Support Networks

I consider myself to be fairly independent, but I will admit that I rely on my husband a lot. He is the best person in my life, and I owe a lot to him. He gives me strength when I feel like I cannot go any further. He helps me to take care of the house and other tasks that I cannot always handle. He has patience when I am not feeling well. He is strong, steady, and reliable. I know that no matter what he will always be there. Without him, my life would be much harder, and I would be without my best friend.

I think many people with disabilities have a special someone who they rely on for strength, encouragement, and help. What we don’t always think about is what we will do if that person is no longer able to help care for us. What happens if they become ill, disabled, or even pass away? We don’t like to think about it, but it is something we all need to consider. What will I do if he is suddenly unable to do what he does for me now?
Currently, my husband is recovering from surgery. Luckily, it is a simple surgery that will not cause any major issues, but it got me thinking, what will I do if he is unable to be here one day? You see, my husband has a dangerous job which requires him to put himself in harm’s way on a daily basis. When he leaves for work I never know if he will come home at the end of his shift. We aren’t in denial about this possibility, and we have talked about it often. We are both mentally prepared to make that sacrifice if necessary, but am I physically prepared? This situation has gotten me thinking. Will I be ready?

We all need a support system. We need a network of people, a community of individuals who can support us when needed. If you don’t have that support system then reach out. There are multiple agencies and networks out there to help individuals in need. If you are religious, seek support from your church community or your spiritual advisors. Make new friends through a community club or activity that interests you. It is never too late to make new friends, and these friends can be a significant source of support in times of need in the future. I have learned that once I was able to let my guard down a little it was easier to make true relationships that create a stronger bond. There is a certain type of family that comes with my husband’s job, and normally I would be the type of person that would not embrace that. I would typically shy away from others involved in that “family” because I would feel different or unacceptable. Since I have learned to let my guard down I have learned that there are people out there that are sincere, and I have formed some very strong bonds that will last a lifetime. I am confident that if, God forbid, one day my husband does not come home, that there are people in my life that I can rely on. Hopefully, you can gain that comfort and support as well.

Responding to Stereotypes About Disability and Relationships

Does Dating/Marrying Someone With a Disability Automatically Make You a Good Person?

My husband and I were talking the other day and he told me a story about an incident that occurred when we were dating over ten years ago. One day we decided to go to the mall. We were just shopping together in a store and I was looking at some clothes, and my now husband was patiently waiting (and waiting…and waiting…) for me to finish. Apparently I was preoccupied when a man approached my husband and stated, “You’re a good man”. Well, he was right; my husband is a good man. He is loving, selfless, funny, and as mentioned before, patient. But, unless he was clairvoyant (which would have been way cool), there is no way he would have known all of that. No, he was not speaking of my husband’s character, he was saying my husband was a good man because he was willing to be with me, a girl in a wheelchair.

Does dating or marrying someone with a disability automatically make you a good person? Absolutely not! I have known many people who have been in relationships with disabled individuals who were complete jerks. The idea that someone would, or should, only be in a relationship with a person with a disability out of pity is ridiculous. People with disabilities are more than just their disability. We are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, truck drivers, students, etc. We are just as capable of providing love and support to another as someone is to providing that to us, and we are equal contributors to our relationships. My husband and I have an equal partnership that is built on love, trust, and faith in each other. It has nothing to do with my disability.

People with disabilities are not a thing to be objectified, fetishized, or pitied. Anyone who is in a relationship with someone for such a reason needs to get out of it. Anyone who thinks that people with disabilities are not capable of being in a relationship for any other reason than these needs to be educated. You don’t get brownie points just because you are in a relationship with someone with a disability. We are people. We are people who want to be loved like everyone else. We are people who want to give love like everyone else. We are people who are capable of contributing equally to the relationship, and it is offensive to assume otherwise.

So to the man in the mall, I say shame on you. Shame on you for assuming that I need to be pitied. Shame on you for not believing I am capable of providing love to someone. Shame on you for feeling like the only relationship I could be in is with “a good man” who is willing to stoop low enough to date someone in a wheelchair. Shame on you for thinking I am worthless. I am a strong, independent, loving woman in a strong, loving, supporting relationship with my husband of over ten years. I am a good woman in love with a good man, and yes, I have a disability.