House of Horrors 2: Awful Seating

Welcome to the second of our House of Horrors episodes—Awful Seating. You’re visiting a friend’s house and seating options abound, all of them terrible for people in good health--nightmarish for people with invisible disabilities that involve pain.

There’s the too-deep couch, comfortable only for someone with a 3-foot-long femur, and the piles of throw pillows you’re supposed to arrange around your body so you can sit. Unless you’re under 40 and can comfortably draw your knees up, or you can lie down, you’re going to suffer on that couch. Extra horror points for slippery naugahyde.


The Sidewalk Doctor

Now that October is here, I’m ready to get over my denial that summer is over and switch to a scary Halloween theme. The first of our Hidden Disability Horrors episodes—The Sidewalk Doctor. You all know this person; the one who knows your case better after 5 minutes than you do after a lifetime in your own body.


Men and Physical Vulnerability

Last week’s post ( didn’t generate any discussion, but judging from the Facebook reactions, people had feelings about it. Maybe those feelings aren’t comfortable to discuss. Something happened a few days ago that made me realize this topic might be even harder for men to talk about.


Does Your Physical Vulnerability Make You Less Assertive?

Today’s post is kind of hard for me to write, because I have to admit to behavior I’m not proud of. Recent behavior, not things I did when I was young, foolish, and easily misled. It’s an issue I think a lot of us deal with, though, and maybe if I speak up, so will you.

Many of us with hidden disabilities are physically vulnerable. We are less able to fend off physical force, and that may lead us to be less assertive than we want to be.


Internalized Expectations II: Keeping Up

While I was in college, I worked summers at a hotel in Glacier National Park. (If you were one of the myriad students who did the same, it was St. Mary Lodge & Resort, not the then-Greyhound-owned hotels). On our time off, we went hiking. We took all-day hikes, no matter what our condition going in. We were young and foolish, and our one day off a week (!) was precious, not a minute of it to be wasted. It was there that I learned the phrase, “We’re burning daylight!”


Internalized Perceptions and Expectations

Last night my neighbor came to my door at 8:30, just as it was getting dark and time to round up the cats, and asked me to help jump start his truck with my car. I figured it would be a 15-minute misadventure at the most, and I was “just” watching TV.

I stepped outside and got my jumper cables from my trunk. “Jeff” asked me which side my battery is on. I thought I knew, but wanted to look to be sure. I popped the hood latch and went to open the hood from the front, and discovered that I couldn’t lift it. My hood is very heavy, but I can usually lift it myself. Last night, though, my left arm said no. It’s held together with a rod and 8 screws, and when it says no, I have no choice but to listen. Jeff came over and lifted the hood, verifying that the battery was on the driver’s side.


My 9th Crashniversary

It’s been 9 years since I got hit. I’m not a big date person; when it would have been a loved one’s birthday, for example, I think, “that was Dad’s birthday,” but after the first year, I didn’t sit and think about what if he were still here with us? He’s not. I miss him, but I don’t imagine an ongoing life that would have unfolded if he were still here. And it doesn't make sense to imagine the life I'd have had if I hadn't been hit either--I was hit.


Scentsitivity Training

Last week, while riding on a BC Transit bus, I saw a poster that said “Scent Consideration Zone,” depicting a clean-cut teenage boy with a backpack on a bus, smiling as he grips a pole in the aisle. Looking at this young man, you can almost smell the cloud of Axe Body Spray that he (presumably) refrained from steeping himself in. The poster made me laugh, and then think about scent awareness in recent years. You can see it here: Scent Considerate Bus


Before and After: Unfair Comparisons

Hidden disabilities can really mess with your self-image. Assuming you haven’t had your condition all your life, do you think of yourself as “less” than you were before?

I used to do the Seattle to Portland ride, with my first finish in 2005 and then the following year I got lost and ended up riding my record of 133 miles in one day. The next day I wasn’t able to make it the remaining 89 miles to the finish line, but I felt pretty good about my personal best mileage.

I didn’t enjoy the crowds on STP and I didn’t like putting all my eggs in one basket-- if there was bad weather on that one weekend, the whole summer felt like a wash. I decided to quit the STP and planned an 8-day bike ride from my house in Bellingham, Washington to my friend Beth’s house in Eugene, Oregon instead. That summer I was conscious of how strong my body felt. I rode 60-to-80-mile days back-to-back, stopping for one rest day in the middle. When I pulled into Beth’s driveway in 90-degree heat with beads of melted asphalt snapping under my tires, I felt invincible.


Aspirations–How Has Your Disability Affected Yours?

The author speaks at her book release, September 2015. Photo by Kenn Rich.

Today I had to interview a woman on behalf of the company I work for. The company president wants to bring on another person in my town. We’re a small company, just 4 of us so far, and I’m the only one in Bellingham—the rest are in Seattle. It wasn’t really an interview to decide whether to make her an offer—Brad is already sold on her. The purpose of our meeting was to give her the chance to find out what it’s really like to work for the company, and how the indie contractor lifestyle works, so she can decide if she wants to accept.

It felt kind of weird, talking up the benefits of freelancing and then answering the question, “Well, how much did you make last year?” My answer hovered close to the poverty line. Her eyebrows raised; I backpedaled fast. I explained that I’m working part-time and I have two other freelance writing jobs, and if she were able to work full time as a project manager, she could potentially hit six figures. I explained about my crash and my ongoing physical issues, and how I need to tailor my work to my unreliable condition.