Standing is not an option

Posted by & filed under blog, Education.

By Stephanie Dodson
Editor in Chief & Author,

Before I became disabled, I had no clue how my life would drastically change as I transitioned from being able-bodied to handicapped. Of course, my mind fretted over the big things, like how my disability would affect my career, my marriage, and my future children. After receiving my diagnosis, however, I also realized that everyday things, like showering and changing clothes, were nearly impossible, too. I am a thirty-three year old retired special education teacher. The reason I was able to retire at the young age of thirty-one was because I became physically disabled. Even though I was diagnosed with Scoliosis as a child, and then with Chronic Pain Disease as a young adult, I did not become physically disabled until after a failed spinal fusion surgery at the age of twenty-nine. I was able to live almost three decades as an able-bodied person. Unfortunately, I did not realize how blessed I was until I no longer had my health. Suddenly, every day activities caused me unbearable pain. I went from being Miss Independent to relying on my husband for everything. And, I hated it. So, I changed the things that I could; I adapted. I also learned how to adapt my environment and daily routine to better accommodate my disability.

Steph Dodson

Steph Dodson

Because my career focused on teaching children with educational disabilities different ways to learn every day curriculum and skills, I made the decision to accept these new challenges with hope. If I could teach an eight year-old, who at the beginning of the year did not even know the letters in the alphabet, how to read not just words, but complete books by the end of that school year; then I could re-teach my mind and body how to do everyday things. The amazing part is, so can you!

Through a lot of trial and error, along with out-of-the-box thinking, I found a way to make everyday things; even those that I thought were impossible, possible. In the four years since I became disabled, I have made minor accommodations to my home, and everyday routines, that have made a huge difference in my quality of life.

One of the first things, that I had the most difficulty with post-disability, was grooming. As soon as I was old enough to wear make-up, shave my legs and dye my hair, I did. And, as I got older, I just found more ways to primp my way throughout life. However, how was I supposed to follow a full beauty regimen when I couldn’t even put on my own socks? With modifications, of course! The following are ways to adapt both your grooming environment, as well as to modify your routine, so that you can primp without the pain.

7 Tips for Pain-Free Grooming:

1. Do not wash your hair.
2. Take a Seat.
3. Switch to Adaptive Grooming Tools.
4. Add more Cush for your Tush.
5. Go to Beauty School.
6. Switch Products.
7. Be a Natural Beauty.

Tip #1: Do not wash your hair. You heard that correctly. Studies actually show that washing your hair every day can dry it out, causing it to be brittle. Plus, the less you wash your hair, the less you expose it to products and tools that can damage healthy hair. Your hair actually adapts to how often you wash it. If you typically wash it every day, then your scalp will produce more oil; therefore, making it oily – and making you think that you need to wash it every day. The good news is that you can train your hair to last longer between washes. Because everything associated with washing, conditioning, rinsing, blow-drying, curling and styling my hair causes me major pain, I now only wash my hair 1-2 times each week. I have also worked with a hairdresser that has taught me how to style and wear my hair so that it requires very little maintenance. Just like it takes a person about three weeks to break a bad habit, give yourself three weeks to figure out how many days you can go without washing, and make that your new routine. Plus, think of how many extra hours you will gain each week if you are not spending all of that time on your hair?

Steph's un-washed hair

Steph’s un-washed hair

Tip #2: Take a Seat. One of the most common pain-triggers associated with a daily beauty routine is the amount of time that one stands while primping. But, who says you have to stand? One of the easiest solutions available is to sit down while grooming. This can be as simple as bringing a chair into your bathroom and place it in front of the mirror. Another option is to purchase an actual vanity and have a separate space (outside of The Loo) where you apply make-up and style your hair. (Of course, get an adorable matching chair or bench to go with it.) Or, if you are low on funds, but want the feel of a vanity outside of a bathroom, turn an old dresser and mirror into a DIY Vanity. No matter what Vanity Route you go, the main idea is to set up your Primping Space so that you have the flexibility to stand and sit when your body needs these things. There is no use in taking all of that time to look beautiful if you are going to feel crummy afterwards.

Standing is not an option

Standing is not an option anymore for Steph.

Tip #3: Switch to Adaptive Grooming Tools. Did you know that there are companies out there that make grooming tools specifically for people with disabilities? And, you also have the option of taking “regular” items and using them in a way that makes grooming easier for you. For example, one of the first things I purchased after my spinal surgery was a Detachable Shower Head. Arching my back towards a regular shower head when rinsing my hair caused me great pain, so I found a way to rinse my hair (and body) that was easier and did not cause any extra pain. Plus, when I was in too much pain to stand in the shower, the long hose allowed me to sit in the bathtub to wash my hair (without having to shove my head under the tub’s short faucet). Besides a detachable shower head, there are tons of adaptive grooming tools available, such as a stand to hold your hairdryer, and “easy-grip” modifications for products that can be painful or difficult to use if you have lost mobility in your hands, like tweezers and nail clippers. (Check out this website to find more adaptive grooming products.) Before you decide that you are never again trimming those toe nails, or blow-drying your hair because of your disability, do some research to see if your styling tools come with adaptations.

