A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of interviewing Lydia Morrow on our Instagram stories! We wanted to share it here, just in case you missed it.
First up, introductions! Could you tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do?
Hi! I’m Lydia, I run the account @whatlydiamade on Instagram. I’m kind of a designer, maker, sometimes model, I post about the fashion that I like. I used to run an underwear business but I don’t do that anymore which is kind of what I’m here to talk about today. Nice to meet you.
Some folks that follow us might know you for your underwear business, but you've recently had to shift away from that. Could you tell us a little bit about why that is?
Over the last decade I’ve been suffering from some form of chronic pain and fatigue and last year I got diagnosed with a condition called Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome that is basically a disability that affects your connective tissue and collagen in your body and makes every system run, really quite poorly. And that kind of level of pain had been really affecting my mental health when it came to my work. And I wasn’t really able to do what I was trying to push myself to do. So last year when I got my official diagnosis it was really helpful to me to come to terms with what I was feeling and make a decision about actually prioritising what I cared about doing with my limited time and my limited energy and that wasn’t stressing over work that was inaccessible to me.
Was there a specific moment when you realized you had to make a change? Or was it a gradual realization?
I think the real lightbulb moment for me when I decided to pivot and change my work was around the time that I accepted that I was disabled and took on that as a part of my identity. That was where I had to square away this idea that I was caring about disability advocacy and accessibility for other people, but I was making my own job that was inaccessible to me. I was basically being my own boss, not caring about my own accessibility needs, and that was really problematic and, yeah, that was just like, a really big turning point in my head.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced in pivoting your business?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced when sort of changing the way that I work has been, like, de-prioritizing productivity and coming to terms with the idea that rest is valuable and even like in terms of literal productivity, rest has made me more productive in the times that I’m working. But also just to like, not value myself based on how much I do every day, which has been really hard because I actually love being busy, like, I’m quite a busy person. But, I think it’s very hard to disengage your personality from like, what capitalism is wanting you to be, so I think that’s been a really big challenge for me.
Is there anything you've been particularly grateful for throughout this process? Any lessons you're glad to have learned?
To be honest, I’m really grateful for the timing of changing my business and my outlook right, like, it feels like moments before lockdown hit. So, it actually gave me a lot more flexibility and space to care for myself in such a stressful, awful time for the world. And, I didn’t have childcare so, you know, I had to take on a lot of that which has been really, really challenging but I’m quite lucky that I happened to have just decided to stop working in that way right before lockdown hit cuz I don’t think I would have been able to cope otherwise.
In what ways has pivoting your business been easier or harder than you expected?
One of the ways in which it’s been a lot easier to change from sewing into, sort of more digital design is - I’ve realised a really weird gendered thing about value of labor. When it came to sewing, I felt like I was charging the absolute bare minimum to make it worth my while and still struggling to reach that every day. And I do think sewing is like a very “female-coded” work and in digital design I actually feel like I’m working so much less and feeling so much more comfortable because the pay is so much easier to get by on and I do think that’s related to it being very “male-coded” which is like a real struggle that I’m having that like, it just feels quite uncomfortable to realise how true that is.
I think also before I made the leap to do this, I wasn’t ready to accept how much of an impact it would have on my physical and mental health, and I still have struggled with coming to terms with all of the change in terms of mental health. But physically like so, so much of my pain has gone down - and kind of realising that I was like, physically torturing myself every day by continuing to do that kind of work has been really positive, because, I think when you’re disabled it’s really easy to gaslight yourself and kind of tell yourself “oh everybody else is dealing with this” or “other people have it so much worse, I’m fine”, “it’s normal to be in this much pain” or “it’s normal to experience this much stress”. So it’s been really positive to learn that that’s not the case.
What piece of advice or wisdom would you give to a younger version of yourself?
If I had to give a piece of advice to my younger self… I think it would just be like: Trust what you’re feeling and stop letting outside influences kind of take - take away what you know your instincts are. And, like, don’t feel like you have to monetise your hobbies. But, like, yeah, I think it’s hard when you are younger, especially when you’re an arts grad, when you have something that makes you money you just feel like you have to be like “Quick! Cuz these opportunities don’t always come!” And I think there’s an amount that I wish I would have, sort of slowed down, and not felt like I needed to become, like, a “functional adult” so fast.
Who is someone on Instagram that you highly recommend folks check out?
I’d really recommend following along with more disabled people. I’m thinking, like jocyofthedragons, the_feeding_of_the_fox, rvbyallegra, my friend emayarmstrong, Oyinda, whose Instagram handle I can’t think of off the top of my head. Just like, I think these are some of the people who have encouraged me to continue to respect my own access needs and I think they give a really valuable, interesting perspective on where disability intersects with things like queerness, or fatness or race, things like that. Anyway, I think it’s really good to just broaden your horizons and realise that disabled people do have a voice and are talking, and we actually have to actively listen.
What's been bringing you joy recently?
I’ve been getting so much joy from getting to spend time with my friends. When I was working on my previous job I just didn’t feel like I had any time. Any moment spent with friends felt like I was wasting my time because I was so stressed out and overwhelmed and I was worried that it would cause me pain that I wouldn’t be able to make up for. And since lockdown, obviously, time with friends has been cut so small and now that things have eased slightly and I’m hanging out with people outside and stuff like that I just feel like so much joy when I get to be around people that I care about and yeah, it’s just really really nice. I definitely have a new appreciation for my friendships.
Thanks so much for joining us!
Thanks for listening to me, it’s been great chatting with you guys. I’m @whatlydiamade on Instagram. I like to share what I’ve made, obviously, you can follow along, you can get in touch with me via there if you want any design work. And, yeah, I just like to post, and overshare, and have a lot of fun on Instagram cuz I’m probably addicted to it - aren’t we all? Especially after lockdown? But, yeah, I hope you all have a nice day and hopefully, see you later.