Chronic Disability Chaos
There’s one thing living with this disease guarantees; chaos will happen.
I have this plaque hanging above my living room door to remind me that one must have the chaos to get to the results of living.
One moment. One day. One item of chaos and the next little while in my life is FUBAR.
I’ve always tried to be an independent woman who doesn’t need anyone to be happy or whole. This unfortunately led me to also dislike asking for help. Being a single mom made it all harder. Having a child with special needs added more chaos.
Right now I have an awful lot of people telling me how to live my life. I KNOW they are coming from a loving place wishing only a happy life for me. However, that is one thing people who live with disabilities hate the most. The thought that they might know what’s best for my life even though they’re not living it makes me livid.
One friend, speaking to me like I was a child, kept repeating to me “You CAN’T fall again. You can’t. You have to live in a way so you don’t fall.”
I was living my life. I was doing what anyone else who lives in MN does. I was snowblowing my driveway. Like I’d done many many times before and because I AM capable of doing so. Think it’s OK to tell someone to not do what they can because something “might happen?” Do you tell your kids to not grow up because something “might happen?” For heaven’s sake no one lives in a bubble. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. No one wants to live in fear.
This same person told me he was very angry with me for not asking him to do things for me. I do and have asked him to things for me that I CAN’T do. Why should I ask people to do things for me that I CAN still do for myself? Because I “might” get hurt? Because it will cause me some pain to do it? Do ya’ll have any idea how much pain I live with? LOL! Plowing the driveway only causes me as much pain as mopping my floors. Should I not clean my home either?
There was this other guy who I thought about dating, but he told me I posted “so many things on my facebook page that were about chronic illness and pain,” so he figured that was all I was about or perhaps I was making up how much pain I was in. I post about pain so my friends can learn what my life is like and know when things are good or bad. I post because I’m not often out in the world to see anyone in person and talking on the phone is difficult with hearing aids sometimes.
I have a plethora of friends telling me to make sure I always have my phone with me. I was outside in my own yard snowblowing. I didn’t put on my hearing aids because the plow is so loud. Why would I bring my phone that I wouldn’t hear either? Do YOU always have your phone on you every moment of every day? Do I remind you all of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up commercial?” The commercial for elderly people. It’s a commercial about wanting and needing to be able to live on your own despite illness or disability. People are only seeing that they fall and need help. They aren’t seeing the happy person living their best life.
So I was living my life and something happened to me that can happen to anyone, but I get messages to take better care of myself. I get messages that it’s my fault I got hurt because I should know better than to do things for myself. I get messages that I’m a lesser person and must rely on others at all times and if I don’t then I deserve the consequences. The message is that I should do nothing, not even the things I am capable of doing.
Even my son, also with the same bone disease and living with chronic pain and disability, wanted to punch the friend talking to me like I was a child. I realize it’s the “way” he was talking to me, the words he was using that my son and I took offense to. I realize he had no intention of making me feel like that. I realize he needed to make himself feel better. But, I simply don’t NEED him to do things for me that I don’t want him to do! I don’t need “taken care of.”
I complain when I DO ask for help with something and then no one is there for me. THAT’S frustrating. But then when I do for myself I sure get a lot of people angry at me for doing something on my own. I’ve been snowplowing my own driveway for years, despite the pain. I’ve asked for help when my snowplow was broken and not received it when I needed it. So, no, I will not stop doing it myself when I can.
When I can. Now, I can’t. So, ya it’s still winter so I WILL need help to do the driveway now. I even need help to put on pants, socks, shoes right now. I have to depend on my disabled son for this. I have caused him an increase in his chronic pain since I got injured. I can’t stand up to cook, I need to figure out IF I can drive, I can’t clean the house. Those things I will need help for, for now. And I’ll ask. I am seriously doubting that I’ll get anyone to help except my son and the guy who talks to me like I’m a child. I have friends that I don’t doubt would help me, but they don’t live here, they are elderly, or they are disabled themselves.
Chaos. I like the way life is constantly changing. I can go with the flow. I’m trying not to be angry at how these people think it’s OK to tell me how I should live. It’s happened before, it will happen again. We must push against difficulty to make our dreams. I have a dream of a world where people with disabilities are treated like other people. A dream where simply living isn’t more difficult for us. A dream where whenever ANYONE needs help they don’t feel bad or guilty for asking for help or have others tell them how they should live instead.
I’m just going to add some stuff from the internet:
If you see a person with a disability struggling with something, your first instinct may be to jump in and help. However, without knowing that person’s specific needs or intentions you may be doing more harm than good. Always ask before offering your assistance.
- Sometimes, a person with a disability may seem to be struggling when they are actually fine. It may simply take them longer to do certain tasks, but that does not necessarily mean they need a helping hand. If you think they might need help, just ask.
- If you see someone with a disability struggling, simply say “Would you like any help?” or “Do you need assistance?” You do not have to say any more than this.
- If someone declines your offer of assistance, do not be offended or insist on helping. Simply go on with your day. They know their needs better than you do, and pushing them would come off as rude.
- Do not offer medical advice, especially if you are not a doctor. While suggesting yoga for someone with chronic pain may seem helpful, remember that person already has a doctor who knows his specific medical history and giving out advice without solicitation comes off as condescending.
Ask before helping out. One of the first responses of many people when they see or meet a disabled person is to try to give them help. While this gesture may seem kind, you could actually be irritating them or getting in their way. Ask if they need you to perform a certain task.
- “Would you like me to push your wheelchair?”
- “Do you need help walking?”
- “Would you like me to guide you?” (to a blind person)
- “Should I move this chair out of your way?”
- Let the person tell you what they need instead of automatically assuming what they need in the moment.
Know that disabilities can be more severe on some days than on others. They can waver based on the person’s energy level, the weather, what they did today, their general health, and many other things. Just because someone can or can’t do something today doesn’t mean it’ll be the same tomorrow.
- Wheelchair users may be able to walk short distances, or may even be able to go without wheelchairs some days.
- Autistic people may be able to enjoy hugging one day, and be unable to handle it the next day.
- When in doubt, ask.
DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
People with disabilities are the best judge of what they can or cannot do.
Don’t make decisions for them about participating in any activity.
Depending on the situation, it could be a violation of the ADA to exclude
people because of a presumption about their limitations
People who use canes or crutches need their arms to balance themselves,
so never grab them. People who have limited mobility may lean on a
door for support as they open it. Pushing the door open from behind
or unexpectedly opening the door may cause them to fall. Even
pulling out or pushing in a chair may present a problem. Always ask
before offering help