Paralympics by half a second.
It’s a compelling story, from someone who appears to have so much on her shoulders whilst maintaining her self-belief. Her motto: "In order to be the best you've got to fail hundreds of times and be strong enough to keep getting up."
Dooa Shayea Socials
Welcome to The Way We Roll with Simon Minty and Phil Friend.
Simon Minty 0:15
Hello and welcome to The Way We Roll with me Simon Minty.
Phil Friend 0:19
And me, Phil Friend.
Simon Minty 0:21
It has been a while since we've had a guest. And we have a great one on this show, Doaa Shayea loves discussing and debating all things disability-related, so she's come to the right place.
Phil Friend 0:33
Now, Doaa, is many things an athlete, a disabled campaigner, a fitness industry guru and a beautician and a social media influencer, if that's still the right term.
Simon Minty 0:45
Is that still the right term? Are we out of touch Doaa?
It's got a bit of a stigma around it, hasn't it? Yeah. So people think that is someone that is about grabbing money and stuff. But I really don't think that that's the case at all, advocate as well works is literally up to the individual. You know,
Simon Minty 1:05
I got you. Thank you so much for coming on. You said there was a link, we know mutual people, you sent us a really lovely email, which is a great way to come on. And we had a few emails back and forth. Here you are. I mean, why did you want to come on the show? If that's not a weird question,
um, but I've had a little listen to some of the amazing podcasts you two gentlemen have done. And it's something that I'm very passionate about. I love, you know, debating and discussing about disability and really highlighting and sharing that disability awareness. And what better place to do that then with your two amazing gentlemen. So thank you for having me on.
Phil Friend 1:41
Lovely, we love compliments. And we always ask our guests, Doaa to give us a little bit of something to do with their impairments. So how would you describe your disability and you?
Yeah, so I was born with a spinal condition called Spina Bifida. And it's basically the incomplete development of the spinal cord. And that's left me with the, you know, very lack of sensation in my lower legs. And the ability to of course, walk unaided. And for that reason I use a wheelchair,
Simon Minty 2:16
we'll come back to that because there's that sort of time in your youth growing up, but just on your Twitter profile, you say you're disrupting the disability narrative, unapologetically, I want to dive in straightaway. And give me an example of your disruption.
So as we all know, there is this preconceived notion of disability and the way that people see disability to perceive it to be. And what I feel that I do is I literally wheel, you know, wheel into the conversation and completely dismantle the stigma that people have of people with disabilities and, and that's what I want to do, I want to disrupt it and make that noise and, and basically stand up, no pun intended, of what, you know, we need to do as people with disabilities and to really set those misconceptions straight into reach into the narrative of disability. And,
Simon Minty 3:05
and right here, and now because it's always tricky. We kind of got I'd like to, say three generations, but perhaps not me and Phil are probably closer than to you. But what do you think that big thing is? What is that stigma at the moment? How do you think people might perceive I always think people who are younger and people who are your age, they're a bit more cool, and they're relaxed about disability? Or do you think there is still stigma kicking around?
To be honest with you Simon, I think that's something that's never really changed it just because of our varying generations, I felt like that stigma within disability has always been the same. And it's never really changed. And just because you know, of my generation, it's more trendy and stuff. But I think that even adds, even more, to to the stigma, because, you know, the view of disability of people, young people with disabilities in it, it hasn't really changed. And that's what needs to be changed.
Phil Friend 3:54
So I'm interested in that because you say that, I suppose I don't know about Simon, but I tend to think of your generation younger people as being pretty switched on now about these subjects, you know, and across all the diversity strands is a much more open kind of conversation going on. But I sense from you, you're feeling that isn't really what's going on underneath? Are, you sort of suggesting there's an undercurrent that's not like that.
Absolutely Phil that. I think that the thing is, of course, and I can't sit here and, you know, shame anyone, or how much we've progressed within disability. I mean, let's be honest, it has changed a lot with it, you know, in the last 20 - 30 years, but I think, like you said, there is that underlying issue there. There's, there's that stigma that's hidden underneath that where people are still afraid to open up the conversation. They're still afraid to speak about disability is afraid to ask someone like myself, this is a taboo that is forever ongoing. And I think that that's what we need to do as people with disabilities to make open up the conversation bring disability onto the table with everything else and really have it as an open conversation where people are no longer afraid to acknowledge disability and people with disabilities.
Phil Friend 5:12
I was just going to build on that really, which is to because if you are a woman, you're a young woman, you're from a different ethnic group, certainly to me and Simon, you've also got a disability. So you've got sort of three, four different tunes getting played all the time
There are'nt any more diversity boxes.
Phil Friend 5:31
Yeah, so you're, you are the best guests we've ever had, from that point of view.
