In A Tizzy Over An Interview

I’m not a fan of interviews.  If someone asks me a question, I don’t take a deep breath, I don’t stop and think, I don’t spend two minutes planning my answer.  No, I’m a chatterer.  I’ll immediately start talking at super fast speed, simultaneous to my brain whirring away, quickly trying to recall my planned response.  I’m not a fan of interviews.  I’m not serious and solemn, I’m not a grey suit, I can’t drop in clever quotes and articulate one-liners.  No, I turn formal interviews in to friendly chats.  I beam and smile and chatter and bond, and say “basically” and “yeah” far too much.  I’m not a fan of interviews.  Memorably my mind once froze after a particularly odd question.  The interviewers eyes bore in to me, silence pounded my ears, the question on loop in my head.  No, I’m not a fan of interviews! 😛

Up until I got poorly, the only interviews I’d had were for jobs.  But then I got ill, and I got ill with a rare disease.  It currently takes people on average 2.5 years to be diagnosed with PH, as most doctors never see a case in their lifetime.  The only way to reduce diagnosis times, the only way to increase awareness in the medical community, the only way to aid understanding of the condition; is to talk and promote and spread information about the disease.  So since being ill, like many of my fellow PHriends, I’ve had to become an advocate for PH.  I’ve had to agree to newspaper articles.. and interviews!

A year in to my illness, Phil and I ran a small campaign to increase awareness of PH, and to encourage people to sign the organ donor register (“I Give You My Heart”).  Over eight months, Phil trained for and competed in four increasingly difficult endurance events. Instead of collecting money or sponsorship, we asked our friends and family to pledge to join the organ donor register.  To promote the campaign further, we were featured in a few articles for local newspapers.  Luckily, as I was still quite unwell, Phil would be the lead when we were interviewed.  He is great- articulate, clever, succinct answers- the opposite of me.  I wasn’t keen on the phone interviews (I like a face to chat to), or the unplanned interviews (I need to prepare) or the live interviews (luckily Phil did the radio bits).  No, I preferred it when the reporter visited us at home.  It is much less intimidating and stressful to be chatting over a cuppa and a biscuit. 🙂  In the last couple of years, I’ve been interviewed a few more times on my own.  And although I’m improving and getting more used to it now, afterwards I still sit there trying desperately to remember what I’ve been talking about, and whether it answered any of the questions!

So two weeks ago, I got a phone call from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.  They asked me to be interviewed by the Guardian newspaper, for a small article about PH to be released on ‘Rare Disease Day’ (28th February).  Would I be willing to help them?  Obviously I agreed.  Anything to help the cause.  I put the phone down, and excitedly told Phil the news.  The Guardian is our newspaper- the one we actually read each day.  How exciting to get a mention in it.  Then reality set it.. and I panicked!  I was going to be interviewed (aagh).. by a national newspaper (aagh).. over the phone (aagh).. tomorrow (aagghh)!  Cue an evening of stress and nerves, worrying and whimpering.

I felt under pressure to represent the PH world accurately and fairly.  What if I didn’t say how hard it is to walk?  What if I forgot to mention how difficult it is to get diagnosed?  What if I was too positive, and gave the impression having PH was easy?  After two hours of whining and whingeing, after two hours of playing scrabble on my phone, after two hours of putting off the inevitable.. I eventually sat down to plan my answers for possible questions.  Over the years, I’ve learnt that as I’m clearly not going to think through my answer during the interview, my best bet is to thoroughly plan it before hand, so it naturally springs to mind when I start talking. So I spent the evening working out what I wanted to say, and the whole of the next morning practising aloud my answers to a puzzled Lottie dog.

In the end it was fine.  Yes I chatted away.  Yes I talked at full speed.  Yes I forgot to mention some bits on my notes.  But generally it felt ok, like a catch-up with an interested friend.  Funnily, after all of the stress and build-up, she only had 200 words to write about the condition, so the article skims the topics we discussed.  A longer word count would have enabled her to discuss the disease and its affects in greater detail; aiding awareness and ultimately making a more engaging piece.  It’s also interesting to see what topics she picked to feature from our half hour conversation, and which parts she left out.  The discussion on the importance of the PH facebook group was only a one minute conversation, but was chosen to be the headline!  Presumably as she was interviewing a number of people with rare conditions, she needed to pick a different angle for each, and not repeat the same points.

So I survived another interview: without freezing mid-question, without saying “basically” and “yeah” too much, without going off on a tangent.  I survived another interview: lets hope it makes a few more people aware of Pulmonary Hypertension.  Happy Rare Disease Day!

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