(Photo by Du R Maciel via Flickr)
Disability is the reason that I’m no longer a dancer. Occasionally, I’d fool myself and go back to work for a while, and then remember why I can’t do it anymore. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Dancing is hard on the body – and for my body, it’s particularly difficult. I’m having a hell of a time with chronic pain, and as it stands right now, it’s painful when I walk or drive. Thinking I can dance an eight-hour shift these days is an exercise in self-delusion.
I’m Mel, formerly known as Valkyrie. I started dancing when I was 20, and I retired this year. I’m bipolar, and I’m also physically disabled. I have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). My joints are very easily dislocated, and I have issues with back and neck misalignment, dislocations, subluxations, moderate to severe chronic pain, and chronic fatigue. Think major arthritis and a hand tremor, and that’s the reality of the body I’m living in. I should mention that I am about to turn 31, and none of these conditions are readily apparent unless I talk about them, or unless I’m visibly wearing braces.
Disability is pretty common in the sex work industry—overwhelmingly, invisible disability. Many sex workers choose sex work because they can pick their own hours. The ability to earn high amounts of money in a short period of time really helps conserve spoons/limited energy, which is particularly helpful when dealing with a painful condition. Many dancers, models, cam girls, and full-service workers suffer from chronic pain or physical limitations. Mental illness is also very common; I’ve personally run into people with PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and at least one sociopath (who, lest you get the wrong idea, is a friend of mine and a wonderful person, all stereotypes to the contrary). Mental illness can be disabling to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon circumstances.
I have some tips for those of us who are dealing with disability. Then I’ll be discussing disabled customers and how we can interact with them in a way that’s good for both them and us.