Understanding the invisible
I think I can categorise all those that have ever been a boyfriend of mine into the following, in terms of their attitudes towards my disability: understanding, tolerance and avoidance.
The worst experience I ever had was with someone who not only avoided thinking or referring to any difficulties I had, but actively chose to ignore me when I said I needed help or was tired. Not only that, but he admitted that having a disabled girlfriend was, in case I didn’t realise, bad for his image amongst his friends, and would I kindly not bring it up.
Others were intrigued but found it difficult to admit. So they tolerated that I couldn’t walk as far as everyone else at times, that I had to stop, that I occasionally needed a piggyback home. These were the majority.
The only people I’ve been lucky enough to have long relationships with, including the love of my life, are those that actually have the courage to understand the invisible. Taking the time to learn what you go through and deal with daily is a commitment, one that very few have been able to make over the years.
But this time around, I knew the moment he instinctively picked up and started rubbing my little right foot that this type of understanding surpassed them all. When he stopped walking with his friends to wait and walk with me, and sat on a street corner with me until I felt better. The way he watches me on the treadmill to make sure I don’t fall but encourages me to go faster because he knows I can do it. In fact, maybe this one doesn’t just understand the invisible — he just knows who I am. Even better still, I think he loves me, too.