Simon Minty 5:35
I want you to have both a boyfriend and girlfriend, and then I'm gonna be really happy. (laughter)
Phil Friend 5:41
She, he, me they whatever. But which bit of you do you think, given that you do have and being serious now you are female, you have a different ethnic group, which bit of you is the most difficult to manage? Do you think on that you meet the most barriers, or,
I mean, to be honest, they're all there Phil that they're all very big things to have. And there's like, I always say, you know, I'm tikking every box, I'm a female, I'm of a woman of colour, and I'm in a wheelchair, and those are three major groups. And I have I have all of them. So it's really hard for me to sit and say, Oh, the disability is because you know, the lack of inclusion and accessibility. And then I think of the cultural side that the colour of my skin that gets in the way, there's a lot of lack of support due to the colour of my skin and who I am as a, as an ethnic background, minority and, and then also the fact that I'm a woman, you know, and a lot of the time, I'm getting, you know, kind of like condescending behaviour towards being a woman. And I should, you know, kind of not be so loud and don't speak up and kind of hush hush and just look pretty and don't say anything. So they all have their own thing, as you can see, you know,
Simon Minty 7:06
I think there's a person, you may know, Shannon Murray, a wheelchair-using woman and she says on the women's rights movement is somewhat difficult for me to get into. They don't always think about me being a wheelchair-using woman. And I think that can be the same. So it's sometimes even the groups that we are and as we're pushing stuff, we forget there's difference within those groups. And then that can be an issue. I thought was really a bit about I don't want to shame anyone in the past Phil in I generalise a lot. So don't worry that we sometimes we say everybody, but we don't mean everybody. And we know that I do agree with you, the dial has moved in terms of access and employment, and there's some good stuff. But that stigma is still kicking around. And that's the bit that perhaps hasn't shifted. I want to jump right back. We said who you are, you were born in Yemen. But you came to the UK aged six. I'm kind of curious, too. I also know the story that you use crutches for a while, and then you've thought, I'm gonna use a wheelchair. I'm asking you seven questions, and not one single one in there. I wondered how was it growing up the transition to hear that kind of stuff?
Yeah. So I spent most of my childhood on crutches, it was the only part of normality that I can grab on to and not feel disabled, I grew up not acknowledging my disability and not wanting to as you can imagine, as a young girl who feels different to the rest of society, it's not something that you can take lightly as a kid, and you just want to be accepted and fit in with everyone else. And that's what I tried to do with so much of my my childhood. And, and that's why I stayed on my crutches for such a long time, regardless of it becoming a struggle, and obviously getting older and getting heavier, and it becoming more strenuous on my arms and shoulders, I persisted, and I wanted to stay on them because it felt like it gave me some part of normality, and whatever that is, and I just couldn't accept or come to terms with my disability. And once I did get into a wheelchair, after going into secondary school and at school a teaching assistant actually suggested it and, and kind of, you know, told me how much easier it would be and that was more appealing because I was genuinely really struggling. And then but once I got in that wheelchair because I kind of, I felt like I was surrendering, I was giving in, and I didn't want to so it was a shame behind that in a in a sad way. And that's the that goes on to show you why these wheelchairs portrayed in such a negative way it affected me in my own internalised ableism and I got in a wheelchair and if there was any opportunities for you know, photo opportunities and things like that, I would make sure that I would do my best to jump out of the wheelchair, kick it out of the way. Make sure it's not in pictures. Like it's kind of funny, but it's actually really sad of how I couldn't accept it.
Simon Minty 9:58
I'm smiling in acknowledgement. I kind of think there's that phase Phil used crutches for years and years. And occasion when I first I used my scooter. Yeah, when it was photo time, I just I just get up for a minute just for the photo. And then get back in afterwards. And so I was smiling acknowledgement. No, that is hilarious. Yeah,
Phil Friend 10:13
good luck glasses, isn't it wearing your glasses when you need to, but not when you're in photos and stuff? Going back a bit then. So what of your childhood you spent six years in the Yemen, and then came to the UK, I'm guessing that you started using a wheelchair in the UK.
So it's the other way around. It's I was born in Yemen. And then I came to the UK when I was six years old. So I remember bits, but I was very, very young, I think, because I was all over the place, we had to move away from like Yemen, lived in Saudi Arabia for a little bit, then Germany then came to the UK. So it's, it's just, you know, everywhere, but here and there. And, yeah, so that I came to the UK at six years old, and had to obviously pick up language, and to learn to speak it and stuff. I was in a special needs school, which I spent way too long in from my own experience. And it's, there's a I think there's another huge problem here with it within the education system. Because as a as a young girl, my family, my mom and dad couldn't speak the language, they couldn't express that their daughter isn't mentally, you know, impaired, and it's only a physical impairment. And we kind of got left in there. And I was never able to it was basically that my physical capability judged, made them judge my mental capacity and capabilities. And I wasted a lot of time being stuck in a, you know, a special needs school, not being given the opportunity or the chance to learn like my my siblings in other countries. I guess.
