I Used To Be Angry, Here’s What I’ve Learnt

As a former public speaker during my mid-twenties, and something of an advocate for people with disabilities,

I often came across as an angry young man. It didn’t start that way, but for a number of reasons, trying to work as an ally for people who were navigating all the same obstacles both within and outside of the disability community was an exercise resulting in frustration at the best of times. 

Truth be told, I was angry and frustrated.

On deep reflection, I had every right to be as angry as I was, but what I didn’t have the right to do was project that anger onto others. 

So, to start today’s blog, I want to honestly apologize for that. 

I am sorry for projecting my anger, no matter how justified it felt at the time, onto you. I am sorry that some in the disability community may have felt attacked by things I had written or said. 

Trust me when I say, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy being angry about the state of the disability sector, and sometimes, angry about my own role within it. I am sorry for that too. 

Guess what that anger achieved? Precisely nothing.

Was it justified? Yep, probably, and anyone who was involved in the inner circle and prepared to look beyond what was being posted on social media probably understood that. 

That’s the thing about anger, and why we can often be tricked into having those angry feelings on more occasions than we would probably care to admit. 

Anger comes from two very important things.

Firstly, anger comes from injustice. That actually only clicked with me recently, but it’s hugely important to realize when taking a step back to assess your behavior and mood.

Chances are, if you’re really angry about something, it is coming from a place of injustice that you feel, or have felt for some time. 

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that there is a lot of injustice that goes on within disability land, and all of that injustice matters greatly.

I’m a firm believer that it’s our worst stories, the worst examples of discrimination, that should be where we focus because those stories are often buried somewhere near the bottom. 

To build better, you’ve got to build from the bottom up. Being angry isn’t a bad thing, but taking an angry action toward the things that you do (both professionally and personally) will likely always have adverse results, especially if you’re on the ground and a part of that building work. 

The second thing about anger is that it is often historical. The things we get most angry about, and the things that result in us using that anger in action, are often things we have historical experience with. 

So, in my case as that angry disability advocate, there was that deep sense of injustice that had historical meaning for me. 

Again, there is nothing wrong with having a deep desire to make some change in whatever community it is that you feel deeply connected to. 

For me, I didn’t just want to make some change, I wanted to be a leader in that change. For a while, that’s exactly what I did, but what I wasn’t prepared to do was be patient. 

When you feel like you’re doing good work, when you have a real passion for how that work can act as a vehicle for wider change, and especially when you’re young and inexperienced, patience isn’t exactly something that fits into the equation. 

But patience, as the great leaders of our time would tell you, is a virtue you must have. Patience, passion, belief, and a whole lot of room to make the small adjustments needed over time. 

There is no playbook to solving the problems that face our disability community. As advocates, and really as a group of people, we need to have a greater understanding of just why people might feel as angry as they do. 

Anger, as I myself continue to learn, cannot be the emotion that drives the discussions we have in this community, but we can’t attempt to just shut it out either. 

We need to accept anger, understand anger, and give people the real support to resolve that anger and turn it into something that can truly aid what it is we are trying to achieve here. 

Don’t just shut them out and label them angry, negative, and toxic people. Don’t just block them on social media. 

As for our leaders? They need professional development, they need mental skills coaches. 

I know now that my anger within the disability sector, something that honestly did consume me for some time, came from a deep place of injustice with historical roots.

I know I am not alone in that, and what I’ve learned from being in that place is indeed a greater understanding of the things that made me angry in the first place. 

The sense of injustice, the terrible history of blatant ableism. All of that, but what is getting angry about it going to achieve? Not much in all honesty.

My Mental Health: Knowing YOUR Role

The musings of a 27-year old battling his mental health demons in therapy every other week. 

When I look back at my journey with depression and anxiety, I see it as one of consistently broken promises. I broke promises to my friends and family, but most importantly, I broke a ton of promises that I’d made to myself.

I said I would do a lot to tackle my “problems”, but in actual reality, I only managed to do a little bit.

When you’re depressed and anxious, you’ll kick yourself for only doing that little bit and you forget one very important thing, that you actually did that little bit.

We so often look at issues with mental health as things that need fixing or changing.

It’s the classic case of being in a bad place and wanting to get to a better one, but not really knowing how to do so, or especially, why we want to get there.

Two failed attempts at legitimate therapy and six sessions into my third go, I still can’t answer either of those questions, so sorry to disappoint.

One thing I do know is that this time it feels different, almost like it’s a case of now or never. I quite like having to look at it in that way, even though I know that all hope isn’t lost if I fail again this time.

Another strength I’ve developed (one I sincerely wish I had before) is the ability to accept that it’s ok to not be ok. That phrase is used a lot in advertising for mental health, but it really is true. Once you accept that these things you’re feeling aren’t A) negative and B) your fault, you’ll be able to take a much deeper look at where it all originates from.

I’ve learnt the theory behind how the heart operates from a person’s past experiences. Again, another wishy-washy sort of thing to try and understand, but if you’re able to look at the current objectively, it makes perfect sense.

