“How have your disabilities affected your relationships?”
To understand how my relationships have been affected as a result of my disabilities, it’s important to understand that my conditions have caused a shift in my relationship with myself. Chronic pain is difficult – the constant struggle to get through the days, some easier to navigate than others. But add mental illness into the mix as well…oh boy! I saw my self-worth reduced to rubble around my feet, compromised in relationships with both with friends and a past partner. I failed to see blatant mistreatment as anything other than love because I also failed to love myself; in my mind I should have been lucky to find people who’d ‘put up with my health baggage’. However time saw me grow and develop into who I am today – someone I actually like, and finally I can say that I no longer view my conditions as burdensome, and that the double standard has been dismantled; rather it has been replaced with the ability to show myself the same compassion that I do to others.
Recently I had the opportunity through Access Your Life to address this topic on a segment for the Online Disability Show.
Growing up I was blessed to have an amazing female role model in my life of whom I looked up to with respect and admiration; my mum. A woman who’s bravery, solidarity, love, and silliness knows no bounds. My mother was my primary caregiver growing up, and we had, and still have a close bond. She was the one to bathe, dress, transport, and comfort me – and for that I’m truly grateful because this care didn’t end in childhood. My mother was my caregiver, and now takes the role as my carer. This has allowed us to develop such a close bond, as she has been there for me during the toughest times of my life, as well as the highlights – and I know that I can share anything with my mum without fear of repercussions; this has never been brought to question. Sadly my mum has had to endure what every mother fears: seeing their child on the brink of death not just once, but twice; yet still she has never complained about taking care of me, driving me to countless appointments, helping me fight for a diagnosis and adequate treatment, and helping me with personal care tasks. Although there have been times when I haven’t wanted to confide in my family out of concern that I would worry them too much – and this was something that with retrospect I see as detrimental to my mental health, and also confusing for my family to understand; because deep down they always know when something isn’t right. Thankfully now it has finally sank in that holding back your distress never helps anyone in the long run.
My current romantic relationship is so very supportive, however as previously mentioned, I haven’t always had a partner who paid me the same support and empathy. Being gaslit for struggling with mental and chronic illness is a thing of the past, rather I know what I deserve and take nothing less – as my chronic illness has strengthened and emotionally matured me beyond my years, and it has certainly shown me that life is too short to compromise who we are and what we’re worth.