The Complexities of Having Able-Bodied Friends
Being disabled and being friends with able bodied people is way harder than anyone realizes. We’re constantly being left behind and overlooked. As they move forward in their lives, we have to sit back and watch them go. No one wants to admit it, but it gets really hard to be happy for them after a while. They graduate college, awesome! we’re stuck in bed in pain. They get their dream job, great! We’re stuck in bed in pain. They get married, nice! We’re stuck in bed in pain. They drift further away the more they accomplish. It’s only natural. They get busy and they get tired of hearing about your doctors appointments. They stop asking how you’re doing because they know it’ll be the same answer as always. Then suddenly the things they complain about make you roll your eyes. The occasional headache, an annoying coworker, a pulled muscle, their husband snores… but they have their health, and they’re taking it for granted. It’s infuriating. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s heartbreaking. We are losing them.
A disabled friend once told me that we put our able bodied friends on a pedestal. We have been abandoned by so many people. So many family members and friends left when the going got tough for us. Those who stayed are now elevated in our minds for doing the bare minimum by staying in our lives. When we elevate them in that way, they automatically become more important to us than we are to them. If they lost us as a friend, they would have plenty other friends to replace us with. If we lose them, we lose a huge piece of our lives. We put all our eggs in their baskets and they just don’t understand the significance of that.
These people often remind us of a time before we were sick. Their presence in our lives creates a nostalgic sense of normalcy that we need in order to stay positive. Disability and chronic illness are all-consuming, they take up space every second of every day of our lives, and having able bodied friends around oftentimes takes our mind off of what’s wrong with our bodies. The problem is that the absence of these friends oftentimes sends us spiraling. While they’re off living their lives and moving forward, we are alone, we are stuck, and we are comparing ourselves to them. They are fine without us, we are gutted without them. And, just like everything else in our lives, it is not fair.
Disabled people deserve better. We deserve friends who take an active part of our lives. We deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, and to be treated with respect. We deserve to be friends with people who value us and our friendship. We have so much love to give, and we deserve to get love back.
P.S. If you’re an able bodied friend of a disabled person: be better. If you’re a disabled person with an able bodied friend who doesn’t value you: demand better.