Getting Married as Someone with a Disability

Today marks two weeks since I married the love of my life. I’m still catching myself saying my maiden name as opposed to my new last name, I still haven’t written thank-you notes, and there are wedding gifts still in their original packaging. But as I sit and reflect on my wedding day, I feel nothing but love and gratitude for the friends and family who helped to make it the best day of my life.

Like many girls, I spent my life thinking about what my perfect wedding day would be like. However, unlike most girls, my focus wasn’t on the details like the color scheme, flowers, table decorations, or the seating chart. I cared about one thing: the man who’d be standing opposite me as we promised to spend forever together.

As someone with a disability, I spent years wondering if I’d ever get married or even have a boyfriend. I didn’t know if I’d ever find someone who wouldn’t feel burdened by my disability. I couldn’t picture someone wanting to spend their life with someone who did not know what the future would hold for them physically and the level of help they’d need. I couldn’t picture someone not being frustrated by the intricacies of being intimate with me. I couldn’t imagine someone CHOOSING that kind of life and future for themselves.

Then I met my husband, and my whole world shifted. Together we learned how to navigate a relationship where one partner is able-bodied and the other is not. However, don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t necessarily a walk in the park. It took time, understanding, communication, and trust, and most of all, patience. But tackling those challenges early on meant we built our relationship on honest, open communication. And our relationship only grew stronger from there.

If you asked me as a child to picture the man standing opposite me on my wedding day, I wouldn’t have pictured my husband, but here’s why. I honestly didn’t think someone like him existed. I didn’t believe I’d find someone to love me AND my disability, while also being willing to take on the responsibilities that only a relationship like ours requires. But then the universe proved me wrong. And here we are, enjoying the early days of married life and brimming with excitement for what our future together holds.

So, to all the people out there with disabilities wondering whether they’ll get married one day, please know, it’s possible. I’m living proof. We are worthy of love, acceptance, and romantic relationships, so don’t let anyone say we’re not. Honestly, I think relationships with one disabled partner are even stronger than relationships where both partners are able-bodied. Because not only do we have to navigate the typical ups and downs of a relationship, we have to come to terms with the physical aspects too, and that makes our partnership even stronger.

In that sense, I am so grateful to have found a man who encourages my independence but also helps me when I need it. And that help isn’t tinged with feelings of resentment or being a burden; it’s filled with love. I know this because I know my husband, and the love we have for one another is visible. I saw it plain as day on our wedding day. I saw it in the look in his eyes when we promised forever to each other surrounded by our friends and family. I heard it in the words of the hand-written vows he wrote. And I felt it in the way he held me during our first dance. And I see it today, just in the way we navigate our day-to-day lives, allowing each other to grow as individuals and together as a couple. And in the conscious decision we make to choose to love each other, every day, over and over, from now until forever.

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The Mobility Chronicles: CP Edition [Part 2]

Back in January, I wrote a blog post and opened the door of my current mobility struggles, while simultaneously opening the floodgates of all the emotions associated with my declining mobility. In some ways, it feels like the level of those emotions has increased, but honestly, I think they are fears and concerns I’ve had my whole life, so now that they’ve come to light, it feels like I can’t even breathe some days because of my level of panic, anxiety, and unrelenting anger.

In between the time I wrote the initial post on this subject, I’ve gone back to physical therapy, which was a huge step for me. Past physical therapy experiences have resulted in a form of PTSD, so the fact that I was even able to walk in the building when I had my first appointment was a really big deal. I’ve only had two appointments with my new physical therapist, but so far, so good. During my initial appointment when I was evaluated, I spent 90% of the appointment discussing my past PT experiences, the panic and anxiety I now feel as a result of my past and the pain I experienced, as well as the experience I had when I returned to physical therapy 3 or 4 years ago for the first time since I was 16. To put it bluntly, returning to PT that time around didn’t go well. I had no idea I was going to have panic attacks, but I did, and they scared the crap out of me. Therefore, when I returned to physical therapy this time around, I knew what to expect in a sense. I was utterly terrified and it took a lot for me to even think about going, but I had a better idea of what my response would be.

Therefore, about a month before my initial evaluation appointment, I talked with my psychiatrist about my concerns, in the hopes that she could prescribe me with something that could at least take the edge off so I could walk in the door of the physical therapy clinic without having a panic attack. The fact that I even had to ask for a medication to help me made me feel weak. However, I have battled my depression and anxiety and been in mental health therapy long enough to know that sometimes talk therapy itself can’t 100% fix a problem, especially when it’s literally a chemical imbalance in your brain. Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not one of those people who thinks the entire country should be medicated. However, all I know is that for me, the combination of talk therapy and medication has allowed me to be a functioning member of society without feeling completely debilitated by my anxiety and depression.

Anyway, upon returning to physical therapy, knowing I had something that could help me from totally going into a panic attack and not being able to get through the appointment was a relief. It was like knowing I had a safety net if I needed it. I will say, though, another huge part of returning was getting myself mentally prepared that physical therapy this time around would not be the same as physical therapy when I was 11 or 12 that required intense physical therapy post-surgery. For me, that meant creating mantras in my head, like “You are in control,” “If it hurts, you can’t tell them to stop,” and “If you have to get up and walk out, that’s okay.” In short, the mantras help, but so far it has meant repeating them in my head over and over for the entire hour of my appointment.

In short, each PT appointment forces me to face internal demons that I’ve been battling since childhood, and that shit is hard. I remember the day a few weeks ago when I went to my first appointment. I got through it, but for the rest of the day, I was in a very thick mental fog. I had built the appointment up in my head, expecting a continuous panic attack. Since that didn’t happen, my mind had to adjust to the fact that what I was preparing myself for for over a month wasn’t as intense as I was expecting. Despite that, facing these fears head on on a daily basis is exhausting. I’m sure that over time it’ll get easier, but for now, it just sucks. It doesn’t feel fair. I shouldn’t have to have such an intense internal battle with myself on a daily basis, and yet, here we are.

Recently, I discussed my anger surrounding my declining mobility and having to use a walker with my mental therapist. In short, I’m infuriated with myself and my body constantly. I hate that my mobility has reached this point. I’m pissed that I didn’t do more to hold off this moment for as long as I could. It literally makes me want to scream and cry, simultaneously, on a daily basis. It’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to deal with this now. I thought I had 10 more good years of independent mobility without having to depend on the assistance of a mobility aid. But the universe had other plans.

To be honest, facing my declining mobility as a result of my disability feels like the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The simple fact of feeling like I am being continuously “mentally tested” on a daily basis is enough for even the most mentally strong individuals to take pause. So, today, I’m taking pause. I’ll pick up the fight again tomorrow.