The Emotional Labor of Invisible Disability

There’s a lot of talk about emotional labor in romantic relationships and friendships these days. Wikipedia defines emotional labor in terms of the workplace:  “Emotional labor is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors.”

The concept came about when women began to push back against the expectation of doing most of the emotional labor in the workplace. It caught on rapidly and was applied to non-work relationships. If you’re the one in your group of friends who initiates all the activities and coordinates everyone, you’re doing the emotional labor for your group. If you’re the one in a marriage who buys gifts and sends cards to all the relatives on both sides, you’re doing the bulk of that emotional labor in your marriage. Those are broad-brush examples, and emotional labor can extend to things like dealing with a loved one's addiction, or it can be as simple as choosing a gift for someone, or researching a joint purchase.


We Need to Feel Seen


This meme appeared on my Facebook feed last week and I knew immediately that it would inspire a post. If it’s not clear on your device, it says, “Just because someone carries it well doesn’t mean it is not heavy.” This is the source of much of the dissonance in my life.

I like to look like I have it all together. I’ve come a lot farther than anyone expected me to, and I’m proud of that. At the same time, though, I want some people to see what it takes to put up that front.


Finding the Silver Lining in Loss

I have a friend I see once every summer, the nephew of the owners of the resort where I stay. Jamie has a degree in philosophy and we have the most amazing conversations. The things we talk about influence my thoughts over the next year until I see him again and we pick up where we left off.

The summer before last, Jamie asked me, “If you could go back in time and not go out on your bike the day you got hit, would you?”


Belated Veteran’s Day Tribute

On Veteran’s Day last week, I bought a  poppy from a veteran outside my grocery store, to help disabled veterans, and I thought, “I bet a lot of disabled veterans are affected by issues you can’t readily see.” Then I got taken down by this virus that’s still trying to hold me down, and that column didn’t get written on time.

Today, a little late, I honor the veterans. And disability is all year round, not just...


When We Get Sick, Do We Feel Worse?

Remember when I said November is nobody’s favorite month? Welcome to cold and flu season. You can’t go into a drug store without practically being chased by syringe-wielding nurses who want to give you a flu shot. “No thanks, I’m good,” I say. If pressed, I claim I got mine from my doctor already. I’m allergic to eggs, which makes any egg-cultured vaccine a problem. I’m so allergic, in fact, that I failed to develop any immunity to rubella after getting the vaccine in 1983. I did, however, have so much congestion that I got a bacterial infection that made me seriously ill for 3 months. (I know about the lack of immunity because the state of Montana was still blood testing for marriage licenses in 1988.)


Did You Miss Dysautonomia Awareness Month?

It’s likely you did; it’s overshadowed by the barrage of pink ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. October is also Dysautonomia Awareness Month. Dysautonomia affects an estimated 70 million people, at least one of whom is a regular reader in my audience. I learned about dysautonomia from Heather Thompson, who, like many (but not all) sufferers, acquired the disorder after a head injury.


House of Horrors 4: The Dark Side

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Hidden Disabilities House of Horrors:  The Dark Side. Of the year, to be precise. The Autumnal Equinox that occurred a month ago--the shifting of the balance of light and dark to more dark than light. And the ultimate horror:  the time change that will occur on November 3.


House of Horrors 3: The Skeptic

Welcome to the third installment of the Hidden Disabilities House of Horrors:  The Skeptic. The person who doesn’t really believe there’s anything wrong with you.

The way we live our lives often looks inconsistent to other people. For example, I’m not able to work a scheduled, on-site job because my condition is so variable, I miss a significant amount of work time. When I’m allowed to work from home and take breaks as needed, I can get something done on a day when I’d have had to call in sick to an office. I knock off for the afternoon around 2:00 while I still have enough energy to take a bike ride or swim. If I were to work until 5:00, I’d be too wiped out to work out in the evening. My colleagues see me taking off at 2:00 to go ride my bike, and they express skepticism about my need to do so.


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.