Logic can often go out the window when you’re in a dark place. It is NOT logical to just say you’re depressed and want those thoughts and feelings to go away, because you haven’t considered how. It is also NOT logical to just go to the doctor and get anti-depressants prescribed. As someone who’s been on these anti-depressants since 2014, I can safely tell you that whilst for most of us they are necessary, these tiny little pills are just one part of the puzzle.

Solving that puzzle doesn’t mean you aren’t depressed or anxious anymore either, again I am sorry to disappoint. Use your logic, ask yourself what else you need to do on top of taking any medications.

The answer you’ll tell yourself will probably go something like this… “I don’t know”.

If you don’t know, ask someone else, because remember that you’re likely being illogical as you’re still coming at this question from that same dark place.

My Mental Health: Knowing The Role

A demon that I’ve tried and subsequently failed to tame is the mental ability to “switch off”. I’m told that advocates, activists, and those passionate about making a change to their community, often struggle in this space more than most.

I can certainly identify with lying in bed and watching television but being drawn to my iPhone simply so I can check if there are any “updates” to the issue I might be writing about that particular week. I can also identify with the urge to log onto Facebook and see if there is “just one more comment” on that blog I posted.

A turning point for me came when I started to turn down that desire a little.

It’s something that will remain one of my main challenges moving forward, that ability to “log off” at the end of the day and tell yourself that enough is enough.

I can tell you that for most content creators and journalists, two things of which I am, that is an extremely difficult skill to master because social media is where both your community/engagement is and where the news is breaking. Both have very short attention spans, so you’ve got to be “quick to post” more often than not.

The logical way of doing things is to plan out your time better. Know when you’re “on” and when you’re “off”.

When I was in that dark place I willed myself to always be on but all I ended up doing was being off. That means that I slept, a lot.

Sleep is an integral part to better mental health in my view, but it needs to be done right.

Perhaps the biggest challenge that these mental health issues have presented me with is the very real threat that sleeping more than you should presents. It can, and will, start to take over your life. It is one of the most common signs to depression and various other mental health issues, and one I know first-hand.

Don’t Be Someone Else’s Scapegoat

To close out this blog, I want to offer you two pieces of advice. The first, be very sure about what your role is in the different situations you’ll come across in life.

For example, if you are a persons’ manager but also their friend outside of work, be very clear about how you make decisions that could impact that person. You can be friends with the people you work with, honestly. But look at things logically and from the perspective of what’s best for business.

The second you step into that friend role and advocate on their behalf, as the manager, you set yourself up to be the scapegoat. People love to shift responsibility for their misfortune, and if you put yourself in that position, it will impact your self- esteem and make you depressed in a second.

Know your role, ask yourself who owns the situation at hand. If you own it, do something about it. If you don’t own it, realize it’s that person’s responsibility to make the change.

The permission you give will have a direct impact on the emotions you feel. When you are depressed, anxious, frustrated, or sad, how can you possibly think that you yourself are owning these emotions?

My final piece of advice is to realize that perfection doesn’t exist.

Striving to be the perfect person in a world and one that can help everybody will leave you with nobody. In other words, stop thinking about what other people want you to do, and do what you think you should do.

As the saying goes, imperfection is only measured by what we perceive to be perfect. What would be perfect for you right now?

2017 Year In Review: On The Outer

2017 was a year of immense personal challenge, growth, and a few big mistakes that I’ll reflect on for the rest of my life. 

Starting the year; I found myself unemployed and very much ‘on the outer’ of the disability sector. After over three-years of giving everything I had as a public speaker, communications guru, and general advocate for the rights of people with disabilities; things had suddenly gone really wrong very quickly.

It wasn’t a great space to be in. Being bitter about it was an understatement, I was bloody pissed off! It felt like I had been on this really good run, where a lot of people respected me, but the minute I went ‘against the grain’ and tried to have tough conversations, nobody in the sector wanted to listen.

Not only did it feel like nobody wanted to listen and engage in certain areas, I was made to feel like I was nothing more than a shit stirrer; someone who wanted attention by being deliberately hostile and controversial. That made me frustrated, and very resentful to more than a handful of people. I learnt quickly who my friends were, and who weren’t, but it got to a point where I lost confidence in myself as an advocate. I started believing that I actually was just a shit stirrer, and that led to a point of self-loathing that in turn led to some very stupid decisions in my personal life.

It’s ironic too, because the reason I had even been noticed in the first place was because I was a disabled person doing different roles in media and radio, whilst studying full-time. A few organisations heard of my story, and they wanted to connect with me. The big turnaround in fortune, from popular to hated very quickly, at the end of 2016 left a bitter taste in my mouth as I said.

For weeks, I reflected on the countless conversations I had with literally hundreds of people. Some of those people worked in organisations, and others were families and children that live life with a disability. Guess what I realised? There was, and still is now, a major disconnect between those two groups. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that this disconnect is as worse as its been for a very long time. Families are losing faith in the system, as well they should. There are only a handful of advocates who aren’t governed by an organisation, and I’m one of them.

