One of the unfortunate things that seems to happen fairly consistantly to people who become disabled is that they lose many of their friends.
I suppose I am lucky in that I moved as I was becoming disabled, so most of my old friendships that have attenuated have done so mostly because I moved across the country and am not great at keeping in touch.
However, it has meant that I got to see a slightly different facet of this phenomenon: the way people avoid making friends with a disability. This has not been helped in the slightest by the cliques and high school like social behavior you encounter at law school. And when I say high school like, I am sadly not exaggerating – a fellow law student who has taken a dislike to me ignores me when I try to join in to conversations, and just yesterday walked into the little boy’s clothing section in a store rather than pass close enough to me to have to make some kind of recognition and social pleasantry.
A large part of this has been due to the emotional side of suddenly becoming disabled. When you first become disabled, it’s hard not to talk about it frequently. When out of the blue, you’re in pain all the time and everything becomes a disability challenge, it’s a big part of your life. And when you aren’t even really well enough to be attending as many classes as I was, you have virtually no energy or time to socialize outside of class.
The cliques formed quickly last year, and I found myself an utter and complete social pariah just as fast. A disability makes other people uncomfortable – it’s proof that they, too, could suddenly lose their health. Something that no one wants to face. And because they don’t want to face that realization, they don’t want to face a PWD, especially not a young one.
So here I am, in a city I’ve lived in for just a year. I could count on one hand the number of friends I’ve made in the last year who stayed friends. I did meet my amazing boyfriend here, and as I said, I did make a handful of friends, but it’s been very hard socially. When you have so few people to lean on, it’s hard not to burn them out. You can’t ask for too many favors, too much support, too much sympathy/empathy.
To be completely honest, this is part of why I am so excited to have a service dog. I think that having someone who is able to always be there for me, even if he is furry and doesn’t really get it, will help. Or at least, I hope it will!
This is not to say that I do not recieve support from my boyfriend. He is probably the most supportive, empathetic person I have ever met. If I need a cheerleader, he is there. If I need someone to talk to/at because I’m just so pissed off about fighting my insurance, my doctors, my medical equipment providers, he listens. But it’s hard on him when I fall apart, when I cry. I hate how much it rips him up when I am upset.
But the boyfriend can’t be with me all the time, and frankly I don’t want to burn him out, either!
So here it is – the social reality of a new disability is loneliness. It’s a lot of time with me and my computer, me and the art that keeps me sane, me and my schoolwork. In the past month, since the boyfriend and I have moved in together, I spend a lot less time alone than I did before. I still don’t get out of the house nearly as much as I’d like, and other than the boyfriend, I think my doctors see more of me than anyone else.
Ah well. less than 3 weeks to service dog training.
Speaking of which – I am still $300 short on my fundraising. Please, folks, click the donation button over to the right! Even $5 helps, every little bit helps. Thank you all!