Are you the spouse of a disabled person?

I often say that the worst thing you can say to a disabled person is “oh I know how you feel” you don’t you see how we feel but you’re not us, but there is one person if there is anyone who comes close and that is the partner /wife/husband/lover of a disabled person but only close.
Here’s the thing though, we have no idea how they feel so I suppose the same rule goes for us when we speak to them. My Ella gets up at 5.30 am,she gets the apartment ready for my day, she puts my wheelchair together and puts it within my reach and goes to work on the subway it takes an hour each way. She is vice-president of a national magazine with a staff to control and a magazine to put out every eight weeks.
Ella works from 7.30 am to 6pm on ordinary days except publishing week it is always later, then an hour on the subway and she comes home. I have dinner ready but she feels the need to start her second job as spouse/caregiver to me. How much of it is needed and how much is her needing to feel like she is there for me? That is a topic we discuss often.
I get upset sometimes and yell “I can do it myself just kick off your shoes and sit” and I have made my kitchen a no go area, but in the early hours before she leaves I often glimpse a broom or a Swiffer or heard the clang of dishes and it hurts. On my bad days I feel like I own her exhaustion and I try everything to make her life easier, but she will always strip off her business suit and throw on sweats kiss me and run her house, to other disabled people does this sound familiar?
The dilemma is do we just let them? I like most of my community am pretty self-sufficient, and if I had to could live on my own but thank Buddha I have Ella and never could imagine life without her.
What is the balance? On my most lucid days I get it, her greatest fear is something will happen and she won’t be here, something that she can’t control.The question is, is it theirs to control? We are after all our own people? and is not the goal of every person who wakes up one day disabled by whatever means to get back to a standard of life that is an actual life, a real enjoyable life?

They never signed on to be old before their times and we never signed on to be the cause, ,whether we actually are or whether we’re just the catalyst for their neurosis about us and their need to be our care givers. This was never the dream we shared when we said “I DO” when the priest muttered that bit about “sickness and in health” we could never picture this. Do we let the ones we love exhaust themselves in the name of letting them think they’re the buffer we need between your disability and the world, or do we risk the emotional fall out by yelling ENOUGH?
When I have my worst “MIA” days as Ella calls them I think “look what I have done to her” then on other days I yell stop I am completely capable of doing that.
I long ago realized if I believe I am the only one living with a disability that goes through these dilemmas then my ego is the size of the Grand Canyon. We all are different (picturing the man in the crowd in in life of Brian mumbling “I’M NOT”) but the problem in all its forms with different players is the same.
Getting back your life after amputation or paraplegia or a stroke or the onset of MS or some other neurological disease has to mean more than wiping your own ass and dressing yourself, it has to mean managing the life you made with the person you love. There will be screaming, there will be tears, there will be looks of pain, but for there to be a future there has to be that talk that discussion where the only acceptable outcome is the words “I only need you to love me, I only need you to tell me I can do it, and I only need you to hold me when I can’t. A little dust won’t kill me and dishes in the sink never tripped my crutches or stopped my wheels but not having you there can stop me dead in my tracks.

Let the person who wakes up next to you every morning know that the smiles you get when they look at you across the room, that look in that moment across that room is the only nursing and tlc you need from them nothing more. Most of all make the main point in the discussion you have is how much you love them for wanting to do it all, but you’ll love them even more for letting you fail at trying to do it yourself.

Author: disabledaccessdenied

I am a disabled woman who through no fault of my own has wheels under my ass. I rely on the decency and common sense of local, state and federal goverments, as well as the retail community to abide by the disabled access laws and provide adequate ramps, disabled toilets, and not use them as store rooms or broom closets. This blog exists to find the offenders and out them, inform them, and report them if necessary and shame them into doing the right thing when all else fails.

3 thoughts on “Are you the spouse of a disabled person?”

  1. I’m literally holding back tears at my desk. Believe it or not (and I know sometimes its hard to see), I’m grateful every day. I do my utmost to focus on the positive and realize that with each hurdle and bit of good news, our future looks brighter than my imagination lets it seem often. I never envisioned finding love in my life. Never thought it would happen for me. Never had those girly dreams of a simple live of being taken care of because I knew that wasn’t a reality. I saw real life. Real struggle early on and I saw the different, and learned it early on between the trivial and the serious and I remind myself each day to properly, to realistically give things the weight they deserve. There is not a certain kind of life that I sighed up for when I said “I do.”

    Yes I have my fears. I have my weak moments. I have my exhaustion and I don’t always strike the healthiest of balances between doing what I feel I need to do vs what is really necessary. I had long ago (and well before being the wife of a disabled person) taken on the role of caregiver – right or wrong, going to far or not far enough is another matter, but that is who I am and I can’t turn that off.

    I know full well there are things I can’t control and seeing people I desperately love in pain or fearing what could be causing that pain or fearing what the future might hold, those are my issues to deal with but do not ever question this: Your physical disability, the fact that you live your life out of a wheelchair has never been a draw back. I have seen you kick ass, climb walls, swim miles, go clear across the city time and time again. I know you can care for yourself and in reality, (using a brain that got sleep last night), I know you are fully self sufficent. I know that the dishes don’t have to get done or the floor doesn’t have to be swept all the time, but I also know that if I can make your day easier, if I can put a buffer between you and frustration, that makes me happy. Its all about a balance.

    The pain I feel is not at all from the things I do but the things I want to see you do. I get joy from your joy and it fuels me. Seeing that you’ve had a good day, a fun day, seeing you excited and laughing … that is my medicine, that is better than a day at the spa.

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