There are an estimated 11 million people in the UK with an invisible disability -- a physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside, but can limit a person’s movements, senses or activities. I am one of them.

2020 was an unexpected and terrifying year. Nothing happened how we expected it to. For me, my 2020 began with an asthma diagnosis. My diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, it was a relief. I’d always had worries about my breathing (I even had an asthma diagnosis as a child), so it was reassuring to know there are ways to make my life easier. I, like many others, wasn't expecting to deal with my new diagnosis during a pandemic.

1 in 12 adults are currently being treated for asthma. I knew I wasn’t alone. In the first lockdown I only went out to exercise so I didn’t have any concerns for my health. I was almost certain that I was safe. I spent that time working out what my triggers were and speaking to other people with asthma. It was challenging trying to do that at a time where I didn’t leave the house because I didn’t know how my breathing would be when we were finally able to go about “normal” (or the new normal) life.

Difficulties began for me when wearing a mask was introduced. As an asthmatic and glasses wearer, it was incredibly challenging. I had to find a way to breathe properly whilst also stopping my glasses from steaming up. This created a lot of anxiety around leaving the house, and that anxiety made it 10x harder to breathe.

For a while, I couldn’t physically wear my mask all the time. I would always try to begin my outing (usually to the supermarket) by wearing one. I sacrificed my sight to keep it on because of how afraid I was. Part of that fear was definitely a fear of catching COVID-19 because I (like everyone) don’t know how COVID will affect my body. However, a huge part of my fear was the judgement of others. I look fine, like the only thing wrong with me is an unwillingness to wear a mask, when actually that wasn’t the case at all. When I needed to give myself a quick 5-10 minute break from wearing a mask, it was to get my breathing back on track.

I spent the summer of 2020 carrying my inhaler around like a security blanket so people would know that I wasn’t just trying to get out of wearing a mask. The dirty looks and stares were unbearable.

Thankfully I have now managed to find a way that is about 80% effective in allowing me to breathe efficiently and not steaming up my glasses whilst wearing a mask. I feel safer both in terms of the virus and in terms of the judgement from others.

However, judgment still prevails. Mask-shaming has turned to vaccine-shaming, particularly online. People feel the need to know exactly why someone who looks young and healthy has been offered the vaccine before older people. That mindset is completely disregarding those with incredibly serious underlying health conditions (such as cystic fibrosis).

Therefore, it is so important that we respect and show as much understanding to this group of people as we would any able-bodied person. Whether someone has a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask or they have a disability that means they are in a higher category for the vaccine, we should treat everyone with kindness and respect.

Asthma UK has loads of amazing resources for people like me who are trying to understand their diagnosis.

This month's GGM UK podcast is all about invisible disabilities, shielding and COVID. Please listen here if you want to find out more about how 2020 and COVID have impacted people with underlying health conditions.

AUTHOR: Orla McAndrew

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Reset is a short movie, documenting how eighteen year old university student Antonia blogged to improve her mental health during lockdown. Antonia’s quotes were the star of the movie. I was particularly fond of the phrase: “Not on treadmill that is life,” in reference to how her time in lockdown encouraged her to focus on herself and take a more leisurely stance day-to-day. She also noted that “self-care is not a privilege; it should be a mandatory part of your life.” It is easy to forget this when you have the opportunity to self-reflect continually, when others are suffering with their mental health, homelessness, unemployment and difficult home lives during this time.

The simplicity of the shots captured the simplicity of serenity and childhood. A close-up of Antonia’s wrist revealed a beaded bracelet which had her name on it. I had a bracelet like that when I was small and many of my friends did too.

The movie tugs at people’s nostalgia on many occasions. In the last shot when Antonia is leaving the park, she is wearing a backpack. “Swiper no swiping” from Dora the Explorer instantly played in my head. Backpacks are a symbol of childhood and growing up, at least for me. I had a rucksack for four years at secondary school and kept pleading with my parents for a Longchamp handbag, to be ‘like the other girls.’ My rucksack was big and bulky and added to the image of me as an awkward workaholic, with hair that could never be tamed. I did eventually get a handbag, but realised that the rucksack was not that bad after all. I look back and laugh about the ‘problems’ I had then. The movie intends on getting viewers to reflect on where they are in their lives, how they have grown and changed.

Lockdown has been a difficult period for many. Adapting to a world where physical connection is off the table is hard. However, Antonia implores viewers to see the benefits of lockdown. A negative event, especially one as big as COVID, has the power to erase the positives, but if we allow ourselves to take time out and reflect, we will see that we have done things worthy of note. “The digital space is infinite” and the way everyone has dealt with the migration to a digital world should be applauded. Natalia and the film team at GGM UK should receive the biggest round of applause for creating a film during lockdown. This is by no means an easy feat, but proves that the power to succeed will overcome even the most awful of events.

