At a time when all my friends were starting to have their first boyfriends and date, I used to wonder to myself if I would ever have a boyfriend or even get married someday. Would somebody be able to see past the very thing people noticed first.
Comments like “wow you are so pretty it’s a shame you are in a wheelchair” made my teenage self believe that I was not worthy of being loved or accepted by a partner, that I was perceived as damaged goods or undesirable because I had a disability.
I wish I could go back in time and tell my 14-year-old self, be patient, keep putting yourself out there, relationships are hard whether you have a disability or not. Don’t let others define your worth or value. But mostly, I would tell her, you will meet a wonderful man who will treat you and see you as an equal partner.
Unfortunately the misconceptions I was lead to believe as a teenager still exist today. When people find out I’m married it is sometimes followed by either two questions...”did you meet your husband after your accident or does your husband have a disability too?” Both of which are insulting because the essence of the question is they find it hard to believe an able-bodied person would willing choose a lifetime commitment with someone with a disability.
If my husband happens to be with me when people start questioning our relationship, he is often praised as a hero for willingly choosing a life with someone with a disability or he is hailed a saint for saving me from a life of rejection and despair. Both could not be further from the truth. My husband is a wonderful man, but not because he is married to someone with a disability.
We recently we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary, and while others may see a wheelchair, my husband has always seen what truly matters, my heart. So to my husband Shawn, thank you for 18 years of equal partnership and unconditional love. I am glad “we chose each other” to go through life with.
And to those living with a disability, love yourself and know that you are worthy and deserving of being loved.