Get a Removable Shower Head

Get a Removable Shower Head

Tip #4: Add More Cush for Your Tush. We already discussed how adding a chair to your bathroom or vanity, allowing you to sit when necessary, can drastically decrease your pain and increase the amount of time you can spend grooming. Why stop on dry land? One of my favorite pain management strategies is taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (the salts relieve muscle pain). However, my scrawny back-side often hurt worse after sitting on the incredibly hard, ceramic tub floor. Instead of giving up my bathroom pleasure, I added not one, but TWO cushioned bath mats to my bathtub. Given the extra padding and support, I can now relax and let the wet-heat and salt work their magic. If you don’t have a bathtub, but love the benefits of a warm soak in the tub, consider buying a shower chair. Not only will a shower chair allow you to sit when you’ve been standing too long, but it helps you access those hard-to-reach places (like when shaving or scrubbing those little piggies) that are too difficult to reach on your own now that you are disabled. Also, do not forget your shower cap if it’s not your day to wash your hair!

Use mats in your tub

Use mats in your tub

Tip #5: Go to Beauty School. Did you know that you can go to your local Cosmetology School to get the same services as a regular salon but for a fraction of the cost? It’s true! If you are disabled and cannot work, like me, you just cannot justify spending $100 getting your hair cut and colored. But, since you are physically disabled, you cannot attempt these things at home because your hands, arms, back and neck just do not work the same way as able-bodies people. A simple solution is making an appointment at a Cosmetology School. The great part about this is that you can even ask them if you can come in every week just to get your hair washed and/or styled, free of charge, so that the students can practice these techniques, and you can reap the benefits. Also, do not forget to book an appointment for them to style your hair for special occasions. You don’t want to waste the little time and energy you do have getting ready for a date, when instead you could pay a little to have someone else do the work while you relax and get pampered.

Beauty School Knock-Out!

Be a Beauty School Knock-Out!

Tip #6: Switch Products. A god-send in my life has been 48-hour deodorant. Even with my layers of cushion and my removable shower head, there are just some days when bathing is not an option for me. However, I am still a woman; I am still a wife, and I do not want my husband to be repulsed by my funky “I could not get out of bed today” odor. In case of emergency, I use my 48-hour deodorant, and other handy products, to help me feel “human” when facing the ugly disability monster. Other great products for bath-free days are: No-Rinse Body Wash and No-Rinse Shampoos (I found mine on Amazon). These products are exactly as described; simply use as directed anywhere on your body and anywhere in your home (no bathroom needed). And, do not forget about the Wonderful World of Wipes! I would not wear make-up if I could not remove it with my facial wipes. There are also body wipes and bathroom wipes available, too. On the other hand, when you are feeling good, and have the ability to put on a full face of makeup, look for the brands that say “long-lasting” so you have less touching-up to worry about while you are out enjoying yourself.

Steph's Go-To Products

Steph’s Go-To Products

Tip #7: Be a Natural Beauty. Have you ever heard the saying, “Beauty comes from within?” Did you ever take the time to consider that you could be beautiful without all of the in-person photo-shopping that society tries to demand? Have you ever asked your spouse if they prefer you with or without make-up? I bet he will tell you that you are beautiful “just the way you are.” Do you believe him? No…. Why not? It is time to start loving the face and body that you were born with; with and without make-up. “A smile is the best make up any girl can wear,” (Marilyn Monroe). It is true. You may feel naked without your concealer, mascara and lip gloss, but just like it takes time to get used to not washing your hair every day, you will learn to be confident without make-up, or perfect hair, or in a casual outfit. I used to think that if I did not have the energy to do my entire grooming routine, which could take up to two hours, then I should not go out at all. However, as the years passed, I realized that I missed out on some amazing opportunities – just because I was not wearing make-up. Some days, all I have is a two-hour window to enjoy a person or place before my pain sends me back to bed. Why would I waste that window just because I had a naked face? As difficult as this may be, try finding ways to see yourself as beautiful, with makeup and without it. Start small if you have to, like just run to the grocery store, or put on powder and nothing else. But, at least start believing that you ARE a natural beauty. Your disability has probably stolen more moments from your life than you can count; do not let your fear of leaving the house without makeup steal another second.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

For most of us, being disabled, or having a chronic condition, makes even the little things in life a thousand times harder than if we were able-bodied people. However, I believe that God is just showing us a different route to get to the same destination, and how to build our character along the way. Additionally, these accommodations do not need to just take place in your bathroom or bedroom. There are many ways you can modify your home to make everyday life with a disability easier; you just need to be willing to give them a try.


Steph Dodson

Steph Dodson

For more blogs by Steph Dodson, go to her website Or, for daily encouragement and resources for people with Invisible Diseases, LIKE her Facebook Page, Inspiring Others Affected by Invisible Diseases. If you liked this blog, then you will love her post, “What Not to Wear!”

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