Phil Friend 11:53
That's an interesting angle, isn't it? Because I think we will, Simon and I have met and I was one I was in a special school too. But I didn't have to learn the language while I was there. And I didn't have disenfranchised parents who couldn't because they couldn't speak English fluently, I'm guessing couldn't challenge the state and say, No, she's not going there. That's an interesting angle to your story. Definitely. Yeah.
Simon Minty 12:14
It scares me because my parents, when I was growing up, had to fight now they could speak English and they, you know, they knew the system, but they had to push to get me into the mainstream school and make the accommodations there or the adjustments, but it frustrates me that it's still kicking around.
Phil Friend 12:30
What's your favourite memory as a child then thinking about is a bit of a surprise question. But when you think back to your childhood,
Simon Minty 12:38
Are you talking to me
Phil Friend 12:38
No not you! you can't even remember your Simon .I mean, you know, Doas is fairly recent, but, but thinking the child what, what, what's your, what's one of your favourite memories?
See, that's the long pause. Because I really, really struggled growing up, it was one of the hardest times of my entire life, and it's made me who I am now. And I guess if I really had to dig deep, it would be a moment where I was so young to you know, I could you know, when you're young you don't you're not aware of the the world around you and what you'll grow up to have to fight for it. And, and think about and I think that split moment of where I was just too young to understand. And I remember just crawling around the floor and not a care in the world not caring about the adults that were there watching me judging me crawling around and and feeling sorry, and empathetic and sympathetic about seeing the little girl crawl around, not running like everyone else. And I feel like that was a moment where I wish sometimes I could go back to and, and not have the struggles of the world and society on my shoulders. Yeah,
Phil Friend 14:05
that's a brilliant, brilliant response. I get that. I really get that. Yes, that sort of innocence. Didn't matter what anybody thought of you that was just being you.
Simon Minty 14:18
Now you can clarify for me. I sense the last year or two, particularly around ethnicity. This is a strong time and we know the reasons why in the US and so on. But I'm not directly involved. So I'm kind of saying Do you feel that this is a time are more people trying to speak to you Do you feel your voice is now growing, both in terms of disability and background and so on? Or are you nervous? This is a flash in the pan, it may fade away again, how does it feel?
I feel like it was a little bit where you know, my voice was needed a little bit just to show you know that people are being diverse and are trying to get you know that from different groups but and I obviously I tick all the both boxes with the disability and the ethnicity, but I think it's definitely disappeared again, where people aren't, you know, as back to just people not really having that interest in wanting to amplify those those BAME voices. From my experience anyway.
Simon Minty 15:28
That's really Swift. I mean, that's terrible. Yeah, it's not great.
Phil Friend 15:33
What do you think that's about the Doaa I mean, what? Why are things so, you know, Simon, I have we said already, it's clear with different generation, but we feel there's a sort of upward thing going on. But you sound like you're This is not you sound very pessimistic, really. I know, you're not pessimistic as a person. Because I've spoken to you, and you're very bubbly and effervescent. And life's there to be lived. But there's this bit of you, which clearly does not feel optimistic.
That's it Phil, I think, people, people like positivity people like to, you know, they, they want to sway to the, to the positive attitude, and they want to hear that life is rainbows and sun shines, and all this great stuff. Nobody likes to hear anything that's negative. And because I know that I try not to throw too much negativity, but I think it's just as important to have, you know, highlight and share awareness, on things that are still going on in the world and things that people like to turn a blind eye to. And as a woman, you know, of colour, I really, really do suffer it, and I do behind closed doors. And it's not something that I'm really that comfortable in, in in sharing, and it's only just been this year, or the last just the start of the end of last year where I've opened a little bit up to up to speaking about race and discrimination. And I think it's a very emotive topic isn't it is a very, very emotive subject for for someone to speak about, because I've had people saying, oh, why don't you speak more about racism and this kind of thing, but I feel like, there's a, you know, it's something that sets people off, and you have to, you have to be educated enough to, to open up about a topic and, and to word it in the right way where it is going to get the least of, you know, reaction from the other people. So it's always a bit, you know, I'm not always sure on how to express it, but I think it's so many other people in the world go through, I'm going through, you know, not being having the privilege of being white and male, you know, just to say, but I think it's, unfortunately, is the way it is ? Who knows how if we can change it one day is something that's always going on, isn't it with racism, and yeah,
Simon Minty 18:12
and maybe building on that, and we'll get to the impact of cruel worlds and the impact that it can have on those who are inverted commas different and there's a phrase that you said, I do a good job of hiding it. But I want to show that there's damage underneath. And makeup is my mask, I don't feel disability is being accepted. And it really does frustrate me. So my double question is, I know this was when you put words on your face, and and some of the hate words that you got, how do you manage your mental health? And what are your tricks to sort of bounce back from something difficult like that?
