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.


Tattoo Journey

I’m calling this post Tattoo Journey, with apologies to the Lummi Tribe, whose Canoe Journey is big news in my neck of the woods these days.

Most of you know how I came to be a person with an invisible disability. Almost 9 years ago, I was hit by a car while riding my bike. I had 15 fractures—all 9 ribs on the left side, my skull, 3 spinal fractures, my scapula, and my left humerus (upper arm bone) was shattered so badly, they just vacuumed out the chips and connected the ends with a metal rod. To do that, they had to separate my bicep (much like one sections an orange) and insert the rod through the opening. The resulting scar healed as a keloid—a raised scar with an overgrowth of scar tissue. It’s faded over time, the keloid “deflating” inch by inch. You can still see the big stitch marks, a zigzag where the surgical wound met with the compound fracture wound, and some surrounding scars from wounds sustained in the crash. You can see a current X-ray of the hardware beneath the scar (I thoughtfully cropped out my breast from the X-ray).


Food Issues and Popular Culture

Food issues—allergies, sensitivities and whatnot—are not disabilities per se, but many people in this audience deal with them because they often go hand in hand with autoimmune disorders, rare diseases, mental health problems, chronic inflammation—our bodies are a complex web of functions and when one part is off, the effects often ripple. Is it any surprise that the fuel we give our bodies influences the way they work?


Spoon Economics 101

Today’s post is inspired by author Liz Prato (Volcanoes, Palm Trees and Privilege:  Essays on Hawai’i) and a comment she made on Facebook. We were talking about spoon theory () and how it became one of the most talked-about articles in the genre. Liz commented:
“I like that spoon theory opened a way for other people to understand about chronic illness, but I feel it needs some caveats. Like:  sometimes we can borrow spoons from the...


The Time Warp Corollary to Spoon Theory

Photo Source:  IMDb

As I prepare to go on a 3-day bike trip, with a to-do list that wouldn’t faze the average person, it occurs to me there’s another universal truth that all of us with invisible disabilities face—the clock doesn’t work the same for us. It not only takes more energy to accomplish tasks, it takes more time. I’m looking at my list and feeling panicked, like maybe I won’t be able to get to it all before I go, and if I do, will there be enough of me left over to enjoy the trip? (Yes, it all really needs to be done.)


Fighting Insurance for Care

As if living with an invisible disability weren’t exhausting enough, many of us have to fight our insurance companies to get the treatment we need. Because hardly anyone can afford treatments at today’s prices, our insurance companies often make the decisions about what care we receive. That decision should never be made by an insurance company, but that is today’s reality.


Living Our Hopes, Not Our Fears

Trending online and around town this week:  quotes about living for your hopes and dreams, not your fears.  Quotes have been attributed to Brené Brown, Nelson Mandela, and many others.

This is an important idea for people in this audience. We have limitations other can’t see, and must constantly explain ourselves. How often do you begin sentences with the words, "I can't..."?  This can lead to a mindset in which we limit ourselves even more than our conditions do.