Disability and Friendships: An Interview & Insight into Both Worlds

Women sitting and smiling

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” 
Shakespeare

 

Recently I’ve done a great deal of reflection on relationships (platonic, as well as romantic). As I age, I become more aware of what I have, what I have accomplished, and what I still have left to do. I suppose that has a lot to do with the pesky construct of time and the pressures that come along with it. I’ve been fairly open about my struggles with anxiety, and two of my most prominent internal battles: separating my self-esteem and self-worth from my conditions and stop fearing that the stress of my realities will cause those closest around me to run away.
To many, that may seem like an irrational fear, but you see, it’s already happened to me. While I believe there were other factors, the reality is that my biological father walked away from me; too young, scared, and unprepared, he walked away and seemingly never looked back. That left a deep-seated wound that I’ve only now begun to recognize and heal from.

If one of my parents abandoned me, why would anyone else stay? 

I’ve come to realize that “anyone” stays because I am so much more than Hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy. I try to be a kind person. I look for the best in people. I give of myself freely, and I am an unconditional friend. I have more “pluses” in my column than “negatives”. That being said, I recognize that loving me, and watching me go through what I do isn’t easy. Too often I hear others say how difficult it must be to go through what I do. I certainly don’t deny that it is difficult. However, my answer is that while it is no walk in the park, I believe it is harder for those who love me. I know no other way of being and this is simply a reality I deal with. However, I cannot even begin to fathom how difficult it must be for the people who love me to watch me struggle, and know that no matter what they do, they cannot cure me of this and the necessary interventions are completely out of their control.
Just as they can never truly understand what I go through (and I know they would if they could) I can never truly understand their perspective, either. It was that revelation that inspired this week’s topic! I reached out to two very, very dear friends of mine and asked them if they would be willing to be interviewed with the hope that their vulnerability and openness would help merge the two paths that are so deeply intertwined.

*Their responses word for word will be italicized.

  • How does it feel for you to see me go through that the complications and/or surgeries relating to my two conditions?  
    A: It can be difficult at times to watch you go through what you need to for your conditions and corresponding surgeries. There are times when I’d just like to help you take the pain away, but I know that is not much I can do. When we’re not crying though, we’re laughing at the memories that could not have been made without your surgeries. A time that comes to mind is breaking down on the side of the road on route to the hospital. Overall, it can be a tragedy or a comedy, but I cannot imagine it any other way at this point.
    A: It’s hard to see you go through it. Because of the love that I have for you, I want to be the one to take away from your pain. Either emotional or physical pain. But knowing that I can’t really do anything about it is sometimes hard to accept. But on the other hand, It’s kind of amazing to watch you handle it all with the grace and resilience that you have.
  • Do you remember when I told you about my two conditions?
    A: 
    In the beginning, I was private about not badgering you with questions about your conditions. The general public can see your wheelchair and that is your business and yours alone, without adding the additional prying. You opened up to me about your conditions later on and what the eventual outcome would be. Both are breaking you down over time. We cried. It is not easy to hear.
    A:  To be honest, the first time I knew that you had 2 conditions was maybe 2-3 weeks ago. It was mentioned just randomly in a conversation (as most things are lol). As you sat on your couch. I think that was the first time knowing that you had two and also know the names of both actually. Weirdly, I never thought to ask.
  • What were your worries and fears, either as a friend or about me? Were you hesitant to take that on?
    A: 
    My worry first and foremost has always been your safety. Over time though I realized despite the lack of control over you have over your conditions you are more in control than most people realize. Even when your joints pop and the floor just needs a big old hug, you embrace the floor like you would a member of your own family. The loud thud that resonates throughout rooms in your household is not easy to hear, but have learned on more than one occasion to give you your peace and just have a shot of rum waiting for when you get up. I have even come to find that my biggest fear should not be with your disabilities, but with your stubbornness and pride. They drive you to extreme lengths that most cannot comprehend.
    A: The only fear that I have is that you won’t be able to live the life that you deserve. I worry that because of how strong you are there could be things you go through with your condition that I will never know about. And I don’t want you to feel alone in anything. I know you aren’t big into religion but really I feel like God made you for me. I don’t really think that I would have still survived these past years without you. You’ve talked me out of a lot of things without you even knowing. So in a selfish way, I don’t want to be without you.   

I want to thank you both for so many things: thank you for opening your heart for my readers and my blog. Thank you for standing beside me, even when it wasn’t easy. Know that I appreciate you, and it is because of your unconditional love that I have the strength to get through this. This article is dedicated to you, and all the incredible men and women that comprise the support systems of my community.

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