I was looking through some old pictures and thinking of some old times when an old memory was awoken somewhere in the deep recess of my mind. A memory of another time and another person. Dreamlike and almost unreal.
It was something long forgotten but so significant that it left me without words for a very long time.
What I am about to discuss is a topic that is seldom mentioned in chronic groups and i have never discussed it with even my closest friends. Not because I am embarrassed. Far from it. But because I doubt they could truly understand. Perhaps it would be impossible for them to truly understand? Worse still, they may dismiss it as not relevant and that would be much harder still.
You see my past self enjoyed feeling sexual and sexy, but rarely would I use these words to describe myself anymore. Sexy and attractive is seen as the exclusive domain of healthy women. Outgoing women. Able bodied women!
But not me. Not anymore.
Oh I might be able to put on a nice dress or slap some make up on now and then, but who would see me rolling along in a wheelchair and look twice at me? Who would think that such a person was sexy? Who would even want to take the time to get to know my personality if they saw me seated up in a wheelchair? The reality is that it is not many.
I know that this is a lot of what people mean when they say you are lucky to have your husband. It is a whole unspoken dialogue.
Nowadays I could look like Angelina Jolie, but if I was in a wheelchair or scooter I might as well look like sponge bob. Or at least that’s how it feels to me. The messages out there aren’t exactly uplifting or reassuring and they are quite clear. Pick up a magazine, watch a movie or look at a billboard and you will see what and who is sexy.
Right now I am married. Happily married. My husband is wonderful. He loves me dearly. I love him dearly too and so I am not in the dating scene… But what if this weren’t the case?
How would I cope? How do single women who are mostly bedridden cope?
I am aware that there are those women who are happily single and disabled. There are also many that believe that a woman’s worth should not be judged based on her abilities. I absolutely agree! I am a passionate feminist myself. But those are our goals and not necessarily today’s realities. Today we are still inside the system and playing inside today’s rules.
In today’s competitive world of beauty and women trying to look younger for longer, how does the disabled woman reclaim her rights to feeling desired and valued? To feeling attractive and sexy?
How many of the worlds sexiest women are sporting walkers and wheelchairs?
The more invisible your illness or disability is, then perhaps the better off you are. The more you can still function then the more desirable you may be. However with progressive illnesses that may not always be possible. My own illnesses went down hill very quickly and runs a very unpredictable course.
My days of dancing, dating, galavanting and impressing may be far behind me now. Even keeping feelings of self worth in a happy marriage can be a difficult challenge sometimes.
Many women want to feel attractive, appreciated, special, respected and desirable, however in the case of chronic illness it is almost seen as something that you will likely have to let go of. But it won’t ever be said in those terms or as openly.
Autoimmune diseases affect more women than men. We are generally looked at in very different ways socially than men. That’s why I am committed to bringing issues up that may be pushed aside by many others.
I recently watched a movie Me before you where a young beautiful woman falls in love with a rich, young, attractive quadriplegic man. Change the roles and make the quadriplegic a woman and would she be swept off her feet by a dashing young man? I think you might have a strong idea of what the answer might be. The real life answer.
Unless you have secured a partner before a chronic illness than your chances are astronomically diminishing that someone will be attracted to you or consider you desirable as a chronic sufferer; Especially if you are severely limited physically. Even falling ill after you are married is hard enough and will redefine your relationship profoundly.
I am mindful that marriage counseling is focused at marriages that might have faced infidelity or addictions, but few explore the pressures and changes caused by chronic illness and disability.
There is a suggestion, perhaps an urban legend, that if you are a woman than you are 10 times more likely to be hit by a bus than find a partner after 40 years of age. What about a disabled 40 year old woman? What are her chances?
I try very hard to promote positive images for women with chronic illnesses and self respect. It is my passion and mission since becoming chronically ill. If I can make a small difference in how we think about ourselves, expresss ourselves and respect each other than I will be a very happy advocate indeed. But it occurs to me that alone I can’t change all that needs to be changed. It’s a global issue that is dependent on so many different people all over the world.
I hope that just sharing this and making myself, and others, think of this topic that it will start us down a path which will beneficial.