“I don’t know how you cope.”
“I couldn’t do what you do.”
“How do you manage? It must be so difficult.”
Like a broken record I hear these sentiments on an almost daily basis, and while they are a compliment of sorts, what strikes me most about these statements is the apparent lack of faith the person saying them has in themselves. This is by no means a criticism, as I was guilty of doing this myself prior to becoming disabled, although it can get a little awkward when a total stranger approaches me to express this sentiment in the middle of the street. Contrary to popular opinion, disabled people still have places to be.
If someone had told me that I would get meningitis, develop CFS, become increasingly dependent on a wheelchair, become very depressed, have to fight for my education, and then to have gall stones and surgery during the final year of university, I would have panicked. I would not have been able to comprehend going through all of that and still managing to have some semblance of a life, and what’s more, actually be happy about it. Yet here I am, spread-eagle on the sofa eating chocolate chip cookies, writing about it. I’m not exaggerating.
It is our resilience and adaptability that has allowed humans to become the dominant species on Earth, and it is those same traits that have allowed people with chronic illnesses and disabilities to live fulfilling lives. It is pretty difficult at times, I won’t deny, but I’m not special for being able to withstand it. Most people would be able to withstand everything I have dealt with and more besides, especially if they were supported by a few friends and family members like I was.
It isn’t just illness either. People have the same reaction to all sorts of difficult scenarios; miscarriages, being a single parent, going back into education while raising a family, surviving a string of bad luck, the death of close ones. They express how they couldn’t cope. While these situations are troubling and difficult, I have watched those around me go through trying times and even if they need some help to do so, almost without fail they cope. What first-hand experience has taught me is that humans are essentially the mammalian equivalent of cockroaches; stubborn.