There is a distinct change that happens when a person you love is injured. My initial reaction was worry and an eagerness to help my partner cope with the changes of his injury. As his diagnoses got worse and worse, I dealt with each change with variations of worry and panick but soon came to the realization that it would get better. But there is something that I didn’t quite comprehend as these dramatic shifts were happening all so fast. It’s almost like your on a speedway and the changes are whizzing past you and you try to keep up with them until you realize that you’re too slow for the fast lane and…CRASH! Your life–as you knew it–is over. Well, not over over, but it has completely changed.
I was thrust into a world I didn’t recognize with a landscape that was unfamiliar. Carlos lost a leg. I thought I had lost my exhuberant protector and manager of all things. But, did I? Loss of limb is a very strange thing. The rest of the limbs are fine which can fool what’s missing into thinking it is as it was. It therefore, tries to stand up and falls down…over…and over…and over. Three times in fact. And each time it happened, it was worse.
First Phase: I-Can’t-Do-This
Everytime a fall occurred, I would play this weepy violin track just like in the movies. Everytime I had to help my love adjust to his wheelchair, I’d freak out and wonder whether I could continue doing this on a long-term basis. I doubted everything about the process and listened to my love go through a depressive state that involved phantom pain and all of the stages of grief one-by-one. It was–and is–an exercise in extreme patience. But did we survive? Of course.
Phase 2: But Why Do I Hate You Sooooo Much?
You’re going to have periods where you hate the other person. If people say “hate” is too strong a word, they’re wrong. The newly disabled person will suck your very life’s blood from you like a vampire until they come to terms with their disability; therefore, it is imperative to your own mental health to come to terms with that initial feeling of anger and hatred. When you learn that you are not a perfect bunny, you’ll start beginning to find ways to cope better with the situation that will not further handicap the disabled person. A bird may lose its wing, but it still has to learn to manage certain things on its own.
A sense of humor and excessive praise is good for everyone. When I learned to just do the things I hated doing without complaint, the process became more peaceful for all involved. Oh sure, Carlos sometimes will nitpick and attempt to drain me of my optimism, but when he sees that it’s just me helping him out at five in the morning when all lesser help has failed, a newfound appreciation occurs. This is love in its purest form. It is selfless and hardworking. It takes a lot for Carlos to ask for help. It equally takes a lot to understand what it is Carlos wants and to gauge what it is he really needs. He’s the most stubborn, hard-headed, loving, sensitive, crazy person I’ve ever met. So it is with this in mind that I have to bite my tongue to get to the chocolate filling.
Phase 4: Pity Parties Are For Losers
Remember: you are a human being and not a doormat. You’ll soon learn that when dealing with a disabled person, helping them throw Pity Parties doesn’t help either. It actually hinders their progress. I met a funny nurse when Carlos was in the hospital dealing with his new legless status. She asked me to retrieve the shared hospital wheelchair from Carlos who refused to give it up. I walked in there, got it and handed it to her. Later, she was in his room changing his bandage when he wailed out at her and she hollered back in a thick Filipino accent, “Carlos, you cut the bull-sheet! You cut the bull-sheet now!” I gotta hand it to her, Carl cut the bullsheet. Self-sufficience is important to a disabled person’s recovery process. If you continue playing into the mood swings or pity pleas, the person never learns how to manage things themselves. It reminds me of Little House on the Prairie when Mary went blind. She freaked out, she was given confidence from Ma & Pa Ingalls and she learned how to handle her blindness. She even became a teacher. So yeah. Don’t throw Pity Parties. Only sad sacks go to those.