According to Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of a relationship is: "The way in which two or more people or things are connected."
Although there are many people that come and go throughout one’s life, there are some that connect on a deeper level and others that just pass through. In my life I’m fortunate to have many relationships including friends, significant others, family, caregivers, even pets etc. It feels good to have that one person or group you can count on to talk to or be there for you no matter what.
I was once asked if it’s tough to make new friends now that I’m in a wheelchair and a quadriplegic. I think it is difficult sometimes, but it isn't impossible. It seems hard for others to approach someone with a disability because people are afraid of the unknown. I guess I would say that it’s harder to find new friends who are able-bodied versus disabled because I have more in common with someone who has a disability.
I have made many new friends since my accident including past nurses. I also still keep in touch and hang out with friends from before, even ones I’ve had since grade school! It’s great when there are those that are accepting of my situation, especially when it’s someone I meet post accident. That’s why I try to socialize and meet as many people as possible. I want others to know that I’m still me, despite my disability.
Another type of relationship is on a romantic level. I’ve been asked many times about what dating is like for someone in my situation. It seems like a complicated question, but some of the answers aren't any different than from someone who is able bodied. Before meeting my boyfriend Ryan of almost 3 years, I still faced the same obstacles like finding someone who was my type and liked me for who I am. I had ups and downs, faced rejection just like others. I also had to learn that this was okay and I don’t have to settle with just anybody to make me happy.
Ryan and I met on an online dating website called Plenty of Fish. Although he’s been through disability-related situations throughout his life, he understands and accepts me for who I am despite my disability. Ryan is an exceptional guy, and one who has proven his love for me through his actions, affection, care, and trust. He currently works as a CNA helping other people with disabilities in their daily living.
My mom has been there with me through everything. She is always there for me when I need her and takes good care of me. It's hard when she goes away, but I know she needs a break too. I don't know what I would do without her by my side. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and as a result underwent chemo and radiation. That same year she had 2 surgeries. Earlier this year (1 ½ years later) she had to have another surgery to repair damage caused by the chemo and radiation. In November, she’ll have one final surgery.
There are other family members close to me include my dad, sister, and niece. I usually see my dad every other weekend or when he gets a chance to come over. We like to hang out and play games. Sometimes he brings his dog Bailey over. I also have my sister, Kristen and niece Avery who is 4 years old. They live in an apartment nearby, and stop by a couple times a week. It’s nice when I get a chance to see them and hang out. My niece, Avery, likes to be involved with whatever she can, especially helping out with my cares.
Another relationship in my life that I am faced with on a daily basis is having a nurse by my side 24/7. Depending on the person working for me also depends on what type of relationship we have with each other. Some I am closer to than others, especially if they’ve been working for me for a longer period of time. Most of the time the nurse and I have a relationship where we understand each other and have bonded.
It can also get difficult at times having someone by my side all the time. I may get irritated or annoyed with the nurses, but that's only because 12 hours is a long time to spend with one person. Sometimes I just want to be alone with no one in the house, but I know that will never be possible as long as I'm on a ventilator and have a trach. If something were to happen, for example my tubes popping off, they need to be there for me to put them back on so I could breathe. I just have to remember that they are my hands and there to help me.
As far as pet relationships I have my dog Brody who is like my companion dog. Even though he isn’t certified, he still acts like one. His breed is a Chinese Crested Powder Puff and they’re known to be very loyal to their owners. I think that is why he is so in tune to my needs and doesn’t require a lot of direct training, especially when it comes to obedience to me.
Regardless of relationships that may come and go in my life, the one relationship that always remains and never goes away is my relationship with myself. I know if I stay true to who I am and never give up despite what happens, I will persevere and overcome any challenges or obstacles in my way. That being said, my main goal is to live life to its fullest and remain positive for myself and others around me.