Conversations with… Michéla Abert (Subject: Disability and Owning Your Own Business)

Social media has lots of positives, from connecting with others, publishing creative outlets for the world to see, finding likeminded people to talk to, sharing things that could potentially help others. When used right, social media is a hub of possibility.

Michéla Abert is someone who uses social media right.

Michéla is a 20 year old Christian, the proud owner of a service dog named Pond and someone who has multiple chronic illnesses as well as being both physically and mentally disabled. But Michéla doesn’t let any of that stop her… she is the founder and owner of Patchwork Pond, a business that creates embroidered patches for other people with chronic illnesses.

Stumbling across Patchwork Pond on Instagram was a stroke of luck and I am so glad that I found the page. I love the beautiful designs and the often witty word play of the patches, but most of all I love what they stand for – connection, understanding and community.

 

How would you describe your own health journey?

When my mum was pregnant with me, I tried to come three months before my due date. The doctors stopped her labour, gave me in-utero steroids and kept my mum on bed rest in the hospital. A month later, I was born.

At the time everyone thought I was healthy, but later we discovered that basically every part of my body had grown wrong and this made every part of my body function wrong. When I say “every part of my body is broken” it’s not an exaggeration. I’ve quite literally been living on borrowed time since I was born so I see everyday as a gift!

How did you come up with the idea for Patchwork Pond?

I’ve always loved making things. When I got into hand embroidery, my friend Mickaela Keller told me she had an old embroidery machine that her grandmother gave her. She said I could have it and I jumped at the chance to FINALLY get my hands on an embroidery machine. As soon as I got it in my possession I knew I wanted to start a patch shop.

Starting my own business was basically the only way I could get a job because wasn’t well enough to get a “normal job”, and this way I could do something I really enjoy.

I think that Patchwork Pond is a really brilliant, unique business concept. How do you think that these patches help people and others who encounter them?

I don’t really know if any of my patches actually help anyone who purchases them, but I’d like to think they make them happy.

If any of my patches have helped people, they would have to be the custom order patches. More than half the custom orders I’ve done have been made specifically to help the outside world understand what’s going on with an individual without actually having to talk to them. In the past I have made a “TPN Dependent Central Line” patch for somebody’s baby girl and a “Deaf Not Rude” patch for one of my first ever customers. Custom orders are always my favourite.

How has owning your own business and this creative outlet helped you with your own health battles?

I don’t really know if it has helped because running my business is very physically taxing – I’ve even had to shut it down before because I can’t always manage running my shop and taking care of myself at the same time.

It’s probably helped me the most by taking a bit of the financial strain off of the rest of my family. Anyone with a chronic illness knows it takes a lot of money just to stay alive and healthy.

There is a brilliant online community of people with different illnesses and conditions that support each other. How has becoming vocal in this community helped you?

I met one of my best friends through my shop! I was scrolling through Instagram one day and saw a girl who lived in a city right next to mine who has one of the illnesses I have so I DMed her asking if she managed to find any component doctors close by – we’ve been close friends ever since!

Do you think it’s important for people to ‘own’ their illnesses and, if so, how do you think these patches allow them to?

I think that’s a very individualised question with a just as individualised answer. Some people NEED to own their illnesses in order to continue enjoying their life while other people feel need to view their illnesses as an opponent they can conquer and fight everyday. Some people live their lives simply avoiding or ignoring their illnesses because that’s what works best for them. Everyone has a unique dynamic they share with their illnesses because everyone is an individual person.

I think my patches can help people with their illness because my patches help people to feel seen. They can use them as a physical representation for their illness if they have an invisible illness. If their illnesses isn’t invisible, I hope my patches still help people feel seen because they represent chronic illnesses or disabilities when most markets choose to ignore them.

What would you say to someone who believed that people are only ill if you can ‘see’ their illness?

I’d say that’s a very ignorant and dangerous mindset. Personally I wasn’t able to receive medical treatment up until my sophomore year in high school even though I started complaining about feeling ill when I was in preschool because I couldn’t convince my family I was actually sick because I “looked fine”.

Constantly being told I was lying everyday made me suicidal because no one believed anything was wrong with me. I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through that.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?

Kindness is contagious and free. Give generously and often!

If you’d like to follow Michéla and see her wonderful patches, please follow @patchwork_pond on Instagram

If you’d like to place an order, you can find Michéla’s Etsy shop here –
https://www.etsy.com/shop/PatchworkPond

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