|Posted by SheWillNotFall on May 13, 2013 at 9:00 PM|
I think it’s time for a brain drain. (I am going to try my hardest to make this makes sense, coherent, and try not to jump around)
I’m gunna start out by saying that I have the best family and friends a girl could ever ask for. They have done nothing but support and encourage me and everything that I have ever wanted to do. With that being said, there are some things that they just don’t understand, and can never understand no matter how hard they try.
I believe that when things happen to you, whether they are good or bad, they shape you into the person you were meant to be. It puts you in a certain “mind frame/set.” Most people learn to walk around a year old, and they just continue doing so until the day they die. They do not know any different, it’s just something that they do. Something normal, something that they do without thinking, something that is often too many times taken for granted. I used to be one of those people. I started walking at nine months,and never imagined that I would ever stop. That something as simple as walking could ever be taken away from me. I was wrong.
When I first got sick I was thirteen years old, I was still walking. It was just a little slower compared to everyone else. I became completely dependent on a wheelchair a little after my fifthteenth birthday. Previous to this I had never known anyone who was in a wheelchair. I had seen them, yes, but I had never had any friends who were dependent on them; even after my many many stays in multiple hospitals.Throughout my transitioning process from being an “AB” (able-bodied) to someone who depended on something other than their own two legs to get somewhere, my friends and family were by my side; ready to do/be whatever I needed them to. While I was doing this I was still in an “AB” mind frame, if that makes any sense. In my mind I was still my old self, before the sickness took over. A lot of people understand that dealing with major transitions like this take time and patience,but I think a lot of the times they just think, “Oh, all you have to do is get used to the idea that you just can’t use your legs anymore.” While that is technically true, there are so many more things that go into it. I will be the first to admit, that before I got sick I had all these preconceived stereotypes,and didn’t even think about any of this stuff. I never gave it a first or second thought, but since I was handed this card in life, my eyes are still- to this day seeing/understanding things that I have never understood about spinal cord injuries.
What I’m trying to get at is that the difference between empathy and sympathy is understanding rather than just acknowledging. Throughout the different stages of having to come to terms with how my life was panning out, all I had was sympathy, and I by no means am saying that was a bad thing. All my friends and family were there for me, and they tried their hardest to put themselves in my shoes, and tried to see where I was coming from, but no matter how hard they tried they didn’t get it. Even the doctors, who saw patients like me every day didn’t get it, and hopefully they never have to. Of course, I could call my best friend and vent to her about anything and everything, and she would just listen and give me advice if I asked; but sometimes what I needed was someone to say “Hey, I have been there, and it’s not the end of the world. It gets better, I promise.”
Empathy, though, is understanding. People who empathize with you get where you are coming from, because they have been there. They have either been in the same, or a very similar circumstance. I think that is what I missed going through this hardship. I was never around people who were struggling with the same things I was struggling with. I never have the chance to talk to someone whose life was changed in a split second as drastically as mine was. No matter how much training as a PT/OT you go through, or how many people you "reteach" to do things that they've done a certain way up until the injury, you don't get it. Sometimes there are things that I want to say or talk about, and “AB”people won’t understand. I would still talk to them about it, but inside their head, I’m willing to bet they’re saying something along the lines of “Umm,okay. I kinda see what you’re saying…but not really.”
The reason I’m writing about this now is because this past weekend I went to an event sponsored by RISE (www.riseadaptivesports.org/wp/) at the Grapevine Lake, and met so many amazing people. I would sit there and be talking to someone, and somehow get on a topic that I’ve never talked about with any of my friends before. That, to me is weird because I tell my friends everything; but while I was talking with them, it just dawned on me that these people understand, they get where I am coming from. I don’t have to use every descriptive word in my vocabulary just to get them to semi-picture what I was trying to say.
For once in my life, I kinda felt at peace; with life in general and with the fact that for the time being, for whatever reason, whether I like it or not, I’m in a wheelchair. And, hey, it’s not the end of the world. It gets better, I promise.