So my mental health has always been there. scarily, from a very young age before, I shouldn't even been aware of mental health. But I think I've matured very, very early and that that kind of did more bad than good growing up, because I was very aware and switched on very early on when I should have been, you know, playing around or with other people my age, but I think when you have a disability, you're forced into into maturing so so much quicker than everyone else. And I think with mental health, it's something that I will always suffer with, you know, I do have depression, and I do get my good days and bad days. And it's really just about acknowledging it and asking for help when you need it. I think there's again, a stigma around mental health that needs to be discussed and needs to be in an open space where people feel comfortable enough to share and express how they feel. I went through a mental breakdown. I completely lost it a couple of years ago. And the only time I was able to save myself was when I kind of detached myself. From this culture of society and in the social media and what what is expected and the minute that I went by what I felt was right and what is better for my mental health, that's when I really began to heal. And every time I get back into that state, I'm better equipped with the tools that I have now and how have educated myself and have allowed myself to express my my feelings with no fear of judgement. And I think that's the biggest thing that people need to, to learn.
Phil Friend 20:32
Thinking about you as a multifaceted person. I mean, what you are, but you've got some kind of fairly distinct areas of you, the beautician the work that you do there, the modelling and your Instagram kind of persona
Simon Minty 20:47
Phil Friend 20:48
Well, I was gonna say,
Simon Minty 20:49
Both Doaa and I are athletes.
Phil Friend 20:50
yeah, you and Doaa share the athleticism. Goodness me, every time we do a podcast and athletics is mentioned he gets into it again, Have you got your medals with you, Simon?
Simon Minty 21:01
I know from Ellie Simmons, that you're not meant to wear them all the time. Who knew
Why not be proud!
Phil Friend 21:10
So we've got you in your social media role and work in that area, some of which is advocacy, but some of which is also the modelling and the beautician side of your work. The athletics absolutely an elite unlike Simon and elite athlete, where do you feel most comfortable? What is the thing that gives you the most comfort makes you feel properly you
on the track? in the gym, those are the two places where I feel heard, where I feel like I can take out my frustrations. And as an athlete, I've been in sport from the age of 12 years old. And I'm now 22 sport is, everything I've said to you guys, this this afternoon, nothing has had my back or got me out of the, you know, those mental health situations of breaking down with and I would have this more than my sport has saved me. It's been it's been something that I can get in my racing chair, get my gloves on, strap in, lock the world out, and just laps and laps around the track where I can clear my mind. I felt like I do feel like first that the track listens to me. And I can kind of talk to it in a way it sounds crazy. And I might be I am crazy. But and then the other thing is that I felt normal, whatever that is, doesn't even exist. But it gave me a sense of normality to be able to get in a chair and I might not be able to run it like everyone else. But my chair was allowing me to get around that track and push with all that power and be fast and and just be the speed demon that I am in that racing chair, you know. So it really, really helped me a lot with my support. And I will forever be grateful. It's given me the tools to be persistent determination, courage and commitment and so much more. And that was all through my sport.
This is The Way We Roll hosted by Simon Minty and Phil Friend,
Simon Minty 23:13
you have a strong presence on social media is a big thing for you. YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, I think is the biggest you said. This is a bit of a corny question, but best bit about it and perhaps the worst. But I whenever I put something out there, there's half of me very excited, but there's half of me is like, we're gonna get a reaction. How do I feel about that? So best and the worst bits about social media for you.
So I would say the best is social media, it's huge. And you can you never know how far your message is going to go, or who is going to reach or who is going to help. And this is why I started before anything. Before all of this advocacy, the main point was to help these individuals who are like me, who have a disability who don't feel heard or represented in society and it and it's to give them that feeling of not being alone. And to know that if I've, I've achieved and I've, you know, done great things in my life then. So can you. And the other thing that I wanted to do with my presence on social media is to educate the non disabled individuals on you know, a raw, accurate representation of a real person with a disability, none of that rubbish on, you know, literature, the arts and movies and books and how they portray disability in such an inaccurate and, and condescending way. And that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to give that accurate representation of my life. And I would say the worst part is one, obviously, you know, this is social media, and everyone is out there, and they have the right to say what they feel and they can hide behind their keyboard or a profile picture. That's fake and, and say some real horrific things to whoever they want. And, and, and it's unfair. And I think that the fact that a lot of social media platforms don't actually filter that out or will continue to allow that to happen to people with disabilities. And it's kind of like telling us people with disabilities that we're not wanted or welcome or seen as good enough to be on social media. I think that's really harmful. And, and of course, you can get you can get stuck in a situation where, but I've definitely felt if you know, you're not getting enough shares, repost and, and that support, it kind of really does demotivate you, and it doesn't help with you trying to make change.
