I did what I never do. I reached out to this girl who is kind of local but not really. About two years ago she was at a park with her girlfriend. A man approached them and shot them both in the head. One girl died, the other survived. The one that survived, K.C, she has disabilities similar to mine. I don’t follow her story religiously, I just kind of read what pops up on my news feed. I feel terribly sorry for her even though I hate when people tell me, “I’m so sorry.” It’s not your fault, why are you apologizing? I’ve tried a thousand and one times to find a new way to word or phrase this desire to apologize for something I had nothing to do with but I cannot. Every time I see her story updated on the news or on my Facebook feed I feel this urge to reach out to her. I usually ignore it. I didn’t even know her name until today.
I can’t help it. I don’t like meeting new people and knowing someone who is not doing well for any reason makes me uncomfortable. Oh, you’re newly allergic to mango? Please get a hold of that before you talk to me again. It’s not that I love mango (I don’t), I just don’t know how to acknowledge and/or handle your discomfort or displeasure with this news. Sometimes it doesn’t register that I’m being insensitive but the awkwardness growing between us out of my inability to sympathize is something I register just fine. I’m not callous, I just don’t know how to be a more decent human being or friend. Reaching out to this girl that I know for a fact has a difficult time in life right now is so very completely unlike me that I’m wondering if I should go get a brain scan. I probably need one anyway; I had a wild seizure last week and have been getting crazy ‘white washes’ in my vision since a few days before the seizure.
I waited a few days, hoping to forget waking up Friday with my first thought being:
I wonder if the park shooting chick has a Facebook; would a message from me creep her out?
I really didn’t want to send a message. I know how I can be. I can be downright creepy and I hate it but I can’t help it. I have little to no shame about certain things, I lack the ability to spot a boundary when I need to and when I have a thought I generally don’t hesitate to express it even when I know I should. I can get carried away in conversations, especially if we touch a topic I enjoy or am passionate about (i.e, politics) and sometimes I get heated when it’s a discussion and not a debate. I guess all of this is probably normal and I just feel like the oddball.
So a few days passed, I got online to check the bank account – which bills are pending, which ones processed type of thing. Afterwards I found myself staring at the homepage on my browser. Then, as if without much thought to it, I Googled her. I found out her name, I had no idea she made national headlines by the way; and, I searched for her on Facebook. I did a quick scroll through her profile and here’s one of the first posts:
Now, I’m not religious but I like to think I can read a sign when it appears. I think this is pretty obvious, right? I mean, yeah, she could be talking about meeting lesbians that survived hate crimes, or gun violence survivors or any number of things other than a hemiparetic but I don’t think I’m too far out there in thinking she was most likely referring to being hemiparetic.
I had the same thoughts that often come when I think of this random person, randomly. I feel bad for her. It’s lonely being like this at this age (or younger) and you find yourself having more things in common with people fully retired than people your own age. It totally blows. I’m lucky I’m already married, that I already have kids, that I am already older and moving (what feels like quickly) towards old. I imagine this girl doesn’t have half of that going for her. I felt on the up (but not high and mighty) as I was writing out my message to her. I don’t think I was offensive or came off as any more odd than the average person and I don’t think I wrote with that annoying high-pitched tone that people use to emphasize their sympathy or empathy.
Here’s the thing. After I sent the message, I scrolled some through her profile. She’s actually doing a lot better than me! She’s talking about jogging and driving, two things I can do neither of. So now I’m also kind of bitter and now we see why I don’t ‘offer support.’ I saw on the news a few weeks ago that she was trying to raise funds to go to Houston for rehab and also for this piece of electronic equipment that helps you regain some muscle function. Personally, I’m not sure it’s worth the technology but if I had the opportunity to get a piece of equipment like that, I’d take it for sure. I went on a mild rant after seeing that news piece. She was asking for $40k! That’s a lot of dough! Naturally, I went on my anti-Perry rant first: “If he had just expanded Medicaid in this state under the ACA she wouldn’t have to beg for funds…” you know how that goes. Then I went into my rant about how disability makes no sense. You have to wait two years, two years to get Medicare through disability qualifications. For people like myself and K.C, who have physical disabilities as a result of a severe brain injury (whether acquired or traumatic), those two years are incredibly crucial to our recovery. Without insurance or funds for rehab, professional care, you lose precious time needed to regain what you lost and you will only continue to lose when you should be able to focus on gaining. I could go on but I won’t. Once those rants were over I began to think, “Why does she need to go all the way to Houston?” They have facilities in San Antonio. Why does she need that particular piece of equipment? They have the Bioness and WalkAide systems you can get in Austin. They also have this thing called SaeboFlex that is not as expensive, like at all, but it requires actual work and training; which, in my opinion is the best option if you’re limited on funds. It’s not my place to judge, it’s really not, but I form opinions no matter how “Sweden-y” I try to be. I just felt like she was asking for SO much; too much and for no real reason. People shouldn’t settle but at the same time…
But I’m trying. The last thing I want to say or think is: “Why should she get so much help and not me? Is it because I’m not gay? Because I wasn’t shot in the head?” The answer is simple and obvious. Yes, Kt, it is precisely those reasons plus some. I can’t help but be bitter about that, I just shove it aside much easier than anything else. Admitting it doesn’t make me a horrible person, acting on it would, however.
I do genuinely feel for her, I do know what she’s going through on one level or another, or Hell, maybe all the levels! Who knows? I just know that I have only met one person like me and it was brief but it was also a relief to see this deficit up close. There are things that go on in a persons personal life that people don’t like to talk about; this is true no matter how healthy you are. When you’re physically disabled there is a heightened sense of doubt about what you are doing, going through and experiencing. And sometimes you just need to laugh about it with someone who has actual understanding – not someone who can only find the humor in the scenario. It’s funny listening to someone talk about getting a sanitary pad stuck to the inside of their thigh but there is a giddiness that erupts from the knowledge that whomever it is laughing with you has actually experienced this and all that accompanies it. There’s a level of frustration that comes with this disability that can be so difficult to express to others that the true humor of it all is pretty much lost.
The first time I connected with someone about a disability was when I was still wheelchair bound. I was in inpat. rehab and was crying. The therapist/counselor came in and I vented to him about the chair. I started complaining about ramps. Why are they on such odd angles in some places? Why do some ramps have turns? Do you know how humiliating it is to get halfway up a ramp only to have your ONE HAND slip on the wheel rim, causing you to lose all traction and begin an embarrassingly slow descent backwards down the ramp? And if there is a corner…Lord help us all! There is just no grace when rolling backward down a ramp and getting stuck sideways in a turn. Yes, I may have been a noob, a novice in the field of wheel ramps but it happened and it was a very traumatic experience as I have refused to use a ramp since. Positive spin: this was the event that pushed me to learn to walk longer distances with my cane. When I told this story to the counsellor he laughed (which was enough to piss me off) but he then explained that his son (a quadriplegic) has had this complaint for years. He said the adding of ridges to some ramps only made them more challenging and difficult to manage to which I agree with whole heartedly. Point is, I felt better after that conversation…that one conversation. I didn’t feel like my complaints were invalidated. I felt normal about my disability. Having something outwardly different about yourself sucks but finding something normal about that difference can enhance your attitude about that difference. The sky didn’t tear open and crap rainbows that day but I didn’t feel as bad as I did earlier that day. I’d like to do that for this girl. I just don’t want her to feel alone. It’s a shame Facebook does that ‘others’ inbox now. She’ll probably never see my message ha!