One of the greatest things I hear from my friends is when they say, “I don’t even think about you being in a wheelchair. I forget!” It shows me that they are focusing on Alicia – not on her disability. That proves what quality loved ones surround me!
As much as I love to hear that from them, I don’t understand it. I never forget. There are many days I wish I could! Every time I want to move, my hands touch the rims of my chair and I remember. Every time I want to transfer, I struggle to get where I want and I remember. Every time I touch my legs and can’t feel it, I remember. There is not one area of my life that has not been affected by my disability and because I live in this body, I always remember.
How does this affect relationships? I think you could compare it to someone who you knew had a bad cold. They are miserable, can’t breathe, coughing every time they try to talk, and you hear about it. You bring them over some soup and meds and tell them you sure hope they feel better soon. You go about your life for the next 2 days and need a recipe. You call them for it and when you hear that stuffy nosed voice, you remember that they had a bad cold. You hadn’t even thought about again until then! In a relationship, whether that is a marriage, family, or friends, it is easy to forget that the person with a disability never does forget. We aren’t given that option as we live our daily lives dealing with our disability.
In a marriage, specifically, this can cause problems from both sides. For the partner, it is easier for them to forget how much of a struggle it is for you to do the simplest things. They can have expectations of you that seem overwhelming to think about about on top of just dealing with your disability. As you function in daily life, they “forget”. Not because they don’t care, but because it is not their body and they don’t realize the level that a disability plays in your physical and emotional being. Jimmy has said to me often that he just doesn’t see my struggles.
For the disabled person, we are guilty of two things. We either whine about our struggles all the time and use the handicap card for anything that feels too hard for us, or we clam up and wont say anything while getting more angry and bitter at our situation and the people around us who forget.
Emotionally, I am a very private person. When I am struggling, it is very hard for me to look at Jimmy and tell him I am having a hard day. I will be snappy or grumpy or super quiet. After he has had to play 20 questions with himself trying to figure out what he did wrong to upset me (which was nothing), I will finally blurt out that I am sorry – I have just had a rough day. He has had to learn to read my quietness and be tender to that situation. I have had to learn to tell him quickly that it is not him, it is just me today.
We really try hard to forget. We try to move on normally with life, and we choose to enjoy every day and make it the best day! Most days are truly like that for me. I love life and I am thankful for every day The Lord gives me to love my family and live for Him. So, if I have to live it with paralysis, I am still thankful for my life.
But, it is so easy for a memory to flash in and try to take over your mind. A park visit with the kids is going great and then you watch a mom run under their child in the swing set and you remember what that was like and you crave it. You go out to eat with friends and all is cool, until someone makes a big deal over getting out of your way or moving the chairs and tables, and you feel embarrassed and just wish you could just walk in and sit down without a room full of people noticing. It is in these moments that we have to choose to forget.
The great Apostle Paul stated, while sitting in a prison cell, “…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press on…” He was spot on. You have to choose to forget. Not because you can’t remember, but because you can remember. In these moments of remembering, you have to press on and choose to forget.
If you have a relationship with someone with a disability, don’t forget. Don’t forget that they never forget. Be sensitive to their memories and you don’t even have to talk about it. Just knowing that you remember with us, helps us. Sometimes the memories flood us so much that we feel like we are drowning in them. Just get out there and swim with us for a little while and it takes away the fear that we are alone. We will know that you are there to rescue us if we need it.
If you are the disabled one, then choose to forget. Don’t bog down in the way it was or how you wish it was. It is what it is, so forget living in the memories. You will just stay morbid and depressive and you will eventually push away those who love you. Take a moment with those memories and then tell them to go on. I can sit at that park and watch my kids and pine my day away watching someone else push their kids on a swing, or I can have my wave of sadness, push it on down the road, and enjoy my kids with the abilities that I have. I know what my kids would want. Press on with the action of today, not the echoes of yesterday.