Phil Friend 25:41
Do you think, you know, Simon's doing his thing, being serious about Simon and you now and not making a joke of this, but the social media presence, I mean, Simon does a lot more of that, and I do. And he gets kickbacks, he gets whatever he gets. You as a woman, we're back to that, again, you as a woman, a disabled woman, a woman from a different ethnic group. Do you? Do you feel I mean, which bit of you gets attacked the most? In a sense, when people do go for you? What form does that take in a Social Media sense?
Simon Minty 26:15
Can I be really naughty and say but I don't get pushback, I suspect like, you do know, I, I might get the odd comment. But I also know that it's five other people who come piling in and support me. So I don't think I'm as exposed and much privilege and all that stuff. Yeah, sorry to interrupt, because
Phil Friend 26:31
I think that I think that's a fair point. But I just wonder, what bit of you is under attack, most Doaa do you think?
I would say Phil that my body with a disability is constantly being sexualized or desexualized. A lot of the time, I'm forever being told, or by society and being restricted to what my body can and cannot do. And I think a lot of the time, it's undermining because I think, especially for the, from the male population, and this is not me throwing any shade or trying to, you know, because I know that there's good men, there's bad men out there. It's a mixture. But I think a lot of the time for what I'm trying to do, and the message I'm trying to put out, I'm getting hushed a lot by men and kind of like sexualizing me and kind of telling me that I should do something else. Rather than what I'm doing, you know, using my body or something to get me further then to open my mouth and and have a say in change, because that will never happen. And that can as you can imagine, that's very, it's it sets you back a lot and it makes you question, you know, will you ever be heard if you're constantly being sexualized and, and kind of belittled in a way?
Phil Friend 27:56
So they don't bother to hear what you're saying? The political messages you're giving? Their simply saying this young seeing this young, attractive woman? And making it? Yeah, that's the bit that they want to talk about, not the messages that you're that. Yes. And you're nodding, so that's Yeah.
Simon Minty 28:12
Okay. And, and then don't forget to a certain extent, myself Phil other people, we have used our bodies because we have said, this is who we are, this is our differences is that the impairment, the disability, this is why you need to change society. So we're using it. And yet they're not saying well you need to be more like this, or they're not, they're kind of maybe they're taking on face value or ignoring us, but it's not the same as what you're talking about. There's that bloke or the guy at the bus stops saying, You're so beautiful, and you're never going to do anything with it. Because you're in a wheelchair. I mean, that kind of blows my mind blows my mind has so many levels, and it's which, anyway, that stuff I think must be quite hard to bounce back from.
So that comment was from an an older gentleman, believe it or not. And sometimes Yeah, I do feel like those kind of comments do come from the older generation because you know, that they're very set on one way of how they perceived disability from from their time and, and I can't really blame them for that. But I think it's this is why we need this education. This is what we need to educate on. But I think, yeah, I'm, I'm forever getting these kind of comments and they used to completely destroy me and now I've become desensitised to it. I just, it literally does nothing to me. I laugh about it, but it's there was once upon a time what where I was those comments what made me who I am. And I think going back to that, and the drawing I did on my face to represent it's, it's these harmful comments that, you know, are underneath the mask and it's, it's what I've grown from and it's what I can either use to completely, you know, go down a path of self destruction or to really use it and make something beautiful out of that chaos and then And that's what I've chosen to do.
