Learning to Move Forward: Interview with Effy Francis
by Megan Plassmeyer on Sep 13, 2016
Sometimes in life, we reach a period of time where we are destination-less. Not because we have failed or have been misguided, but because the path we are traveling down becomes derailed. In these moments we can either choose to float on, or we can choose to forge a new path. And in case you were wondering, Effy Francis is quite the trailblazer.
Effy’s first job was at a Michaels arts and crafts store, where her natural kindness and customer service capabilities served her well. As a long time artist, her love for design, ingenuity, and illustration flourished in an environment that truly promoted a lifestyle of inspired creation and crafting.
After three years of growth on a path to management, Effy was offered a new position as a vendor of Lexington Medical Center. Primarily at a desk, she began to index medical records that were becoming digitalized.
A few years into this new career path, Effy began having medical problems that would later be misdiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease of the central nervous system that affects the brain and spinal cord. As a problem solver, Effy began to navigate a unique situation where she sometimes needed a wheel chair, and in other situations, did not. Although she was not new to the workload expectations set by Lexington Medical Center, the first stages of adapting to her illness were daunting. It became difficult to keep up with steady hours and to give the center her best work. Suddenly, this path wasn’t working.
“For a while, it was true, I felt like I was floating. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I needed to go, and then by chance, I came across Able SC.”
During a meeting of her MS support group, Effy got to hear about the programs offered by a nonprofit called Able SC. In particular, she got to hear about a young adult program they offered, entitled EQUIP.
“While the MS support group was great, I was easily the youngest person there by 30-40 years,” recalled Effy. “I was yearning for connections with other people with disabilities who were my age. I started coming as a consumer in EQUIP, and learned that my self-advocacy skills and leadership skills were strong. I soon elevated as a volunteer, and then as a part time employee and leader of our young adult program.”
EQUIP works to educate young adults about the disability rights movement, and additionally teaches young adults and community members on how to be self-advocates.
As a young woman who hadn’t always been able to identify her full worth, Effy is now able to ensure that other young people can discover and embrace their own.
“I like to describe it as a pizza. Your typical large pizza has about eight slices. Toppings can be whatever you like. But think of your disability as being one slice of that pizza, and the other slices represent other parts of you- your personality, your hobbies, your talents. There are all these things that work to make you a unique individual, and your disability is just one of those things. Your disability doesn’t make up all that you are as a person, but at the same time, if you take that disability slice away, you’re taking away from your entirety. Don’t hide that slice,” said Effy.
This position also allows Effy to incorporate her artistic talents and continue with her illustrations and art work on the side. Recently in honor of the 26th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Effy got to create a commemorative drawing for Able SC that depicted some of the leaders within the disability rights movement (See Below). Additionally, you can find more of Effy’s personal illustrations and digital creations on her website.
Effy was finally diagnosed with Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) in December of 2013 after living with a year of misdiagnosis. However, she has never felt more like a she-ro (female hero, duh!).
“I used to be very insecure, and I hated myself. I didn’t think I was pretty or that I was skilled, and it was not a fun time in my life. But when I hit my 20’s, I gradually started to realize that hey, I’m a fantastic person and I’m doing good things,” said Effy.
As for this transformation, Effy gives a lot of credit to the Body Positivity Movement that teaches self-love no matter size, race, or gender presentation.
“I’ve been a size one or two my whole life, but after getting married and being on certain medications, I gained a lot of weight. But now through this journey of self-actualization, I’m more happy and content with myself now than I ever was as a size two. ”
As women, we often see the ways in which a patriarchal society can be hurtful and misguided. Although our strength and advocacy work often helps us overcome these barriers, we too must recognize the extent of privileges we are given and how all women experience discrimination differently based on a multitude of intersectional factors. Effy exemplifies this attitude and maintains a genuine and honest intersectionality within her role as a feminist.
“I realize that I come from a place of privilege, despite being a woman and despite having a disability, and this is something that I’d like to use as a place to lift people up. If I were to talk to someone much younger who was struggling with what I’ve struggled with- I’d tell them to never stop themselves from moving forward- ever.”