Melissa Morch

Melissa Morch

A woman with blonde hair, wearing a dark bandana and sweatshirt, smiling at the camera.

I am an actor, artist, and musician.

I am a person with multiple, unseen, disabilities.

Acting has always been a way for me to explore what it would be like to be someone else. In many ways that has been comforting. In other ways, through personal experience, I identify with marginalized characters because I have been there. From high society to the squats in London, the streets of San Francisco, and the dregs of L.A. traumas caused me to lead lifestyles that others shudder to think of.

After giving birth to my son in 2000, I left acting and art to become a teacher for persons with special needs and had been working for 10 years of my 13-year profession in the juvenile halls and camps. I gained a master's degree in special education and authored a book on the history of special education in the U.S.

I have always felt protective of the underdog, the loner, the underrepresented in our world. Seeing others or myself treated with unkindness or unfairly has always been deeply disturbing to me. I've always felt that I need to be part of a change.

I was declared permanently disabled in early 2014. The multiple traumas and abuse I've lived through most of my life eventually affected both my body and my brain, permanently. Although I'd already been taking prescribed medication for years to mitigate the effects, continued abuse and trauma broke me. Also, having been fed alcohol since birth and becoming an alcoholic and drug addict prior to my pregnancy, the traumas were compounded by another hurdle. I eventually found my way to 12-step programs that, over time and with continuing effort, allowed me to find the sobriety, counseling, medication, and understanding of my disabilities to navigate life with these permanent differences.

My experience made it easier to accept my own disability however it has been so disillusioning and frustrating to be disabled in a way that others can't see and often don't believe. I'm still trying to understand it myself. I have to ask for accommodations and often have to explain my needs to others before proceeding with many actions. It's been very disheartening that even close friends, good people, think that I can "just snap out of it" or that I'm just playing the victim and my disability is not real. Even person's with disabilities have discriminated against me at work and in public. It's very challenging. I also have had to accept that I'm not always sure of my perceptions and if what's happening around me is accurate. I’ve had to learn to let it go and live as much in the moment as possible.
In the disability community, I feel awkward because I need to state my unseen needs, rather than proving my ability in order to achieve goals. I'm still trying to analyze my position but it's uncomfortable. I do however need to express my requirements for accessibility upfront in order to achieve my goals.

As an artist, the journey has been spiritual. Images reveal inner themes that cannot be touched in other ways. Experiences, though often painful, continue to lead me on a journey of understanding both myself and others. I feel best when I take the opportunity to share my experience with others towards healing.