I wanted to write this blog because not a lot of people know this about me, but have a disability. I am actually significantly disabled. It is a disability that, for me at least, has not been compatible with traditional employment but works with massage. It is also an invisible disability so it comes with a host of other issues that are present with disabilities that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Such as panic, dissociation, and depression.
My technical diagnosis is that I am Dyslexic and Autistic. A lot of people misunderstand what that means, though. They think Dyslexia is not being able to spell, and they think of Autism as someone who has trouble communicating. I do not identify with either of those things in particular, although I do spell rather poorly.
So what does my disability mean?
I cannot hold a regular job. I had a long history of failing miserably, switching jobs, being bullied at work, then calling in dead or deliberately making my work life a mess so that I would be fired. It is very hard to find employment when you have anxiety about basic human tasks.
For example, I find talking on the phone wildly difficult, especially with people I do not know. That made most entry-level jobs very uncomfortable. In college, I would make my roommates call for delivery because I was worried about calling someone I did not know. Even today, if I sub in as my own receptionist, I get a spike of nausea when I pick up the phone to make confirmation calls. Additionally, I have an auditory processing disorder which means I often actually do not understand what is said over the phone as I cannot see lips, if it involves codes, numbers or letters. If you give me your phone number over the phone and I write it down, it will likely be wrong. Dates, names, and emails as well.
I cannot file or do the alphabet and reliably match a name to a letter, I cannot count money properly, and the months of the year elude me frequently. Time flow and telling time cause me problems. I have been known to spell my daughter’s name incorrectly when stressed and was limited in choosing names I could long-term learn to reproduce. I find loud noises totally fine, but if there are multiple noises coming from multiple areas, I have a sensation in my head like I am suffocating. I find being with some people physically difficult. I do not like the wind touching me if I am inside, like with fans. I am often very, very uncomfortable doing basic things like interviewing…it can cause me to dissociate.
I have strange fears about strange things, like that buses are not on track and so can go off route and should not be taken. I fear getting lost. In general, I feel like I am navigating without all the information that I need. It is scary. I am easily bullied. I easily lose myself in others. I have often been told I am being a B when being earnest or lying when I am telling the truth…. I in fact, find lying very hard. Not following a rule or moral code makes me very uncomfortable.
People have very strong reactions to me. They either love me or hate me. I once had a fellow co-worker quit on my behalf when I had a panic attack at work as they switched the computer system to one I had never used, and I stopped being able to function while my boss yelled at me “just figure it out”. Basically, my brain is lying to me all the time about the things around me. I have a processing disorder. And when that processing becomes overwhelmed, it stops functioning altogether. Small changes can trigger my brain to not function.
Being a business owner with a disability was hard during the pandemic
The pandemic was particularly challenging for me. Autistic people do not do change well sometimes. I gave birth at the height of it, when women in NYC were being forced to give birth alone. NY and the government rolled out reams of new laws, financial policies, and legal information. The PPP documentation alone was overwhelming for me. No accommodations were made for the disabled or pregnant for any of the new policies. I struggled.
Do you have assistance?
I have not gotten the help I needed, even at school, even with an IEP (which is your individual Education program, a document that helps disabled children navigate the education system through accommodation). In part, this is because I was not diagnosed properly until I was an adult with autism. It is also because these things that I have are very misunderstood.
My college advisor once told me when I went to his office, despondent, confused, and overwhelmed about how exactly I was going to navigate the world or how any of what I was learning would be applied to my life, “ You are the one person I do not worry about. You will be fine”.
That same year I failed a class because I was afraid of how to check a video out of the library that required a special process.
I operate in this role now, as I have the full support of staff and family. I additionally use Grammarly:) I can run my own business as I do not have to do it someone else’s way, I do it my way. Point of Sale software and computers have taken over many of the things I struggled with in school.
Why don’t people know I am disabled?
You see, in addition to struggling with daily tasks. I am also strongly verbal, I had to dumb down my vocabulary in school. I read at a super fast rate. I speak well publicly. I could draw in perspective before I could fully write. I have a memory that is close to perfect for details in certain contexts. I read people very well. I am a quick study of human behavior and can make people very comfortable. I can take things apart and put them back together. And I can learn some things in a way some others never will. Most of the art on my walls is my own, if you want shelves, I can build them, lighting I can do, and plumbing as well, but passing the exams to get jobs that include those skills would be hard.
It is a strange contradiction of things…I might not be able to work in an office, but I can run my company. And because I am bad at A LOT of things, I have tried MOST things…because I have to. So people do not see me as disabled. Disabled people are not supposed to be doing things in many minds and they are certainly not supposed to be VERY good at some things.
Being disabled and massage
I became a massage therapist on a fluke. I started school as I was very unhappy with my life in NYC, and I moved to Canada on impulse. Long term, in order to stay I needed a permit and getting a permit to stay meant I needed to go back to school. It was by chance that I went back to school in Ontario and it changed my life. The massage school there teaches specifically a structure on how to communicate, interview, interact with and behave in a clinical setting. I was given very detailed rules to follow and apply in a healthcare setting. I was graded on eye contact, fidgeting, and the appropriateness of my body language…and it saved me. I needed only to apply the rules to clinical practice to be successful, and I was.
Massage therapy as it turns out, is a fantastic job for disabled people, even if you do not go to it in Canada. In massage, accommodation is easy both for the patients and for the therapists. Many of the people that work in our office are disabled. Some are diagnosed, and some are not. Some have mental impairments some have physical ones. There are very few things in massage that you cannot work around. Over the years, I have had the privilege of watching many of these people grow as well…into wonderful business owners themselves. Massage can be a job where it is viewed you ‘end up’, but it is not. Massage is often the beginning. I would encourage anyone who is feeling frustrated by their personal limitations and is curious about massage to reach out to me.
The world, by far, is not set up for me. But the world I can create through massage is. It can be for you as well.
This particular post is not really edited by my crew. So if you would like better grammar, spelling or proofing, please read another.
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