As Antonia embarks on her university journey, as well as the director, Natalia, I wish them the best of luck. The replacement of in-person seminars and mortar boards with zoom calls and bathrobes was completely unexpected. I feel sorry for all students, from primary school to university, whose time in education is altered beyond repair. These memories and growing years simply cannot be replicated in the future. I hope that the resilience shown by all of these individuals does not go unnoticed in society. There are better days ahead. For now, there are digital communities and hopefully, opportunities for reflection, self-care and self-improvement.

I was so impressed with the movie that I wanted to find out what inspired the director, Natalia, to make it. Natalia sat down with me for an interview:

Q: What was the inspiration behind the movie?

A: Initially it was a personal thing. Mental health is not something that people talk about easily. For my generation, Gen Z, we are more open to talking about it. This lockdown has been especially hard on this group. There is not really a place for young people to articulate how they feel. There is lots of negative press, with young people being called ‘super spreaders’ and A-level chaos. There is not much on how we are coping during this time. Stigmas we attach to mental health mean we don’t talk about it and we really should.

Q: How hard was it to make during COVID?

A: It was definitely difficult! We were planning it since June/ July. It was hard to get equipment and find subjects. We filmed in September, so there was a short window before Antonia and I had to go to university. It was challenging, but also rewarding to have created a resource for other young people.

Q: How long did it take to make the film and who was involved?

A: The pre-production stage happened between June and August, the production stage happened in September and October was the post-production stage. Ami from the film team helped with filming and camera equipment. Aisha was very involved with pre-production and post-production. I edited it all. Morisha was part of team in early stages, alongside Dami. We found unconventional ways of working on the project.

Q: As a young filmmaker, what tips would you give to other young filmmakers?

A: Just start! It is daunting and easy to compare. Don’t compare your beginning to someone’s end. Do something simple like videoing your daily routine. It is the perfect time to document what we are all going through. Try to attend free events e.g. Event Bright events, and use social media to reach out to your favourite filmmakers for advice.

Q: Advice and takeaways from the film?

A: Antonia’s quote: “Self-care is mandatory and not a luxury” is one that really stuck with me. It is hard to accept you are struggling and get institutional help sometimes. Take the time to appreciate yourself, but don’t feel like you have to talk about it with others. Focus on today and what you can do now e.g. baking a new recipe, go for a walk, and take yourself out for dinner. Improve and take care of yourself for you so you can look back and see how you have grown. Don’t let the pandemic define the remainder of your year and growth.

Pictures @ Natalia and the GGM UK film team

AUTHOR: Danielle Desouza

I am a 22 year old LSE Politics and Communication graduate, makeshift musician and aspiring political broadcaster. I am a staunch supporter of both gender and racial equality, being female and Indian. I want to edge closer to this goal daily by bringing to light injustices, through all forms of journalism.


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BHM is nearly ending, but there are still plenty of ways you can celebrate and support events from Black creators. We have specifically chosen free activities to ensure that as many as possible can enjoy BHM. Eventbrite has kindly made it easier for us at GGM UK to find and recommend events to all of you.

The One Woman Black History Show

This event, on October 24, may have an ominous name, but it is jam-packed with events for the whole family. In a bid to draw attention to some of the key moments in Black British history, attendees will be introduced to Caribbean music and dance and Afro Caribbean Folk tales. The event ends with a quiz; the perfect way to brush up on all that you have learnt from the day.

Getting Your Voice Heard In UK Parliament

Between 12pm and 1pm on October 27, University of Birmingham’s Women’s Network are offering women the chance to make racial issues a focal matter in Parliament. The session will be run by a representative from Parliament and will guide those who attend on the parliamentary process. Let’s make sure that the end of BHM does not mean an end to the BLM movement.

Jamii Pop Up Shop

BOXPARK Shoreditch is the place to be between October 28 and November 1, as 22 black-owned businesses will be popping up at that location to commemorate BHM. You can find anything from haircare and skincare products to athleisure and children’s toys. Make sure to register your interest here. Technically, this event is not free as you are encouraged to purchase products, but it is for a good cause and the registration process will not set you back a penny.

Black History Month with Akala

The multi-talented Akala — who is a rapper, journalist, author, activist and poet — will be talking about protests, progress and the police on October 29. His virtual talk is organised by the African and Caribbean Support Organisation NI. It starts at 1.30pm and is free, like all of the other recommendations in this article, creating even more of an incentive to register.

Creative Conversations: Bernardine Evaristo

We had to include this event after one of our writers, Olamide, wrote an impassioned review on Evaristo’s book, Girl Woman Other. Evaristo will be speaking about her literary and media achievements — writing and presenting a two-part BBC Radio 4 documentary in 2015 called Fiery Inspiration: Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement, and winning the Booker Prize for Girl Woman Other in 2019. These are just a few from a list of accolades, which can be accessed here. Please join if you can on October 30 at 1pm.

AUTHOR: Danielle Desouza

I am a 22 year old Politics and Communication Masters student at LSE, makeshift musician and aspiring political broadcaster. I am a staunch supporter of both gender and racial equality, being female and Indian. I want to edge closer to this goal daily by bringing to light injustices, through all forms of journalism.


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