“I am still me, not the girl in the wheelchair”
There is so much I could tell you. Things we used to talk about but now we don’t even talk. I still remember the times we went for food at 11p.m. or the times we just sat on my bed listening to music and we never said a word to each other. Do you think about those times?
I know we said that we would be best friends forever, no matter what, right? Or did I just imagine that? I was always there for you when something went wrong, or your stupid boyfriend hurt you again. I did your makeup, painted your nails, sang so horribly in the car with you, laughed so hard we cried and sobbed when we were broken. Those times have passed with you and I can’t help but wonder why.
We knew that college would separate us by distance, but we vowed that it didn’t matter. Our lives took two very different paths. We figured that no matter what path our lives took we would still be friends. You continued your life but I had to stop in the middle. As you continued on, I watched you go further away. I warned you this would happen.
The reason we aren’t friends anymore isn’t because we lost things in common. It’s because while you walk, I roll. My life isn’t carefree like it used to be. It might scare you or you might be deep down selfish. I can’t just get up and go. It was months in the hospital working on how to get into a car, get dressed, feed myself, go to the bathroom, everything you take for granted.
At first, things didn’t change. Things were like normal, like this injury never happened. You never knew how much that helped me recover and feel like just because I shrank a couple feet and had wheels that we were still the same. A constant. A security blanket. Meanwhile our whole lives around us changed, except you… for a while.
I mean, I know I tried hard to keep this friendship together. I talked to you about how I lost people I loved because of this. You said things like
“You are better off without them”
“They don’t deserve a friend like you”
Those things you said were true, and it hurt. But as a best friend, it is known that if you truly are best friends, you say things that hurt no matter what. You don’t sugar coat it because sugar coating it means you’re afraid. In the end, you began to sugar coat things and make empty promises.
I know I am stronger than most and that this shouldn’t bother me. In reality, it is breaking me, the last bit of my old life, gone. Just a memory. Memories stay with us forever but the people in them don’t. That’s you. I am not sorry if this is a hard pill to swallow, how do you think losing you felt like for me when I needed you the most.
I’ve lost many people because of the injury. It’s just the way this works, unfortunately. Those people are long gone, but losing you was the last little glimmer of hope that I am still the old me. Not the new me, the girl in the wheelchair. The girl who can’t go everywhere you can.
But no matter what, I wish you the best. I silently am cheering you on and hoping that your life is full of happiness. Even without us talking or hanging out, I am still your number one fan. Because for me, I will always be here when everyone else is gone.
There are so many of us, who due to a new disability, have lost the friends we had when we were carefree “able-bodied”. We have so many changes due to our new life in a wheelchair, that the one thing we hold a death grip on is our relationships with our friends. The dynamic with our families instantly change as they are often our physical and financial support, but we hope that we can keep the dynamic with our friends the same. The key word is hope.
If you are a friend of someone who is in a wheelchair, here are some things that I have found helpful to keep the friendship alive. They may seem simple or they may be things you never even thought would help.
How would your friend get there? Are they in a manual chair or a power chair? If a manual chair, ask your friend if they need help to get in and out of the car. This includes taking care of folding the wheelchair and putting it in the back. And once at the destination, helping your friend with getting the wheelchair out of the car and helping them transfer back to the chair.
Power chairs may be harder to deal with but it’s not impossible, so don’t count us out. See about finding an accessible Uber, Cab or public transportation option that can get you close to your destination. If they can drive, then that would be the easiest, but depending on the injury, driving isn’t always something they can do. If they do not drive, but have a wheelchair accessible vehicle (like a van with a lift), you can offer to come to their house, and drive together.
There are more than stairs to worry about when you go out. Check to see if the place you are going have low tables. Most places do, but bars may have more high-top tables than low tables. So, call ahead to see if they have low tables and if they can reserve a table for you. Most places like stadiums, arenas, and parks have accessible seating and companion seating.
It will take more work, but you can reserve these seats for you and your friend so you can sit together. Usually, they only allow one companion seat next to a wheelchair reserved space, but you can have others in group sit nearby. Having more Universal Design is an issue that needs to be addressed with stadiums, but do what you can for now.
Next, you want to make sure the locations you invite your friend to have accessible bathrooms. This may seem simple, but from experience, I have been to events where there isn’t a bathroom for me. It may seem unimportant now, but it won’t be when your friend has to go. If it is crowded, offer to go with and help clear a path to the restroom.
Make sure the accommodation will work i.e. toilet is right height and stay with them if they are unsure. You may even need to give a little help until they are confident with transfers or environment.
Then you have times where you just want to stay in. I mean who doesn’t like to just cuddle up and watch tv. Although there are plenty to do inside. Here are some ideas:
I mean who doesn’t like to binge watch a series on Netflix. Bring popcorn, ice cream, drinks and snacks! Your friend may have diet restrictions, so ask what is allowed.
I can’t remember the last time I had a sleepover but they were always fun. Stay up late, gossip, watch reality TV shows, just have fun. Sleepovers can be a great way to help your friend feel comfortable with you helping them and learning how to help.
Find a craft you both can do. Depending on what their abilities are you have a whole bunch of fun projects to do.
Offer to help develop a great exercise program, light weights, stretching, cardio (just taking a walk/roll will help) ride bikes together (if your friend has a hand cycle or you can go with them to organizations that provide them like Adaptive Adventures in Colorado)
Not every best friend is a drive away. If your best friend is at home and you are back at school or if you live out of town, try to call as much as you can. Plan dates where you just Skype or FaceTime or plan a “Girls Night In” group Skype call. Don’t go overboard with it, just try to be as normal as you can or both agree to.
If you are the amazing person in the wheelchair: TAKE YOUR POWER BACK!
Connect with other people who are in similar situations like you. You must make the effort to go out. Have the courage to get out of the house, break the routine and get yourself dressed and ready to show up.
I always make sure that I have extra supplies, my phone, wallet, water bottle, just everything you will need or possibly need to feel comfortable and confident to go out.
You never know what is possible and what new freindships you will make until you try.