“How am I going to find a partner who’ll accept me the way I am?”
This question came from a young man, approximately twenty years old, who was reading my new book. He was supporting himself with crutches, and was clearly disabled. “Every girl who sees me will say, ‘you’re a good person, but let’s just be friends’.”
Nobody’s perfect. Thankfully, physical disability is generally evident. This is a big advantage because it works like a filter. People who can see past the disability, can pass through the filter.
I tell people about my own disabilities as soon as possible, albeit mine aren’t physical. It’s important for me that others have the full picture. I don’t want them to waste their time, or mine. And, quite frankly, I prefer physical disability to mental disability. It’s always sad when someone’s a jerk, but it takes years to realize.
Ten years ago, I was in a relationship with someone who had a physical disability. To be completely honest, I felt inferior next to her. To have her strength, and to face difficulty with a smile, was unnatural to me. Sometimes, when I overreacted, I felt ashamed at how weak I was. This was one of my most important relationships. It was one within which I developed the most. It taught me that those who continue with life despite disability, make excellent partners.
Some time ago, when I met Andrea, she thought she’d never find a partner. She was thirty-nine, and had two kids. In fact, she’d had three. When she was twenty, she’d became a single mother. With her next partner, she’d lost a baby with a Down’s syndrome. After some time, her prayers had been answered, and she’d given birth to another baby boy. When he’d turned one, his dad had decided to leave both of them for another woman. “At that time, I thought it was the end of the world, and nothing worse could happen to me. How wrong I was.”
“Get up, it’s Saturday morning!”, her friends called to her, at a chalet in the Krkonose Mountains. She’d gone there to relax. But Andrea couldn’t get out of bed. She felt absolutely exhausted. And she fell asleep again. She didn’t realize that a cruel race against time had started in her body.
The first awakening
She woke up to the worst nightmare. Her body was covered in purple spots, she felt sick, couldn’t move, and there was nobody around. She grabbed her mobile phone but couldn’t reach her friends who’d taken Adam, her son, on a hike.
She suffered alone for an entire day. Had she known what was wrong, she would have called a doctor much sooner. Before she passed out, she heard the ambulance door shut. And then nothing.
Even today, she doesn’t have a clue where she got it from: “They told me that the virus is all around us. Anyone can be a carrier. And then it’s only a question of you coming into contact with it when your immune system is weak”.
The young mother of two knew she hadn’t had much sleep over her recent months on maternity leave. To make the ends meet, she’d taken on extra work, and was under permanent pressure.
Unfortunately, meningitis isn’t only deceptive, but it’s also highly precise, in that it can kill within 24 hours of first break-out. What’s more, the symptoms can be hard to diagnose. At first, it’s like flu. The diagnosis becomes clear as soon as it starts to shut down organs and muscles, like it’s switching individual lights off in an illuminated house.
When Andrea woke up for the second time, she was no longer laid in a chalet bed. Instead, she was in the Intensive Care Unit. She asked what the date was, and realized that five weeks had passed. Confused, she asked the staff to get her some socks and slippers. Silence. Only one of the nurses was brave enough to tell her, “you don’t need shoes… you have no legs”.
Astonishment. Shock. Pain. No physical pain, though. She didn’t see her little boy again until he turned two. He couldn’t come to see her before that. All she heard of him was that he’d visited America twice with his dad.
When Adam finally arrived in her hospital room, he was emotionless. He didn’t know who “the lady” was, and referred to his dad’s new girlfriend as “mom”. How cruel life can be.
“To top everything off… and this was the worst… My child was my dream come true. And, all of a sudden, it was as if he was no longer mine. I couldn’t eat, and I lost lots of weight. In the end, I weighed forty kilograms. My pain was constant. My bandages were changed three times per day, and I had to go under general anesthetic sixty times. I thought about ending my life.”
Why did this have to happen?
These were the questions that permanently occupied Andrea’s mind.
Perhaps you’d like to ask her, “so how come you’re still here?”
Today, when she looks back on that time, she smiles. “I don’t know where my body got its strength from. It must have been some inner persistence, or a desire to live, in spite of everything. To be able to go through it. Sometimes, such persistence can be harmful, but it saved my life.”
Those of you who read my recent posts, like Andrea, know my main piece of advice for situations like hers: take stock of everything you have left. And be thankful for it.
Surprising maybe? Perhaps, in this instance, it’s easy to think that Andrea had nothing left.
… let’s consider her situation together. And this may help you during your own challenging times.
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