Loving a disabled partner
In particular, I couldn’t wrap my head around someone wanting to help me deal with all of the medical challenges I had to endure whether that be bowel and bladder issues, pressure sores, surgeries, being stuck in bed for months on end, etc.
I don’t think it was so much that I believed I didn’t deserve love so much as that I could barely handle living in my own body, so why would anyone else want to take that journey with me? I didn’t pity myself I was just trying to be realistic at that time.
Some folks jump back into the dating and love game right after their accident, but I was not one of them. It took me five years of being alone, yes I did have to deal with a lot of medical challenges during those years, but it was more a mental shift that allowed me to break my own glass ceiling to start pursuing relationships.
What makes spinal cord injury and other physical disabilities so unique is that we wear our disability on the outside. When you meet someone walking down the street and find them attractive I’m betting that your first instinct is not to think about what their disabilities might be on the inside … Am I right?
In any event, prior to my accident when I would see a hot guy walking down the street I wouldn’t immediately start pondering whether he was schizophrenic, bipolar, completely neurotic, etc.
However, when you see someone with a physical disability it often times makes you stop and think about what that person has been through, what they must go through on a daily basis, and it’s not likely until the end of your thought process that you may get to a point where you wonder what kind of human being that person is.
Anyway, prior to dealing with a disability myself that’s what I would think when I would see folks with physical disabilities. It’s not so much I would feel sorry for them, but wonder what their struggles must be like on a daily basis.
Before my accident when I would walk down the street no one would come up to me and tell me I’m inspirational or that they wish me well in life. Now, I can hardly go to the grocery store without someone stopping me to tell me that God has a plan for me, they hope I walk one day, they think I’m an inspiration, etc.
I know it bothers a lot of folks in wheelchairs when people come up to them and say these things, but I figure if it makes them feel better it doesn’t harm me in the least to have well wishes from a stranger. However, I could have climbed Mount Everest prior to my accident and walked down the street, but no one would’ve come up to me to tell me how proud they were of me.
This concept of love in a “Disabled” world … We live in this world where most often than not folks suffer from being psychologically disabled far more than being physically disabled. As I mentioned above, when you walk down the street and see someone in a wheelchair it’s probably people’s own psychological disabilities or psychological misconceptions about physical disabilities that prevents them from truly realizing that a physical disability can oftentimes be the least of a person’s problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I think as human beings we want to think that we are capable of seeing beyond another person’s physical or mental disabilities whether that be someone is in a wheelchair, severely overweight, ugly, skinny, balding, bipolar, etc.
However, in my experience the reality is that a very select few people in this world can handle what comes along with the word “disability” whether that be mental or physical. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that just as there are some folks in the world who are just genuinely poor cooks and should probably stay out of the kitchen for fear of burning it down.
Not everyone can cook just as not everyone can handle all that comes along with dating someone with a disability, and that’s okay.
We all have our own personal challenges in life, but especially when it comes to the physical, it takes a certain type of special person to be able to laugh when you deal with things like bowel and bladder issues with spinal cord injury.
Referring back to the Facebook post I was reading — many of the comments, which I thought were extremely heartening and funny, generally ended in the consensus that the person had found the one for them when they had woken up and peed on themselves or had bowel issues, and their significant other didn’t make it a big deal at all.
I know it sounds like a trivial thing, but when you’re dating someone in a wheelchair and you don’t have control over many of your bodily functions, and that special someone is still able to look past that (even laugh with you about it) it’s a big deal!
I don’t need flowers and roses I need a man who will stand by me when I am dealing with the most embarrassing moments on a regular basis.
Prior to my accident I’m not quite sure if I would’ve been the type of woman to actually date someone in a wheelchair if I’m being completely honest. Why? I was an international girl on the go, into nature and hiking, and I needed someone to keep up with me.
After I was injured I didn’t think there was anyone who would want to stand still with me and enjoy different qualities of life because I only knew other folks that were like me who are always prancing around the world. This is probably why I shut down for years on end and became completely indifferent to the concept of love.
When I met my now fiancÃ© we had a conversation about a year after dating when I asked him what on earth he was thinking when he wanted to stay with me? It was a genuine question because I met him during a dating experiment I was conducting months prior to going in for a very serious surgery to correct a pressure sore on my backside, which was going to land me in my bed for at least another six months.
As I’ve mentioned in many of my other blogs I did try to break things off with him prior to my surgery because I did not think someone whom I had met a month prior would want to deal with all of the medical issues that would come along with a major surgical procedure on top of spinal cord injury. Honestly, it would’ve been a lot for anyone. It was a lot for me and my family let alone a practical stranger I just met on online dating.
It was really a nonstarter conversation for him because he couldn’t figure out why would ask him such a question. He told me and continues to tell me that back then he’d rather spend time with me then be alone. I suppose many folks don’t have this philosophy as I know so many couples who stay together, but are generally not happy together. They rather be miserable together then brave the concept of being happy alone.
Dating a woman in a wheelchair
My fiance had spent years out in the oilfields working alone and when we met one another he told me he loved our conversations so much that if he had to wait for me while I was recovering from surgery, so be it!
To be truthful, it took me a year to introduce him to many of the medical aspects of dealing with spinal cord injury as I wanted to get to know him as a human being before having him jump right into helping take care of me. I do think this helped develop our relationship to what it is today.
My fiance and I are very unique with respect to being alone. I didn’t mind being alone for all those years and nor did he because we just couldn’t find another person we liked spending time with together. We were much happier alone and did not want to settle for being in a relationship with someone we “sort of” liked to be around.
Even when I have embarrassing spinal cord injury issues we find a way to make jokes out of it and still rather spend time with one another getting me put back together than be alone.
Coming full circle back to the Facebook post on my spinal cord injury group, the question that I have pondered for days on end was:
Did I feel lucky in this “disabled” world to have found someone to love me?
Yes, but not necessarily because I am in a wheelchair. I think there are so many obstacles that deter us from really seeing and opening up to potential partners. In some ways I wonder if I was not in a wheelchair would I have found love?
Prior to my accident I was so closed off to the idea that I never let anybody in. While it took me many years to open up to the idea after my injury I at least got to wear all of my physical disabilities on the outside, so my fiancÃ© knew what he was walking into.
Leaving aside the fact that I am hopefully crazy in a good way, it didn’t take him years to figure out what my disabilities were.
I definitely think dating in wheelchair is more challenging because you have to find unique individuals who are willing to see past it, but in my particular case, my disability forced me to lay all my cards on the table in the beginning whether I liked it or not.
I do think there is someone out there for everyone, but if you are not open to love on a personal level and you approach a relationship with the attitude that you feel lucky for someone to love you because of the wheelchair then I think the challenges of finding love might be more of an uphill battle.
Don’t misunderstand me, I had this attitude for many years and I didn’t find love either. I just completely shut down and made love an indifferent concept in my mind.
We all need love whether that be from family, friends, a lover, etc. However, love comes at the most inopportune times, in weird ways, completely unexpectedly, and sometimes when we don’t even know we are looking for it.
I think the key is being able to first find an ounce of love for yourself because I strongly believe we attract people in our lives for where we are in our lives personally. If you are really depressed and miserable then I find you attract similar types of folks. I was indifferent to love for many years, created my own personal bubble where I was perfectly happy on my own, and as a result, I didn’t let new people into my life.
First order of business in life is take care of yourself and I think the rest will follow.
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