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We’ve all heard the slogans “shop small” and “shop local,” but it occurred to me recently that we rarely encourage people to support disabled makers and business owners, so that’s exactly what I hope this gift guide encourages people to do.
My own journey as a maker of acrylic jewelry began a little over a year ago. I had been out of work and unable to leave my house for around eight years due to my ongoing battle with complex-post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and major depressive disorder. Slowly, my mental health began to improve, but my physical health declined quite rapidly as I tried to leave the house more often and I was eventually diagnosed with ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, alongside my already-existing endometriosis diagnosis.
It was both frustrating and heartbreaking to me that all of my efforts to heal so I could finally leave the house again and find employment should come crashing down in front of me before I even had the chance to enjoy my new-found freedom. So, as I tried to adjust to this new life of chronic physical illness, I decided that I would seek work from home opportunities. Now, bear in mind this was pre-pandemic times and if there’s one thing I’ve had confirmed for me during this past year, it’s that disabled people are constantly erased from society. So, when I tried to find positions working from home, I was consistently told that it wasn’t possible to carry out the tasks required outside of the office. Skip forward a year and it seems like the entire world is ready to make the necessary adjustments so that staff are able to work from home.
Frustrated once again that my efforts to find work were futile, I decided to spend time learning a new skill: jewelry design. From there, I opened up my first ever Etsy store and the rest is history.
I can say, without a doubt it was the best decision I ever made. Working for myself has its problems (it’s intense!) but the benefits of being able to decide when I work and when I need to rest is something I will never take for granted. If I’m having a particularly difficult day with fatigue, my bed is just seconds away from my work, so I’m able to rest up for the day. When I’m experiencing an intense flare-up of chronic pain, same thing.
Of course, it’s not all positives though and I know, firsthand, how much harder my fellow disabled makers have to work to keep their businesses up and running, while also managing their health and self-care. We are some of the most hardworking, dedicated and passionate individuals and so you bet I jumped at the opportunity to create a gift guide to shout out about how awesome this community is.