Annika Victoria: Disabled YouTuber & #BabeWithAMobilityAid

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Annika Victoria is an Australian YouTuber with over 730,000 subscribers, lover of sewing and thrifting, and the absolute babe behind the #BabeWithAMobilityAid hashtag that you may have seen on social media. This interview is part of a new series that I’m starting here on my blog, where I speak to some of my favourite disabled creators and entrepreneurs about their work, and how they make it work. I think it’s important to talk about the ways in which disability and chronic illness can impact how we work – and my aim for this series is to share experiences, tips, and just in general learn about the different ways people are able to navigate all of that. It’s something I think I would have benefited from a lot when I was younger, so I hope it can help others today! Hi Annika! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Hey! I am in my late 20s and I live in Sydney, Australia. I live with my wonderful partner and my very spoilt, scruffy rescue dog, Ella. Why did you decide to start your own YouTube channel? I love sewing and I love learning. I was documenting my progress in learning how to sew on a blog I had back in the day called “The Pineneedle Collective”. Some people asked if I could make videos of my photo-tutorials to make it easier to see what I was doing. I had always liked working with video as a creative medium; as a child, I’d force my siblings to co-star alongside me in homemade productions. So I started making videos of the weird clothing I put together, explaining step-by-step how I made them, and they just sort of took off! I never meant for it to become my career, but after a couple of years of doing it I realized that it would make a great career for someone with an unpredictable chronic illness. It allows me a lot of flexibility and I can work/take breaks as needed, which I could never imagine being able to do in a 9-5 where I worked for somebody else. I really love it ☺ Can you tell me a little about your chronic illness and how it impacts how you work? The chronic illnesses I live with, that impact me the most, are Takayasu’s Arteritis – which is an autoimmune vasculitis, and is also the condition that I take the most medicines for! I also live with Fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression. Basically, I am in pain 100% of the time and often very fatigued! Living with a chronic illness has definitely been frustrating when my career was “taking off”, as it felt like I couldn’t put myself 100% in and say yes to every exciting opportunity that was suddenly coming my way. But looking back, perhaps my limited energy has helped me to be more discerning about which opportunities I should take, and that’s not a bad thing! My illnesses definitely make it difficult to attend conferences or functions that run all day, so I have to say “no” a lot to opportunities to connect with other people in my field of work, which has led to quite a lot of isolation. Do you have anything specifically set up to help you balance your health with your work? For a long time I didn’t, and I had to go through quite a few cycles of boom-and-bust to figure out what works for me. Now, I have set hours for work, that allow me to be productive but not overdo it, and enforced weekends (I’m very bad at stopping working, or taking time off, hence the word “enforced”). I also have finally found an excellent physiotherapist (about the 7th or 8th I had to go to), who has set me on a really great rehabilitation course to get some functionality back to my body, which has allowed me to extend the time I can sit and work at my sewing machine or my computer. How do you balance deadlines and expectations from your subscribers and brands you work with when you’re not feeling too great? It’s really hard! Just today I had to tell a brand that I couldn’t meet the deadline for the month, and they weren’t happy. And often subscribers get really unhappy with me when I don’t post for a while or post a more low-energy video, because that’s all I can manage at the time. I just have to remind myself that it’s not my fault, and repeat a phrase that’s almost become a mantra: The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind. Mostly, the people who watch my videos are incredibly supportive and understanding when I can’t release videos for a while, and brands are on the whole okay about it as well. The few people who become negative stick can really stick out, especially when you’re already in a vulnerable state, but I’m getting better and better at not paying those negative types of people attention. Do you have plans in place for unexpected flare ups? Hmmm. Nope. Hahaha. I should. I really, really should. Because I get VERY angry and upset when flare ups happen, and often place blame on myself or something that I’ve did that “caused” it. I do practice trying to be kinder to myself when I am having low-energy or high-pain days, but I need to keep learning how to use those skills for extended bad-periods like flare ups! I’m definitely still learning how to be chronically ill! What has been the biggest challenge of running a YouTube channel whilst chronically ill? Trying not to compare myself to other people who do similar videos. It is hard to feel like I am an equal to other Youtubers who put out 2-3 tutorials a week, when at the moment I can manage about 1 per month. And on a more positive note, what’s your favourite thing about having a YouTube […]

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