2017 Year In Review: On The Outer

When I realised all that, I simply had no choice about where to go next. It all becomes quite simple really; realise that peoples’ opinion of me is out of my control. No matter what you do, people will take their own narrative from the things you say and write, especially online. Half of those people wouldn’t dare say some of the things that they were directly to my face either. Rather, they’d take comfort in saying it online by commenting on my posts and talking amongst their own group of friends, all of which shared similar opinions. It’s easy to do that when nobody challenges your narrative.

That’s part of the problem with the disability sector, too. Right from the top at Government, down to the community organisations, and even in some of the charities. There isn’t enough challenging of the cliche narrative that has existed for decades. There is no forward-thinking, and that leads to missed opportunity, because everything is so reactive. People in positions of leadership like to control and censor the messages about disability that go out to the wider community, but for so many of these people, they’ve been in the position for far too long that they’ve become short-sighted and too reliant on the same old systems.

You’ve got to own your opinions on things; don’t just say it because its popular at the time. The same goes for advocacy, and trust me, I’ve seen some so-called “advocates” in this sector shy away when the going gets tough and the knives are out. You can only be popular but so much. My gut instinct has always shaped my opinions and motivation to speak out of things, especially as a disability advocate. That’s why it makes it so easy for my critics, because they can easily question my actual knowledge on certain issues. But they also don’t see the countless hours of research, thoughts, and discussions I have about those same issues as well. That’s not convenient for their argument against me.

Where To From Here For Michael Pulman?

There are certain groups of people that will never work with me again, and it’s those same groups that I’ve got little respect for. In terms of “where to” for me in 2018… I am excited about what we at the Content Creators Network are doing. The TEAMPULMAN brand fits under that, and the beauty about it is that we are all just having conversations with one another. Unfiltered conversations.

Since launching late in 2017; it’s been a good run. Producing a live talk-show four nights a week is a fun challenge to have, and above all else, I love the interaction and the ideas that have spurned from that show.

The disability sector needs to become an industry. One that is progressive and proactive, utilising all modern forms of technology to work alongside the wider community. More detailed analysis about the hearts and minds of people needs to be had, and a National Register of disabled people actively seeking paid work needs to be undertaken. We need to be brave enough to broach subjects that go beyond just care, access, employment, and education. Those are biggies, I know, but these aspects don’t actually make up the structure of a person. Using the lack of advances in these areas and claiming that disabled people are at a disadvantage as an excuse is counter-productive and convenient.

There is little to celebrate about the state of our sector at all… really. A lot of it is nonsense actually.

I want to see a change in the narrative. I want to see people with disabilities in control of their lives in the present and the future. It’s them that should be making the policy decisions, them who should be leading organisations representing disability issues, and them who ultimately have nothing to lose and everything to gain by a big change in structure.

PERSONAL: Above the bullsh**t

Last week I read on social media that my refusal to quit was a reason for apparently hurting someone.

thoughts

Shortly after reading that I got told that someone had said that “anyone would be better than Michael Pulman” in reference to romance.

The people who say this feel that they are right – and who knows – they could be.

But to me, it is just a blatant overlooking of a very simple mindset that so many people – even themselves perhaps – have at many points in their lives.

For the people who try and make the best out of difficult situations – one of the hardest things to do in life is let go and move on.

I stumble into these traps practically everyday in some way or another.

Not for the first time I attempted to mend the fence with my ex-girlfriend last week and this was how these comments on social media began.

It was meant to be a private conversation – only to be shared on Facebook – the number one destination for opinion by the unjustified.

Again I found myself being met with the all so familiar feeling of having the best intentions but not being met anywhere near halfway.

Again.

While she said on social media that I hurt her – in reality what I really did was try to mend the fence.

I am quoted in the recent CCS Disability Magazine as saying that my mind is my biggest disability.

Not the wheelchair – my mind and my sickness of anxiety and depression.

I admitted that sickness a while ago now and have been openly seeking help in a very honest way.

As part of my part-time work in the disability sector I have been reading a book for review.

The book about this guy who was living a ‘normal’ life before suffering a horrendous accident and losing his ability to walk.

In the book, this man writes a lot about self-defeating thoughts and how powerful they can be.

Self-defeating thoughts are natural and they are usually present at times of hardship or extreme challenge.

Things that happen – like the past – are a big reason why a person will develop fear, lack of confidence, and self-defeating thoughts in a variety of situations where other people would say you are simply over thinking it all.

My point is – stay away from people or situations involving people that are impossible to fix (for whatever reason) because this will feed so many of those painful and self-doubting feelings.

Sometimes you can’t avoid these situations though right?

In that case – tell yourself that people will say what they want to say and you don’t give a shit!

If there is one message I want today’s blog to put over it is that the problems floating around in your head are often not as bad as you think. Positive thinking and looking forward will almost always simplify.

The thing that matters is what you know and what you believe.

Many many people out there I am sure are better than Michael Pulman in terms of romance.

But I am happy with myself, I am determined in the present, and excited for the future.

I haven’t moved on – I have moved above.

DREAM BELIEVE ACHIEVE