Intro: Leanne is one of my friends I have known the longest. We used to go to summer school together where we’d spend hours playing Dominoes and obsessing over Darren Hayes.(He was in a band called Savage Garden. In my opinion they were one of the best things about the ’90s, but that’s not for this blog).
I’m so glad Miss busy-bee Leanne has finally found time to share her story with you, I’ve been bugging her to write a piece for ages! So thanks, Leanne 🙂 Here it is:
I have Cerebral Palsy, like Louise. In fact, we always used to be fairly evenly matched with regards to our physical ability. Growing up I had an almost idyllic childhood, my parents were, and still are, incredibly supportive and I rarely felt that I was missing out on anything as a result of my disability. Of course, if my friends were going ice-skating, or climbing trees, or going swimming I’d get a bit sad that I couldn’t join in but I never felt that I was having to sacrifice much. I had support workers from pretty early on in life and more often than not if I was invited anywhere, I would either have my parents with me, or someone who was there as one-on-one support for me. I used to get picked up by a school bus at my front door which would drop me outside the school gates, where my support would meet me and from that point, would be by my side until I got dropped home again.
I have always been shy and more than slightly awkward and having a support worker with me all day meant that I always had someone to talk to, it meant that I could avoid social situations in class because I would just sit with her and be perfectly happy. I would have a few friends that I would sit with too but it would mean that I would never be forced into awkward situations- that was how I wanted it- for the first time I learned how to use my disability. Along the same lines, I quickly learned that if I wanted to get out of going out anywhere, I had a very legitimate excuse not to go alone, or not to go at all. I got it into my head that I had no way of being spontaneous or breaking any rules because I was always with someone who was responsible for me and for my decisions and so skipping school was impossible, staying out late was impossible, getting drunk was impossible, meeting someone I wasn’t supposed to was impossible and I was secretly thrilled that I never had to push my own boundaries. This is all well and good until you get given freedom to start moving these boundaries.
When I moved away from home and support was on-site and I didn’t have the same time constraints with my care, I couldn’t hide behind anything anymore. All the things that were possible seemed terrifying and I felt like I was breaking the law. I was 18 before I got drunk for the first time and staying out past care curfew was the extent of my rebellion.
I’d never been on a date, because the only relationship I’d been in happened very organically and ended before anything really started and nobody would have thought it was anything more than a friendship. The thought of dating was really odd- I felt that I needed to confess to someone where I was going, who I was going with and what the plan was. I was never at ease with doing anything that would have previously been monitored by someone else. It took me the longest time to go out and meet someone and feel like it was okay that nobody necessarily knew everything. That it was okay, I could have secrets. I could kiss someone and nobody cared, it was my business and nobody else actually cared what I was doing. Even though I’ve broken through most of those barriers now, spontaneity is an ACTUAL issue, as in I can’t just go somewhere on a whim without someone there because I need hoisting onto the loo, I need a commode chair too- which is neither practical, nor sexy and the alternative is so far away from sexy that there wouldn’t be a date beyond that point. So, dating for me can’t be spontaneous and I really have to trust someone to let my guard down and explain all the different elements to my care… it’s a pretty big deal to help someone you’ve only met once to get onto the toilet and to help them do things that you probably wouldn’t even do for your family. Tinder hook-ups don’t really work too well. Is that legitimate? Or is it really just another way for me to avoid the awkwardness?
I’ve rambled on- but I’d like to end this by saying that I know plenty of people who have disabilities like mine who have had entirely different experiences, so I know that my awkwardness has so much more to do with any of the above rather than my physical ability. I learned how to mask a lot of stuff with my disability and I’m still learning that I need to take the mask off…