This upcoming talk about sex and SCI’s makes me recall how I felt about sex and relationships after my accident. I honestly thought that no one would want to date/ be with someone who wasn’t completely able-bodied. I thought a guy would be so turned off by my impaired bowel/bladder function. Some males say they get more dates when they are in the wheelchair, but I think that is because there are lots of women nurturer types who embrace that kind of care-taker relationship. Men, on the other hand, are biologically programmed to seek physical perfection and find the most fertile mate. I, clearly, do not meet that criteria.
My mum thought my prospects were so slim that she was embracing the idea of me dating African-American men, something she would not have done before my accident. Or dating much older men who would not be seeking a sexual relationship. Thanks Mum. (My Mum drove me stark raving mad during my rehabilitation and convalescence, but she was still amazingly strong and supportive of me.)
I am now much more confident about myself, about my desirability as a female, and how a guy would be lucky to date me, not the other way round. Matt has played a huge role in boosting my confidence in this arena. While my accident has taken away the ability to enjoy various activities I loved/needed, it has also contributed to my emotional development in ways I’ll go into another time.
As far as I know, my fertility was not affected by my accident. I didn’t get my period for a good 6-8 months after my accident (there was at least one, temporary, benefit). But because of all the metal in me, carrying a baby is a bad idea. I’m glad I wasn’t dead-set on bearing children before my accident, but I still felt very sad that I couldn’t fulfill my biological role. In fact, I thought that I had failed as a human being. I’m still undecided on children, but if I were to have a child I would opt for surrogacy or adoption. I remember sitting in the car, breaking down and crying a few months after my accident, after I saw a mother lift her child into the air, because I thought I would never be able to do that. I will miss carrying my kid on my back up a steep hill. I will miss the ability to teach my kids how to ski, climb, play tennis, take strenuous hikes with them, and all the other things I loved to do.
Writing all this (can’t sleep) makes me recall so many thoughts and memories that arose out of my accident. It is quite emotional. I probably should have done some writing while I was convalescing, but I was so pre-occupied, emotionally and physically, that I didn’t have the energy and motivation to write. In retrospect, I wish I had documented my recovery and how I handled it, just so that other people (specifically women) with SCIs would have another data point and maybe some helpful advice about dealing with everyday life. I found the resources for female SCI to be woefully lacking, perhaps because the majority of SCI patients are men. I guess this blog is a small attempt at making amends and documenting the physical and emotional challenges of a female with a SCI.
I remember how chuffed I was when I was first able to stand on my feet and “walk”, albeit with the help of the kitchen counter. I remember being able to get on and off an escalator successfully. There were many firsts – I felt like a child, albeit a hyper-aware one. My disability has made me much more thick-skinned about what people think about me. I had to adopt the attitude of “I don’t give a shit about what other people are thinking” when they see me walk, in order to walk more without my brace (and walking very oddly while doing so) and eventually walk without my brace at all. That is not to say I don’t feel self-conscious anymore. I feel especially self-conscious when I am going up/down steps, and I also feel much more self-conscious in the US than I do here. Here, people are just managing to get by, get through the day and life; they don’t give a shit if you walk a little funny or can’t ski anymore. Boo hoo, cry me a river.
But I can’t keep this tough attitude up all the time, nor do I want to. I think it is so important to acknowledge the sadness and give it its due respect because it is such a powerful emotion. I struggle with that balance: recognizing and accepting the sadness but not letting it flood and drown you.
Completely random thought: I have no idea how a quad(riplegic) would independently get around Antigua/Guatemala. An electric chair would be far too low to the ground and unable to handle the cobblestone terrain here. I don’t know how a quad could even survive here, unless they had a full-time caretaker.