Phil Friend 30:02
But it requires, we use this word sometimes about people. You must be incredibly resilient. to just keep coming back for more, because you could just pack it in, couldn't you? And, you know, you could do what everybody says you should do, go and get yourself married off have five kids, or whatever it is. Do you know what I mean? That would be you're not doing that. What? What? What on earth? I mean, this is really difficult stuff you're talking about, and you keep on doing it. You're doing it right now you're, you're on our show, and you're talking about stuff. That was really painful, actually. So I mean, what what is that, inner bit of you that makes you keep on doing it,
the thing is, and I've come to learn is, the more you stay quiet about something that pains you so much, the more it will just keep destroying you. And the minute you actually open up about something so raw and so painful, and so open to the world, and to really hear this pain out loud. I feel like that's where I've been able to heal. I've been able to heal from opening up about these experiences and, and things that people look at me and they're like, how are you able to say this in front of so many people. And there was a point where I could not get a word of what I'm changing now. Because I will literally fall like, just break down. But I mean, I'm sitting here and I'm thinking to myself, a year ago, I would have not been able to say this. And here I am saying it was not even an ounce, of feeling emotional. And that's not a bad thing. And I think people, especially these days, society is telling us that to show emotion is a weakness. And it really isn't, it's to be able to show emotion. And to be so raw about your story and who you are, makes you so much more powerful than anyone is brave enough to be able to do it takes real courage to do. And I'm blessed that I've reached that point,
Simon Minty 32:08
I'm going to introduce you to a woman called Mel Halaika. She's a counsellor, but she's deals with disabled people. And she's doing a whole project about resilience and how we manage it and so on, you will be a great person for her to speak to to talk about. And remember, the bit which I totally identify and get, which is you kind of almost don't have a choice. I know that sounds wrong. But you've got to do this. Because if you went the other route, it would just naw away at you and you'll you'll even have less sleepless nights, at least the sleepless nights and the stress you're getting right? I know why it is. But also i'm not under estimating. And that's back to social media that's back to the presence we've got here. Just because you can do this now it doesn't mean to say you're gonna go away and just shake it all off, it still hangs around, it's it's back to public face what you present, putting your makeup on. And then you got to go back and deal with the reality as well. My only my only fear. I know a couple of young people who are doing brilliant stuff like you. And I always want what's their support as well. I mean, do you have people who are close to you, when you just want to let it all out or you're not on the track. Other people go, yeah, you're a good egg, and you're doing the good stuff. But they're people that love you.
I think that that's another part that's really, really important. It's about surrounding yourself with people that love you and who you love and who you feel comfortable enough to share these things with. And to really have someone to listen to because I spent so much on my time, not wanting to let anything out to anyone and I kept it in. And that's what led to my breakdown. And I think I've learnt from that, that. Now, I don't really keep anything inside. I always you know, I have my mum, my mum is my best friend, she's, she's my world, she's everything to me. And she is the reason she's the only person I'll get emotional for cuz she is the woman who made me be the woman I am today. She's behind all of this. And she has been there for me, you know, to be able to talk to her and express but I think at the same time growing up as well. A lot of the time I didn't want to share such painful things with her because as a mother, she's already struggling a lot of the time and she doesn't want to sit there and I don't want her to sit there and listen to my struggles. I want her to know that her daughter will be fine and she'll take on the world and she doesn't need to worry. So it's finding that balance between not upsetting her but also letting what's inside out and getting that advice from the mother that you that your your you love.
Simon Minty 34:42
You know, it's really hard that because they'll they'll take on some sort of responsibility or they just want your happiness and then they think it's their fault and they've got to solve and you're giving them a no I want to solve this and this is okay. You've almost it's not internalised. ableism it's something is your most you're worrying about someone else's feelings before you're worried about your And yours are quite complex. Yeah.
Phil Friend 35:02
Yeah. I think what's remarkable, I guess is that you're doing it at this age. I mean, I never got into the I've been disabled all my life too, but I never got into disability stuff until I was 40. And I think there was good reason for that, I think I wouldn't have been any good at it. And B, I'd built up some resilience myself, I was, you know, I understood the way the world worked. But there you are 22 doing this stuff. And as we've discovered talking to you in the last few minutes, this is serious work. This is not light stuff we're tackling here. And I admire you for it, I mean, that genuinely, I think it's it's a remarkable thing that you're doing. Thinking about the biggest challenge you think you face then at the moment? What would that be? Do you think? I mean, when we're perhaps thinking forwards now? What? Yeah, what's the challenge that you think you face? Given the work you do? We'll come to your challenges with the athletics in a minute, but the the sort of social activist bit of you?
So do you mean like, as in my life, or just the advocacy side?
Phil Friend 36:19
I think what you think of the things you need to change that, for the world at large, you are a campaigner that that's what you do now. Yeah. So what future campaign Do you think you're gonna find yourself really engaged in?
I mean, who knows what the future holds, you know, and I, this is a place that I'm actually really stuck on at the minute, you know, I'm 22 years old, I do this, you know, advocacy work, and I love it, and I enjoy it. And it's what I feel like I'm made to do, but at the same time, you can't help but have these pressures of society telling, you know, you need to do this with your life, you need to have a house, you need to have a job you need to, and I'm, you know, I'm human, I might sound sitting here sounding like some superhuman, but I'm really not I'm a human being, I let these things slip into my head ableism, that the whole, you know, expectations of society, they slip in, they do. And I need to keep continuously reminding myself that, you know, I have to do things on my schedule, not on whatever everyone else thinks or wants to see, it's about my time. And when the right time comes. That's when I'll find where I want to be. And that's okay.
Simon Minty 37:40
I mean, I take your point, and I was gonna say, how do you earn a living? And you know, and I don't think it's necessarily ableism, to want a point where you go, Well, I want my own flat, or I want to live on my own or want to have my friends over to my place. I mean, I have moved out Phil's gonna move out from his parents house soon. (Laughter) But there's no rush. That's the point. We're doing it in our own time. I just and it's really hard because I when I'm doing my campaigning, people want voices, but that doesn't pay you money, necessarily. So how do you survive on a day to day basis?
