An invisible disability is exactly what it sounds like. A disability you can’t see. It’s easy to look at someone in a wheelchair and think “I’ll move to the back of the bus, this person obviously needs the space”. When it’s not easy to see, it’s hard to provide support to people. Whether it be mental or physical, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s there.
Why am I bringing this up on a skill toy blog? Because from what I’ve seen the skill toy world is unusually loaded with people who struggle from the limitations of their body/brain. I know issues such as depression and anxiety are common amongst yoyoers. From my experiences teaching, children on the Autism spectrum and with ADHD are also pretty consistently drawn to yoyo (this seems to extend into the wider skill toy world). I suspect it is a complex thing. I know the sequential skill building is great for a sense of short term accomplishment. They is a visceral tactile experience in having the yoyo spin and return to your hand. There is something about throwing a clean bind that has a addictive tactile sensation. Hands up if you’ve ever found yourself standing around just throwing and binding? I know I find it calming to just throw tricks that I don’t have to think about.
Many people I’ve talked to who play begleri find it to be a help with mental challenges as it can be a calming meditative activity. I’ve also spoken to people for whom it has helped with arthritis or carpel tunnel and other mobility limiting issues with the hands. It’s also a great activity if you are chair bound or otherwise low mobility. It’s something that can be learned simply by doing and doesn’t require great skill to enjoy (although you can develop some amazing feats of dexterity).
For me personally these two toys have been a lifeline. I have been in a couple serious car accidents, and while I look strong and healthy, it’s a coin toss every day as to wether I get out of bed and am able to face the day as a joyful challenge or as a struggle just to move. Yoyo has been a huge boon to me in terms of managing my ADHD for 8 years, and begleri has been a great to to slip into the times where yoyo isn’t feasible. In the face of 2 accidents and chronic pain, running Return Top Shop has given me a way to stay connected in the face of limited ability actually yoyo. I don’t make as many tutorials as I don’t have the ability to concentrate to create new tricks as often. The intense repetition required is too much, as is the task of filming (as well all know it takes 100 tries to get a trick right once when there is a camera on you).
More than anything these skill toys have given me community and connection to people. When you are limited to how much socializing you can do out of the house, having an online community is a huge thing. Through running Return Top Shop I am privileged to share the joy of people receiving their first or next skill toy. We never really outgrow that birthday feeling of opening a present and finding that toy you’ve been looking forward to, and opening mail can generate a similar feeling (as long as it isn’t a bill ;).
So I’m writing this blog post to say thank you. To everyone who has shared positivity with me over the years and encouraged me to push on. Thank you to everyone who has shopped at returntopshop.com, running the store has been a thing I can do while stuck to the couch because moving hurts and I appreciate that you all have kept it running. Thank you to the customers who have been patient when I’ve come home from teaching too exhausted and in pain to ship out their boxes. It’s very much appreciated.
I’ve also had the fun of making toys! I kindof feel a little like a pretender in that category, as what I more often do is “I want this thing, someone design it for me” and then I throw money and time at it until it gets made. So a big thank you to Ray Smith who got me started down this road by taking the chance and sponsoring a new player onto team MonkeyfingeR all those years ago. To the various people involved in King Yo Star (Gary Li, Song Yao, Luckey Li, Kai Zhang) that helped me through my apprenticeship in the yoyo business. To Justin Scott Larson who is the creative engine behind Rain City Skills. I’m really just the pretty face and the coin purse that gets his designs made (although I will accept credit for poking him with “lets do this weird thing” to which he replies “physics says no, lets do it anyway”).
Finally a thank you to my wife. 6 years so far and she hasn’t got sick of listening to me talk about toys, fill the house with them and leave bits of string and paracord and bearings and packing peanuts all around the house. For travelling with me to go to yoyo contests, for making time for me to hang out with yoyo clubs in various cities we’ve been to on our vacations, and for being the person who has never stopped saying to new people “check out this awesome thing my husband can do” and being genuinely excited to watch me put a smile on someone's face.
Now go forth and play. Thank you for reading.