By Elaine Holmes
Michaela Deane, a first-year student in the University of Limerick, sat down on her bed in Drumroe Village as her hectic college day finally drew to a close.
The Journalism and New Media student has always had a huge interest in writing, and always makes time for it in her busy schedule at university.
Her love and passion for writing was apparent at a young age. In third class, at just nine-years-old, she was told by her teacher that she could “write a book someday.”
Because of this, one would assume that a career in English or journalism would be an obvious choice for her, however it took the 18-year-old a long time to finally realise it.
She was initially adamant that midwifery was her calling, and ranked it as her first six choices in the CAO last year. However, chance would have it that her first six choices would increase in points and she would miss the B3 English requirement for her seventh choice, Journalism and New Media, by being just “2 percent off the next grade.” It wasn’t until the devastated student was offered her eighth choice, English and New Media, that she “realised how much” she wanted to do the Journalism course.
Because of this, she considered repeating her exams. However, when she “got a scholarship for writing”, the talented writer decided to accept the offer. After a re-check of her English paper in the sixth week of semester one, Michaela was finally accepted in the Journalism course, and she hasn’t “regretted it since.”
The Mayo girl’s passion for writing is most evident in her Blog, which she started over a year ago. She recently decided to do a series of Blog posts with the aim of de-stigmatising mental health, an issue which is very important to Michaela.
The anxiety-sufferer explained that “the topic of mental health is really important to me because mental health issues are something that I, myself, have been suffering with my whole life.” At the tender age of seven she began to show symptoms of anxiety, but it wasn’t until she began going out in Belmullet with her friends at the age of 16 that she realised that hyperventilating, shaking and sweating were not normal reactions to getting upset. She went to a doctor who diagnosed her with anxiety, something which she found hard to deal with while attending St. Brendan’s College in Belmullet.
“I got a lot of crap in school for it because I don’t like staying quiet about it,” she explained. She added that her fellow classmates’ hurtful comments really upset her, by claiming that she was overreacting and looking for attention. “I don’t want it happening to anyone else so that’s why I’m trying to de-stigmatise the mental health issues.”
After being so vocal about her own mental health issues, Michaela received over 30 emails from people wishing to share their stories anonymously on her Blog, liesandbowties.wordpress.com. “My aim for the blog posts was to try and de-stigmatise all of the mental health issues, or at least all of the ones that I could get people to submit stories about.” As a result of this, the views she got on her blog “were massive and it made me feel really good knowing that people were reading about these and understanding it a little bit more.”
The Blogger has reached over 25,000 views on her blog since she began seriously blogging three to four months ago. This spike in viewership came as a huge surprise to the Journalism student, who claims that she “never expected anything like” it. Michaela expressed her joy at this achievement, saying “I’m just really happy because it shows that people are interested in learning about mental health issues” and that she’s happy that the word is being spread amongst her thousands of readers.
Her blogging success has prompted her to offer advice to young, budding writers out there. When starting a blog, Michaela advises to “write about something you’re passionate about definitely but not to focus it solely on one thing.” Her blog features a broad selection of topics, such as lifestyle, health and beauty.
Michelle Ruddy, who has been very close friends with Michaela for over five years, said that she has many interests outside of blogging, including music, singing and yoga. She also said that Michaela has “always been really trustworthy and somebody you could confide in, hence the reason I think so many people sent her stories for the mental health posts.”
When asked about Michaela’s writing, Michelle said that it has definitely broadened her mind, and many others, regarding the stigma attached to mental health issues. “I was so glad when she decided to cover that topic because it is something that I know is really important to her,” she added.
The DCU student also said that “I always read her blog posts and try to help share them on Twitter because I know how much time she spends on them and how much research is required for some of the topics she covers.” She added that Michaela improves with every blog piece or article she writes, which “makes it clear that journalism is what she was meant to do.”