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Here's What Really Happened

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Dave Hingsburger | 15:08 UK time, Monday, 21 July 2008

Sometimes having a disability means pretending. At least for me it does. I pretend pretty well - I've been in a relationship for almost 40 years, pretending comes naturally after awhile - no, no, of COURSE I don't mind. But this weekend was full of two days of pretending. And after awhile, my pretend muscles got sore.

Here's what happened:

We moved this weekend. From a three bedroom house, with a full basement, to a two bedroom apartment. The ordeal was exactly like you imagined it to be. I knew from the get go that I would not be able to help very much at all. I don't move well or easily. Lifting was out of the question. Carrying was not even considered. So what did I do?

I watched.

I stayed out of the way.

I broke tension with humour, when necessary.

And I pretended.

I pretended that I didn't mind that everyone else was working, sweating, accomplishing and I was not. I don't often feel like my disability is much of a disability. After all, I just get around in a wheelchair. But, this weekend I felt well and truely disabled. Compromised. I made jokes about the two best things about having a disability - parking and not being expected to help with a move.

I didn't say anything. My friends were busy enough carrying my stuff, I didn't want them to stop to care for me. I didn't want to be the pathetic cripple watching others and wishing to participate. OK, that's what I was, but sure as hell no one was going to know it! So I did what I needed to do. I pretended.

Yep, I lied. Told a huge fib. Engaged in a big. taradiddle. It really, really, really bothered me. I felt useless. I felt inadequate to the task of living my own life. I felt needy. I felt insignificant. I felt, at moments, unworthy. I knew these feelings were momentary, based on a sense of guilt that they were working and I was not, I knew that I'd feel better in the morning. But that didn't erase the feelings as I was having them.

When we went to bed after everything had been moved into the apartment. I felt sore muscles, just like I had lifted a couch. But not, my sore muscles came from carrying guilt and lifting self-pity.

Who knew they weighed so much?


  • Comment number 1.

    Well I'd have felt absolutely fine about it. After all, it's no different to employing professional removal people. If your friends hadn't wanted to help, then they wouldn't have. Sometimes you just have to sit back and let others take the strain. And carrying guilt when it's unnecessary is just debilitating.

  • Comment number 2.

    I find (manual) wheelchair users *incredibly* useful when there is heavy/bulky stuff to shift.

    "Here, let me put this on your lap and hold onto it, and I'll push you..." - it's a LOT easier than carrying the stuff myself... ;)

    Or maybe this was more of a putting stuff on shelves/in cupboards kind of situation?

  • Comment number 3.

    I can see how you might have felt useless on move day, but i would not worry. A few months ago i helped an Able Bodied friend move into her new Flat. Now she was so excited and and nervious (first time living on her own) she was a complete basket case. So as friends we did what friends do. We sat her in the new flat with a cup of tea, and moved all her stuff for her. All she had to do was point, and make jokes. Your friends probably were not helping your because you were disabled. they were probably helping you because they are your friends.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Dave,

    Well, I thought your comment was right on the money. I can't tell you how many times I've felt uncomfortable with others helping me, and I love your phrase "my pretend muscles got sore"!

    I have an autoimmune disease, which means my disability is invisible to those who don't know me well. My fatigue levels are such that any kind of physical labor is hard, even taking a shower or sweeping the floor.

    Putting these kinds of feelings into words helps us to deal constructively with those feelings. Good post!

  • Comment number 5.

    Then again Dave, there are infuriating so-an'so's like myself who can't pretend or change character. I just sit in my chair [I've been told] and pontificate on how i think some things should be done and give advice when it's not wanted. Especialy if i think i could do better.


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