On WordPress and Disability, Thank You

Someone last week said they appreciated the honesty and humility with which I presented my bio here at MyNameIsAngie.com, talking about how I got into WordPress and internet marketing. In that bio, I say,

I used to be a youth pastor. After I got married, my husband, daughter and I went to Northern Iraq to work with a non-profit. When we came back to Columbus, we both had a hard time finding a job.

but I don’t explain WHY I had a hard time finding a job, or why I didn’t go back to being a youth pastor.

Most men, they’ll tell you a story straight through. It won’t be complicated, but it won’t be interesting either.

About a year before Robert and I were married, while I was still a youth pastor, I was at a retreat with about 65 of my high school students. We were completing a challenge course, and I cracked my head on a wooden beam. Hard. The kind of hard that knocks you to your ass and takes your breath away, and kind of makes it to where you can’t see. In the days following, I started having really strange sensations, and even remarked to my adult volunteers that if I didn’t know better, I’d think I was having some sort of seizure. About two weeks after that comment, I had my first seizure on the bathroom floor of the church. I woke up as the squad was lifting me into the ambulance.

You might know the kind of seizure I had as a “grand-mal” seizure, but nowadays they’re called “tonic-clonic.” I have that kind, and another where I kind of stop moving and just stare off into space, losing a chunk of three or four minutes of time. Of course, I lost my license because of this (understandably so), and eventually, my job. Youth pastors are a spontaneous bunch, and are expected to do a lot of visiting of students, parents and volunteers out and about town. A pastor who sits in the office all day is a pretty lousy pastor.

Fast forward about two years, Bob and I were married, had a baby, went to and returned from Iraq. My job there was as an International PR Director – a job I got using skills from my days in Communications & Integration for the church. But roles like that aren’t exactly being handed out on street corners here in Columbus, Ohio. I wasn’t going back to full time ministry. I was a liability there, a hindrance to getting things done, despite a great record of encouraging growth.

I tried working in an office once after we got back as an administrative assistant for a Financial Planner. It worked out well enough until I started having breakthrough seizures again (that’s basically where the medicine wears off and they start again). It got harder to keep a consistent schedule, and finally, we decided it was best if I stopped working there and trained my replacement.

Some friends and family suggested I apply for Disability and call it a day. Uncontrolled epilepsy qualifies as a disability within the “Neurological Disorders”, so I suppose I could have. I knew that was a trap, though. I’m not disabled. I just can’t drive, and I SOMETIMES have seizures. That doesn’t mean I’m “Unfit for Work.” <– Great NPR interview on the rise of disability claims in the US. I can work and I’m all kinds of smart.

Unfit For Work: http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/

 

It occurred to me then, that perhaps the reason for my growth was I was intended for larger things. After all, a giant man can’t have an ordinary-sized life.

This is where WordPress comes in. While we were in Iraq, I used a blog at WordPress.com to communicate with funders about our most recent projects. I knew it could be used as an website and not just a “blog.” I also knew that if my old employer (churches) needed websites and would pay for them, businesses did, too. Boom. Ability. Ability = Job.

I didn’t have to know everything about WordPress. I didn’t have to be a developer. I didn’t have to go to school for four years or study for hours and hours to learn HTML, PHP and CSS (though I’ve obviously learned a great deal since 2008). I didn’t have to make an investment of a gagillion dollars to get started. Most importantly for ME, I didn’t have to drive to get to work, and I didn’t have to drive to get to clients.

WordPress opened itself to me (both its code and its people), and because of WordPress, I have a new career. In fact, it’s one some friends envy. Since 2009, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over sixty businesses, developing their websites using WordPress and contributing to their success by sharing with them the same exact tools and strategies I used to find my own way online. I’ve worked with really amazing people I’d never met without this job. As a bonus, I somehow stumbled into organizing WordCamp Columbus and the WordPress Columbus Meetup, which I love!

In October 2012, I did get my license back after almost two years being seizure free. I proudly announced it on Twitter to all of my WordPress friends, who responded with loads of cheers and congrats. In my mind, getting to drive again was the dawning of a new day for my little business. I would be free at last! No more trying to schedule client meetings after Bob got home from work; no more skipping networking lunches; no more asking clients to drive across town to meet at my house. My clients are amazingly accommodating, but it was great to more proactively engage in business outside of the house.

And what I recall of Sunday school was that the more difficult something became, the more rewarding it was in the end.

Then last week, March 20, 2013, I had a seizure while sitting in my parked car at Nila’s school, waiting for her and a friend to get out of class. When I woke up, I was confused, scared, and sore but aware of what had happened. After gathering the girls, I drove straight to Bob’s office, walked into his office, burst into tears and gave him the keys.

I don’t know when I’ll drive again. Maybe never. I’ll see a new neurologist sometime in the next two weeks. Hopefully, they’ll just increase my medication and that will stop another from happening. Ultimately it’s up to the doctor to say when he thinks I should drive again. My previous neurologist said, “Seizure free for two years, preferably five,” before he’d sign off it. Five years might as well be never, in my mind.

I feel like I’m more able to deal with that now than the last time I handed over my wheels, almost eight years ago. You know, the WordPress community talks a lot about how it’s very inclusive and even tight-knit, and how it’s easy to make connections, how it’s democratizing publishing. I’m quite sure that I don’t yet understand the half of it and I certainly don’t consider myself part of any inner-circle of WordPress elite. But I do know this – thanks to WordPress, and the community that really is all those things they say they are, I’m not losing my ability to work, to get better at my work, to help provide my share of our family’s income, and I’m not losing the community around my work just because I can’t drive. I’m ONLY losing my license this time. That’s going to be hard, for sure, but I wanted to say thank you to the WordPress community for making it a little bit easier.

@angiemeeker

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6 thoughts on “On WordPress and Disability, Thank You

  1. Awesome post lady. 🙂 I don’t like the reason behind you ending up choosing WordPress (seizures), but I (and many others) are so glad that you’re here. The community is much better because you are part of it. 🙂

  2. Angie, I love this blog post. I too am now blogging because I am on disability. I had a stroke two and a half years ago. I also had several debilitating falls, which I was warned could happen. I should have expected them given my hard-charging nature.

    I started my blog on my old businesses web site, hence the name. The blog was part of the web site building software that came with my hosting package. Reading your very informative blog, I was able to convert it to WordPress which fortunately saved it when I lost the original web site. I did lose the original posts but they were business related.

    Congratulations on your successful transition from God’s world into the world of business. I also hope to find success online, enough so that I can stop receiving the handoutm your postse fro from the government. I am glad I did not unsubscribe from your blog.

  3. My goodness.

    Such an awesome and encouraging post, Angie! I’ve known your name from afar, probably through mutual friends and WordCamps and such – but what an incredible and vulnerable introduction to a beautiful person.

    Thanks for sharing, seriously, such a brilliant way to start my day 🙂

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