Independence is already a tricky concept, but it’s even trickier as someone with disabilities. We grapple with it on many fronts, in some ways having to accept the things we can’t do and cling so tightly onto aspects of it that we have. It’s a double edged sword that never gets easier.
After all, the more independence we find, the drunker we get on it. But, as humans, the more independent we become, the harder it is to rely on other people, people that we love and need. And for disabled people, its even harder when we know we need people but sometimes find so much more satisfaction in not needing them.
I can’t speak on everyone’s experience, but I can speak on my own. And I personally struggle with independence like it’s a fucking demon on my back, but a demon that I’m madly in love with.
When I was younger, I was the only person capable of taking care of my mental health. I was a child, but I was the only one aware that things were very wrong with me and the only one with the psychological aptitude to know I needed medication and help. My parents didn’t want it to be real. I needed to be the adult and figure out what was wrong with me, when I should call doctors, and what I needed.
I already relied on regulating my emotions and daily needs, but this was the moment where I went from appreciating independence to cherishing it. It was like my own little superpower, being able to shut down my own pain and get shit done.
That little superpower of mine got me through a lot: changing medications, new diagnoses, losing friends, too much. I learned I could survive almost anything. Downside? I learned I could survive losing almost anything.
Y’see, my level of adoration for independence came at a price. Over time, I figured everyone would leave. And I didn’t just figure it, I prepared for it. I would make new bonds and friends but all under the assumption they probably wouldn’t last. It was brutal, but I accepted it as a piece of myself.
That is, until a few months ago. I was sitting in bed and contemplating what my plan would be if my boyfriend and I broke up. No, I didn’t want to break up. Actually, we’d been talking about marriage a lot. I think the new level of commitment just made me panic and realize I didn’t have a plan anymore. So I was sitting there, thinking logistics of where I would move and dog ownership and realized: why am I doing this?
I was happy. I loved my boyfriend and our life and I could get myself grinning like an idiot dreaming of our future. But I was still panicking about my perceived independence.
And I realized I had to give up some of that dreamed superpower, otherwise I would keep someone I love dearly an arm’s length away. It once was a superpower that helped me stay alive, but now, it hurts me more than helps.
So, these past few months I’ve been working on letting some of that superpower go. I have asked for things I need more. I’ve accepted some more nuances of my disorders and limitations of mine because of them. I’ve put away all mindsets of exit strategies. And, in more interesting developments, I’ve stopped settling for shallow friendships.
I’ve spent so much time clinging to this independence that I’ve also clung to familiar friends just because they’re easy and comfortable. No matter if they’re good friends to me or not, of course. And it’s just finally reached a breaking point where it’s not enough anymore. I need friends that think of me, not people who benefit from me thinking of them and enjoy me when I bother to be around.
I need friends who care to bother me.
Anyway, this is nudging too close to personal manifesto territory. Either way, the point is that its so easy for people with disorders to cling to independence. In many ways, we need to because its not something just handed to us. I still can’t drive and that’s something I have to live with. But, the downsides of that tight-fistedness also plague us and it’s something we have to be mindful of.
Like everything else , of course. We have to be mindful of so much that who knows how the hell we get anything done. But we do.
If only even our own independence didn’t have to be a mindfuck, right?