When you need help in life, Life can decide who helps you, for you. This is usually alright, assuming you get along well with most other humans, especially the one who pushed you out of her vagina. But if you have a tumultuous relationship with the person helping you–or even just a one-off blow out with them, things can get more than messy. Here’s a few times when interpersonal conflicts can mess with asking for help.
Being in Conflict with a Parent
Everybody has conflict with their parents, it’s a right of passage that starts the minute you bust through the vaginal canal. In movies, teenagers with too much eye-makeup make fighting with family seem like an art-form, with their precocious vocabulary and dramatic exits. When you’re a real-life teen with a disability however, this fighting involves a lot less grace and minimal opportunity for dramatic walk-offs.
“Whatever. Ground me then. I don’t care,” Says you, with teary eyes and legs that twitch with the weight of your emotions, giving it away that you actually do care.
“Fine. This conversation is over,” says parent, who’s over dealing with your adolescent brand of Brat, and having a teenage kid.
“Fine.” Remember when the last word was everything? You’d practically spit it out, and plan to leave triumphantly, only hahaha, you’re disabled–Leaving quickly just isn’t an option for you.. Don’t give yourself a heart attack trying to leave the room quickly(while actually moving slower than a snail, because you’re mad and you forget what moving feels like). Joke’s on you.
The rough part about fighting with a parent is that your disagreements with them serve as a way to test limits and try your hand at independence, and this is mostly true for everyone, regardless of ability. When you live with a physical disability, this assertion of limits can be elusive or non-existent, simply because you have to rely on a parent for basic things like bathing, eating and getting in/out of bed. Let’s say this quarrel happened right before bed. You may have eventually succeeded in leaving the room, but you still have to “let them” help you get undressed, or wash-up, things that many people take solace in doing independently, as part of quiet time.
This boundary-crossing is inevitable for most physically disabled people and their parents, if their parents are also their caregivers. I believe that it can make it tough to decipher how to “hold true” to your thoughts and feelings in the future. “I still need help,” starts to feel like, “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong,” even if neither of those things are what you mean to convey. It’s difficult to feel like you’ve drawn a line in the sand when that line must soon be wiped away due to physical care needs.
Interpersonal Conflicts With Significant Others
Should we discuss this? THIS ONE SUCKS. Depending on the nature of the relationship (healthy/unhealthy) the conflict varies. What remains the same is that you need help. The independent factor is the reaction of your S.O. to the fight, and their decision on how they will treat your needs afterwards. Saying, “So, I’m still mad but I need help with pants.” is like punching yourself in the stomach, and yet it has to happen, provided you’re not a nudist.
Add to that said S.O. might decide their anger is more important than your being dressed or mobile, and you have another reason to never make yourself vulnerable again.
Interpersonal Conflict With Unrelated Caregivers
Some of us people with disabilities are privileged enough to have attendants, people who come into our lives and help us with personal care stuff.Many of these people are great in a thousand and five ways, but there will always be those that rub us the wrong way. This is troublesome, as the nature of the attendant’s job is personal, and this means that any disagreements often find their way into your personal life for longer than it might otherwise. If you have a falling out with a friend, you can choose to leave their life. If you have a falling out with an attendant, they’re generally in your life until someone above them (their boss) deems your reasoning “enough” to not have to see this person again. And if that happens, bare in mind that substitute assistance might not be available when to you need it. Pick your battles. Learn to play nice.
Please note that while all of these things are factors that sometimes keep PwD from asking for help, they are not meant to assign guilt or blame. I think that everyone’s experience with disability is different, but that many of us can relate on some of these matters. As always, my intent is to discuss, not exclude. Let’s talk.