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On the stage

TW/CW: car accident, depression, disability, chronic pain, chronic illness/pain, drink driving, wheelchair, trauma; using alias name for the client

If anyone told me that 16 years down the road that I’d be disabled, I would’ve called that person a liar. It’s not. It’s real and happening on a stage that never closes the curtain.

A client I’m working with recently is starting hey journey. Her name is Bee. She became disabled after a drunk driver hit her mom’s car. Her mother and sister are okay physically. Unfortunately, Bee got the worst of it.

Bee is paralyzed from the waist down. She is learning how to transfer and take care of herself. She is trying to figure out how to build up strength to do things/go places in her wheelchair. She’s a go-getter. Her mother thinks Bee is trying to get back to a life that she once had. Bee told me this within the first couple of sessions we had.

I asked her, “Why did you come into counseling?” She gave the quick answer of “for my mental health.” I said “that was good. Now, why are you here?” A couple of minutes had passed. It felt like an eternity. Then, Bee spoke.

“Everyone is telling me to be strong. For my sister and my mom. To be grateful that I’m here. And that I shouldn’t complain because I have some sensation/movement in my body. There are other people who don’t.”

“You’re the 3rd counselor I have seen since the accident. The first 2 couldn’t understand what the hell I talked about. They weren’t disabled or chronically ill. They didn’t have pain every single day. From the time they woke up until the time they fell asleep. So I figured you would understand because you’re disabled too.”

Bee continued to talk. I didn’t interrupt her. Because I had a feeling that she was getting everything out that she’s had to hold onto for some time. All of the anger and rage came through while Bee was in tears.

People treated her differently now. She was still the same person. It’s because of the wheelchair, not knowing what to say or do, and thinking she wouldn’t have a good time if she went out. This showed her how different she is. This not only came from so-called friends. It came from some family members also.

After Bee was done, she apologized. I asked, “What for?” She said of taking so much of her session time. I told her that she was processing all of this. It’s a lot. It’s cathartic really.

Whether you are born congenitally with a disability or you acquired one by happenstance, the different emotions and pain she feels real. Not only the physical pain. This also comes from mental anguish. Some days are more intense than others.

We talked further until the session was almost done. She asked me, “How do you deal with all this?” I took a short pause before answering. I told her this.

“I was in your position many years ago. Sometimes, I’m sitting in the same chair as you. (No pun intended.) Some days/weeks are good. Others are not after this long. It doesn’t take much to feel shame if someone you know or doesn’t know you ask 20 questions of how or why you are disabled. And this happens before getting a greeting or being told ‘hello.'”

Bee’s eyes lit up. “You do understand!” I said, “To the best of my abilities, I hope I am.” We wrapped up. Bee said she couldn’t wait to talk to me next week; “if not before then!” she said.

If anyone told me that 16 years down the road that I’d be disabled, I would’ve called that person a liar. It’s not. It’s real and happening on a stage that never closes the curtain.

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