I have an interesting dilemma as a woman with cerebral palsy, and I wonder if others have the same problem. I enjoy going places with friends and having fun, just like anyone else. Well, I guess almost anyone else, because some people don’t like to go anywhere. But I do. Having a disability, however, does make going out with friends an emotional and physical obstacle to navigate.
This week, I had the idea of asking a friend to a movie, along with both of our children. Our daughters go to the same school, and they are also friends. I thought her daughter would really enjoy the movie because mine loved it! She said yes!
I know, to many of you, going out to a movie with friends sounds like a pretty common social activity. But here is what goes through my mind and probably is similar to thoughts of others who have disabilities:
“I can’t drive. I hope they don’t mind taking me, because I really just want to hang out with them and not worry about a personal care attendant.”
With personal care attendants, it’s even more complicated:
“Do we have enough hours to pay them? Will they be flexible with time? Oh, do we need to pay for their movie tickets, too?!”
“I don’t want to seem physically needy or incompetent. I hope they don’t see this as a charity case or something uncomfortable.”
“What about food? I definitely need to eat beforehand because I cannot feed myself. I don’t want to ask for help or they might never want to hang out again.”
“No drinking, for sure, at the movie. The very last thing that I want to ask anyone is to help me use the bathroom!”
So, now you have a glimpse at the running thoughts that go through our minds at the idea of going somewhere with a friend. It’s so easy to fall into the self-pity cycle of wanting to be able to drive, feed myself, and at least be able to use the bathroom independently. The older I am, the easier it is to fall into a self-pity cycle. I refuse to allow myself to spend any time with self-pity because I have so many amazing things to be happy about, and pity doesn’t do anything to change the circumstances. But it can make you feel 10 times worse!
Later in the week, my friend and I determined a day, time, and movie theater. I explained to her that she would need to drive. To make things a bit easier, I had my personal care attendant come in early to feed me dinner and get me ready. We were going to the Movie Tavern, a cool place where you can order a meal and watch a movie. Going there made it easier because we didn’t need to worry about dinner for the kids.
Everything worked out with the van, and I explained what parking space would be best for my ramp. I did order a milkshake, because I would be able to reach the straw on my own. Everything worked out, and we had a good time. She joked with me that she would make a terrible assistant. I told her that being friends would do just fine!
The most important thing that I learned was to not let fears and worrying keep me from going out and reaching out to others. If I never asked, it would not have happened and we would have missed out on a great time.
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