So like, that's the thing people, people well, for me, I can only speak on my experience and nobody else's. And I feel like as someone with a disability, I've been forced into this role of being an advocate of making change of speaking out of being a campaigner and changing society's views. Because I haven't seen, you know, I've seen the world lacks it, and it lacks that accurate representation of me. So I've been forced to do that roll out of my own back. And I think I'm trying to now find, you know, because that doesn't pay you that you do that out of your own back voluntarily. That's just what you do with with no money. But I think the thing for me is about finding something, either the mid ground of finding what I enjoyed doing and at the same time getting paid out of it. And I think this is what social media is great for these days, because you can literally give up, you know, a job that doesn't pay well become a social media influencer. And, you know, get paid for adverts and promoting and all this and you're suited for life, do you I mean, but at the same time, that's that was what I was under the impression when when I first started my advocacy thinking, Oh, I'll get this done. And because I'm so unique, and I'm so different, I'll be able to stand out and I'll have all these companies wanting to work with me, and I'll be sorted for life, but it's really not that simple. You really, really have to work so hard and you have to you kind of need you do need people to support you and in sharing your content and getting the word out there. And that's that's really hard to get, because a lot of people either don't care or they you know, You need people who are very supportive and want to get you to that level. And I think, and I personally feel and this is very personal for me to say, but I do feel like, because I'm so different, because you know, is the whole thing. But when it comes to psychology of, of, you know, being afraid of what, of the unknown, and what's different to you, and because I'm so different to a lot of people who aren't of the same culture or colour and things like that, I can come across as quite intimidating, and they can't relate to me in a way. So that kind of puts them off in, in being like, Oh, yeah, I totally relate. Yeah, let's share this. Does that make sense?
Simon Minty 40:39
Yeah, there's a sort of correlation with that. And I've said this to other people that just having a disability or just being different doesn't make you a great spokesperson doesn't make you a great voice doesn't make you a great social influencer or whatever, there is a you've got all to then learn your voice. What is your the thing that you're saying? The thing that we get that Doaa that's her position? That's how she's nuanced. That's how she's smart. So there is just being yourself and being different is one thing, but then being able to actually have that really loud voice, I suppose takes time. And as you say support and all the other bits that you need along the way?
Phil Friend 41:12
Yeah, but you are only 22. You know, why? Why should you have it all mapped out? You know what I mean? I had no idea what I was doing when I was 22. I mean, you're experiencing things, you're trying things out, you're doing different things. And the world is very different. your social media world that you live in is vastly different to what it was even 10 years ago.
This is The Way We Roll hosted by Simon Minty and Phil Friend,
Phil Friend 41:36
Can we perhaps begin to wind things down by moving? Just to talk a bit more about your athletics now? And what's on the agenda for you? Are you going to Tokyo is that on your agenda?
So Tokyo? I mean, Rio was was the aim. And I'd missed out qualifying times by half a second. Can you believe that?
Phil Friend 41:58
Yeah. That, yeah, but that messed me up.
Simon Minty 42:03
A bit of me is happy that is this competitive sport, but I'm not happy for the individuals who miss out by half a bloody second! that musthave been mean, anyway, yeah.
So, um, yeah, that, and then there was the World Championships that I didn't get selected for, that I felt that I should have. And that messed me up as well. A lot of this come, you know, it really really shatters your your goal and your aim and as your mental, you know, thought of wanting to compete in your sport, it just, it really sets you back. And those were huge setbacks for me. And I think, ever since those and so many things, you know, within the sport that has happened that's really kind of made me think, well, what is the point? You know, I mean, I've reached that point. And I was just like, I'm constantly trying, but I also have, it takes time for anything in life takes time, it takes dedication, sacrifice it, it takes so much. And I think I kind of got into a place where it was very unhealthy. Where I became they call it athlete depression, I got to a stage where I didn't want to see the track. It made me physically sick to see the chair. But I can't express to you what what I felt, I think because I focus so much of my energy, my time in such an unhealthy way of I need to be in the Paralympics, I've got people rooting for me, I placed people so highly on, on what they thought and what they expected and what they want you to see. And I think this leads into inspiration porn, I kind of forgot where I want it to be. And I fell out of love of the sport. So that really ruined things for me. And now I'm kind of left, you know, I don't know, do I do I want to go back to it. You know, I haven't competed since 2017. I still train it's something that I will never stop. And whether I get back into wheelchair racing or not, I will always have it is something that I get in the chair, I'll go out for my every morning pushes and things like that. But do I want to get back into athletics? I'm still, you know, to compete, and I'm still really stuck.
