So probably you weren’t expecting a blog about disability on a lingerie journal. Thing is, though, that I’m disabled, and it massively affects our little company.
When you say “disabled” quite often people assume that if they saw you, there’d be something to identify your disability with. Equally, when people see me, they assume I’m fully able bodied, because I “don’t look sick”, or indeed yesterdays classic “but you’re always so smiley”.
The reality is that a significant percentage of the population is disabled by things you can’t see. Diabetes, learning difficulties like dyslexia, mental health problems, chronic pain conditions, fibromyalgia . . . all sorts of conditions can’t be seen but can make a huge difference to what is possible to do and to what you experience.
I have too many chronic health problems to go into, but top of the list is M.E., followed by various chronic pain conditions. The main impact on the business? Money. I can’t manage three long days at a trade show, especially the bits that involve carting heavy objects around; so even when we were very small indeed, I had to pay for an assistant. I have extra transport costs almost every day, because I can’t go at the same pace as other people. I work from home because its better for my physical health, but of course its not ideal for your state of mind! Having M.E means minimising your activity levels, so often life is a choice of what will cost you financially and what will cost you in energy, plus working out whether physical health trumps psychological wellbeing on each occasion.
On the bonus side, this means we generally have to be more organised. When you can’t do things in a last minute panic because your body would fall apart, it does rather engender a more planned approach to events. We also have the most high tech set-up of, I think, any of the boutique brands, and that is because to a large extent we use it to compensate for what I can’t do physically. I can see everything I need to see, do everything I need to do, from anywhere, courtesy of having needed it set up like that so I could work from bed! If you’re remotely tech literate, it makes us a better supplier, and for the most part we’re more on top of things like stock control and order wrangling than companies of a similar size and age.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all take shortcuts when we see people, but in the case of working out what people are capable of based on how they look, those shortcuts can go horribly wrong. My pet peeve? People at shows and the like who say “oh, you just need to go back the way you came and then its only a five minute walk” . I‘ve even had this happen in hospital, in the rheumatology department, that I was at because I couldn’t walk much!
There are no “just”s and “only”s with disabilities. They make things most take for granted difficult, although, just to be confusing, not the same things each time for each of us. And me? Well, I’m counting every step I take, working out how much pain I’ll be in later, even if I choose to do it smiling.