“Time. That word has taken on a completely new meaning when you have a disability. And, if you have a relationship with someone with a disability, it will take on a new meaning for you, too."
In 2009, Alicia Reagan was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis when she was expecting her 6th baby. She then noticed that time was a factor that greatly affected her and everybody around her. “In my early days of paralysis, my greatest frustration was how long everything took,” she shares. The thought of the amount of time needed to do certain things – for example, unloading and putting the wheelchair together before going shopping – has also stopped her from wanting to pursue such activities, too.
Living in such a fast-paced society, she realized how time plays such a huge role in impacting people’s relationships as well. Alicia frequently feels that she is burdening her family or friends who take the extra time to help her unload her wheelchair from the car and put it together when they go out.
On several occasions when she went out with her husband, Jimmy, she has encountered different scenarios that all resulted in her developing negative thoughts. For instance, if Jimmy asked if he could head into a store quickly while she stayed in the van, there are two ways Alicia would have reacted. She would either go to the store with him, upset and angry that he did not want to spend the time helping her fix her wheelchair up, or, she would stay in the van, similarly upset.
Upon reflection, Alicia knows that either response is unhealthy for any relationship. “There has to be a balance and we finally achieved it through communication, disagreements, understanding how the other one felt, being honest, and then we found our solution,” she shares. The consensus that they have come up with is to recognize how either party is feeling at the moment in time. For example, if Jimmy is tired, he would ask Alicia if she wishes to head out with him. Alicia will then evaluate whether she has a “strong desire to go in” or if she wants to go in because she does not want to be “bored.” If it is the latter, she will then stay in the car.
Any relationship is about communication and compromise. Both parties have an equal part to play in ensuring that they understand each other’s needs and feelings.
For family and friends of those with disabilities, Alicia stresses the importance of patience. Rushing them or being upset with the time they are taking is akin to expecting them to change who they are. Instead, being understanding is a huge part of maintaining a healthy relationship.
For people with disabilities, planning and organizing your priorities are essential. For Alicia, she starts her mornings earlier because she knows she requires at least 2 hours to get ready for the day. Respect is a two-way street: if you want people to understand and respect your needs, you have to offer the same to them as well.
Similarly, people with disabilities need to develop patience as well. Alicia knows from her personal experience how easy it is to get upset and frustrated by the littlest of things. “Take a deep breath,” she advises. “Remember those who love you are trying to help you, and be quiet.” It may take some “time” to get it right, but once you do, you are well on your way to maintaining a successful and healthy relationship.
Share this post with your family and friends to work together in keeping a healthy relationship with each other.