Phil Friend 44:21
What's the sort of age that you come into your prime as a, as a wheelchair athlete in your particular discipline, then? I mean, you're 22 now, what? 25 - 26? Something like that? Yeah, yeah. So you've still got time, in a sense to find your love for it again, or not as the case may be, I guess. So the thing that's given you in some ways, as you said earlier on in our conversation, so much pleasure and helps you tremendously, the competitive side of that the really competitive side of it, you've had to sort of put on hold really, while you get your head together and think about what you want to do.
It's like being careful of what you do too much of and too much of anything really does make you sick. And I've really got to learn that.
Phil Friend 45:07
Yeah, like a box of chocolates, Simon and I eat too many.
Simon Minty 45:11
Sometimes I look at my Boccia balls, and I thought not today not today! (Laughter) I just leave me be I, I sense sometimes you got the weight of the world, you put yourself on a huge amount of pressure. What I do know you said it though you know what up do what I can just only be me, and there's only so much I can do. But it doesn't mean to say that pressure is still isn't you can feel it. And I hope you continue to be successful in shaking that off and keeping it at bay. I mean, I am curious. Also, maybe not Paralympics right now. But what what is on the agenda for the next six months next year? Is it more of the same? Do you have anything specific you'd like to do or do more of,
I think it's just about finding my feet. And where I'm meant to be? You know, going back to saying that I've felt lost, and I don't really know where I belong with this advocacy. And I definitely know that I want to do something that's disability based. And it's about finding what it is advocacy or consultancy or any any of that kind of field of where I will actually make money, you know, and have have an earning of it. And it's just trying to find that I guess. Yeah, it's just going with it really, but but at the same time trying to find something that that makes me happy, that pays the bills. And that makes me feel like I'm contributing to society in a world that is constantly restricting me on my abilities and telling me that, you know, I can't and that I'm incapable, but it's, it's about really finding what makes me happy.
Phil Friend 46:56
Well, there's nothing wrong with that is that I mean, when you when I think about you, and knowing what little I know about you now, you know, your track, what you've been trying to do there, and the physical fitness side, a beautician bit, I mean, the viewers, the listeners can't see you, we can see you and I mean, makeup, and the way you look is fantastic. Absolutely brilliant. So you've clearly got some serious skills in that area, the work you do through your Instagram and the social media platform, you've talked about trying to monetize that, you know that you've clearly got a presence there, and you're doing stuff. And then not least at all, there's all the advocacy work that you're doing as well putting yourself out there. I think the future is probably quite bright for you. We just don't quite know what it's going to be the do we that's all.
Simon Minty 47:45
That's alright. And it will change. Cool. That's cool.
Phil Friend 47:48
It's been a delight, actually. Really, really fascinating conversation.
No, I've absolutely loved it. Thank you so much for having me on. It's I love these really raw conversations where it allows me to really express myself and dig deep and, and these conversations are, you know, they can be world changing one day and, and that's what we need. So thank you very much for helping me and for making me feel at ease to be able to express so much of myself, you two gentlemen have made it so easy and so comfortable. And I'd love to one day, maybe come back on or just something to say thank you for having me on. So thank you so much for your time and all your efforts.
Phil Friend 48:30
I was just gonna say we'll come on your podcast, when you because that's still a possibility you could do your own podcast. It's been I thank you for saying those things. And I just think you're an extraordinary person. And I think I hope what happens is that somebody is listening to us and thinks, God, I could do what she's doing. I get that. That would be we want, isn't it? We just want your voice to be out there.
Simon Minty 48:55
But no more podcasts? We've got enough No, no, no more podcast, do something else.
Phil Friend 49:00
Yes you'd be rubbish! (laughter)
Simon Minty 49:02
There's enough of them out there. Now, if that's where you find your voice, go for it. And to echo Phil, thank you so much. It's great to listen to you and, and the depth as well that I don't want to patronise but I feel for you. I think there's a lot going on. And I You don't always have to record stuff. If you want to speak to us You were always around. And we know it's tough because we have our ups and downs. When Phil and I ran the business and we used to get exhausted and you hit those barriers. We'd speak to each other every day. And we'd have half an hour an hour of calls and just having that person that gets it and you can offload it and you can you can be silly about it. It just makes bigger than so I hope you have your support.
Phil Friend 49:47
Give our love to your mum.
Thank you. She's She's She'd love you guys. Honestly Thank you so much. Thank you
Phil Friend 49:52
We'll get her on next.
Well if you think I'm to much wait til you meet her!
Simon Minty 50:03
Thank you very much.
Phil Friend 50:04
Take care of yourself.
And you my lovelies Thank you.
This is The Way We Roll presented by Simon Minty and Phil Friend. You can email us at [email protected] or just search for Minty and Friend on social media. We're on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
Transcribed by https://otter.ai