Monday, 5 March 2018

Being Disabled Does NOT Make Me a Burden to My Partner


Being disabled does NOT make me a burden to my partner. Being disabled does NOT make me a burden to anyone. It doesn't make any disabled or chronically ill person a burden at all. Ever.

A few weeks ago BBC Ouch shared a podcast interview with some people with disabled partners. The discussion between the participants was actually incredibly positive and the B-word never got mentioned. However, we all know how much the media love to sensationalise stories with a clickbait title to drum up attention; and they used the headline, 'Is Having a Disabled Partner a Burden?'

Disabled and abled people alike took to the internet to express their outrage. The women on the podcast were upset and disappointed; it gave a negative spin to a positive talk. It made me not want to listen. It made me angry. I didn't want to listen to people objectify their disabled partners, to hear them dehumanise disabled people. But that's not what it was at all, and it's a shame because it pushed potential listeners away instead of educating them on a subject that isn't often spoken about.

It's worth noting that I have written about feeling like a burden to my boyfriend and family before. It was almost three years ago and reading it now has shown me just how far I have come in accepting my disability. I point out all the reasons I could be seen as a burden to my loved ones but rationalise it by stating that I'm not forcing them to stick around. You can read the full post here.

Years ago, way before I was with Ian, I believed I was unworthy of love, I thought nobody would want to make a life with me because of my disability, that I was too much work, too much stress, too much of a burden. I was young, I wasn't even calling myself disabled. I was having a really hard time accepting it, and if I couldn't, how could someone I was having a relationship with? It took a long time for me to work through my demons and I guess as soon as I began believing that being disabled wasn't a bad thing, my mindset quickly changed.

The definition of a burden is 'a heavy load' and a 'worrying responsibility'. And I get it, loved ones worry about you, disabled or not. But when you think of your partner, you don't want to be a 'worrying responsibility' to them.

What exactly makes a person a burden? And why are those of us that are deemed less fortunate (be it due to class, race, sexuality etc) always the ones that are othered and seen as an inconvenience? Maybe it's because I'm disabled, I don't know, but I've never thought of someones accessibility needs as cumbersome. I've never considered someones use of a ramp or need of an interpreter problematic. Have you?

More often than not, those that don't know and/or interact with disabled people think that we're aliens, that we offer nothing more than our disabled body but they couldn't be more wrong. Yes, we are disabled but we are also human with a personality, just like you. Those that tend to think that disabled people are burdens can't see us as people, we're objects that need something more than they are willing to give.

Selfie of Ian and Sarah pulling tongues

Anyway back to this partner thing...

I've been with Ian for almost five years and not once has he made out like I'm an inconvenience because of my health. Although my disability is a huge factor in our relationship, it's just another part of me. I wouldn't be me without it. We have a life that is dissimilar to our friends relationships and that's fine because our 'us' works for us.

Some people might think that because he does most things around the house, as well as help me get dressed, bathed etc. that I am a burden to him, but I'm not (and he'd happily tell you that himself). Do you know why? Because he's happy with his role in our relationship and I'm happy with mine. I make him laugh, I sing to him, I cuddle him when he has that glazed look on his face because he's worrying about something. Yeah, I'm disabled but I'm also so much more. And just because I have this long list of conditions it doesn't make me incapable of loving or being loved. It means I have different needs and I have a man that will cater to them without question because we're a team.

I may not do physical things, like cleaning or cooking but I sort out paying the bills and do our weekly shop online. These may seem like trivial things but the things I can do, I want to because I want to help him. The same way he wants to help me by brushing my hair and organising my medication (and all the other long list of things he does for me).

We fight, we make up, we cry laughing, we duet (badly on his part), we talk too much or say nothing at all, we take silly pictures together, we mimic each others accent...I could go on but the gist is, I'm not a burden to him and he's not a burden to me. Yeah, I'm a 'responsibility' but that is nothing to do with me being disabled. Ian is a responsibility for me too. He's my main priority and I'm his, completely taking disability out of the equation; we're just two people in a relationship that care for each others welfare and happiness. That's it.

Even if I did nothing in our relationship but made him happy, isn't that enough? Doesn't love conquer all?

Selfie of Ian and Sarah at zoo

Selfie of Sarah and Ian in car with winter hats on smiling

It's always outsiders that drop the B-word. Always those that know nothing about the people they're commenting on. Those that pretend like they want the best for both parties but are really just pitying the abled person and are desperate for them to break free from the chains of their disabled partner.

Let's face it, anyone (disabled or not) could be called a burden, but more often than not, it's those of us that require a little bit more attention. There's no way sweeping generalisations can be made about all disabled people being burdens because we're not. If we're in healthy, happy relationships and both parties are okay with their roles, then maybe stop interfering and devaluing the things we do for our partners, even if you deem it sub par.

I'm not a burden. I'm a fucking queen. I'm a queen with wheels and my boyfriend is fine with it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

8 comments:

  1. I was always worried I would never find love with my chronic illnesses then I met my current partner. He has been amazing and I know I'm not a burden on him as he still lives his life like before he met me, well apart from quitting work to get me to appointments etc. I encourage him to go out with his friends like normal and to go camping with his family, sometimes when I'm well enough I go out to his friends with him. They all accept I'm not very mobile and sometimes have to leave early. I know he loves me and I love him, to be honest without him I'd be even more isolated and alone. He tries his best to make sure I have a life too and I love him for it. I'm not a burden on him or anyone, it may not be as easy as able bodied relationships but we are happy and it works for us xx

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    1. Exactly, if it works for you, that's all that matters.

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  2. Love the way you ended this Sarah! Sums it up! You are a queen 🙌

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  3. This is incredibly inspirational, you go, queen!!

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  4. You are a fucking queen with wheels! Great read girl!
    I remember it clicked with me when some of my friends drifted away... Chronic illness unlike cancer doesn’t have a middle beginning or end and some people don’t get that. The ones that stuck around are awesome!
    I’m treated in Liverpool as NI doesn’t have any pancreas centres. xx

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