Dating with a Disability — Yes, it’s possible!

Dating with a Disability – Yes, it’s possible!

Oh, shut it down when the time comes
Oh, pull out the big guns
Oh, and put your freakum dress on”

Lines from a throwback Bey song blare, because you know, my fave singer sparks unstoppable confidence. I always strive to find something that shows my personality – something cute without compromising comfortability. Nothing too fancy but can complement a nice pair of hoop earrings. I put on my fiercest “war paint,” a makeup look that gives me a gentle glow and highlights my smile. My PCA brushes my hair and gives me a good once-over to confirm that I’m good to go for a big night. The MBTA ride has already been scheduled.

Tonight is date night.

It’s become funny to me that people assume that a disability diagnosis automatically nails the coffin shut on the opportunity for a dating life. Some even think that means that we’ve got no social life at all. But oh, how wrong they are!

Girls’ nights and happy hours still exist. I still like to get dressed up and hang out with friends for dinner or even, on occasion head to a local lounge or rooftop bar and have a good time. I still meet people – therefore, I still have the opportunity to date. If a guy approaches me while I’m out and I’m feeling him, we might connect. But that doesn’t happen that often; I’m particular. And by now, my friends know better than to try to play matchmaker. Ha!

I prefer online dating. I’ve been on a few of the dating apps. I come up with a fitting bio to showcase who I am and select a few of my favorite photos of myself. I absolutely include pictures of me confidently in my wheel chair – what do I have to hide? The last thing I want to do is to cover up who I am, so I do my best to let potential suitors know the real deal.

Does it turn people away? It might. But it doesn’t rule out everyone. You’d be surprised by the comments that some people I know have gotten from those who want to get to know what it’s like to date someone with a disability or even those who fetishize the idea of having sex in a wheelchair. I prepare for the weird comments as they come, but there’s someone and something for everybody. And I have gotten to have some pretty interesting conversations and dates out of it.

Every so often, when I think about my dating life, I fear the idea of being a burden. I battle with the life sentence of degenerating muscle function which comes with the promise of an atypical day-by-day. It makes me appreciate life.

Some people who have lived with the disease have been in battle mode since childhood. Others like myself, experience symptoms closer into early adulthood. I don’t really like to consider myself one of the lucky ones, but muscular dystrophy gives me a deeper appreciation for life. I value each day. Accomplishing tasks – fabulously, I might add – gives me reason to celebrate the little things all the time, because I know that longevity isn’t promised. The life that I do have comes with challenges impacting my “normal” function.

Comprised motor function means that sometimes, I have difficulty walking, moving around or standing without falling. It also means I get to ride in style in my motorized wheelchair or test out my “pimp walk.” (Really, one time a kid thought I was a pimp as I was using my cane to get around the streets of Boston. Ha!).

At times, breathing and swallowing can be troubling. The very idea scares me, even at the thought. But there’s comfort in knowing that modern medicine can help with medication and a ventilator, if I need it.

Pain can be inevitable. No matter the age when someone develops MD – which can occur even in the embryotic stage – muscle aches and stiffness are among the first notable symptoms. As the proteins in the body begin to lose their might, things as simple as sitting up from a lying position can occur.

All these symptoms in mind, I find myself parsing through a sea of anxiety when thinking about meeting my mate. I wonder if I’ll ever find my perfect match, who can truly not consider me a burden, even when I feel like one. And, I will feel like one sometimes. I don’t want to overwhelm him as he witnesses my challenges or accompanies me to my wellness checks. I question if he will feel that I can meet his needs or will he think that my MD will get in the way? I definitely do not want to leave him a widower, either. I don’t know who he is yet – but I know in my heart that he doesn’t deserve that fate.

These thoughts come often. I know there’s no way around it – the disease, the questions or the reality that I may not be for everyone. While a lot of men that I encounter are dishonest about it their feelings towards it, I know there are some who can’t handle a love affair with a MD warrior. There’s another group of men who don’t even want to. They just want to be nice, but it still hurts. Sometimes, feel like I’m too much and far too complicated.

But in this process, I’ve learned that there’s nothing new under the sun. My bout with muscular dystrophy allows for me to let my smarts take the spotlight and develop clever workarounds against my obstacles. I’m also reminded that I’m not the only one with a disability, which helps, because others who have come before me and those who are experiencing it with me have lots of wisdom to offer. I’m reassured by some friends I’ve made in various groups. Social media and YouTube channels help a lot, too. I often search the hashtag #DisabilityAndDating. It makes me feel seen and I’m reminded that many others have not had to sacrifice marriage, a family or love because they aren’t as able-bodied as the next. One of my channels to check out is Sitting Pretty LoLo. (Here’s a video she did a while ago about dating with a disability!) Videos like these are always helpful for me.

I still plan to fall in love. When it’s time, I hope to find someone who I can grow with. As a business owner and a woman who has always been on the go, my match would be someone who able to keep up with me, challenge me and someone who I can volley ideas with. I love to laugh – so of course that someone has to be entertaining. They’d have to be patient and supportive – with my pursuits and with my physical limitations. I really want to build an empire with a partner who is also my best friend. I pray that he will appreciate life as much as I do and can feel just as happy and fulfilled with me as he would with a woman without MD.

I say when it’s time because now, I’ve been focused on my business. When things calm down, I might find myself back on a dating app or two. One day, I might even create my own so that those with Muscular Dystrophy and other disabilities can have a place where they feel most comfortable to be their best selves without judgement in an able-bodied-focused app.

Every day, I’m blessed to know that I’m showing up for myself, no matter what. When I do date, I know that that person will show up for me in all the ways that I need, too.

In case you’re like the occasional me that worries that it won’t happen, here’s some food for thought for you to take with you. Always remember to:

  1. Go for it! It’s definitely easier said that done, but don’t compromise your chance at love and happiness because you think that you can’t have it. You totally can. We’re out here doing it!
  2. You can still have sex. It may not look like the movies – but your life is not over and boring because you have a walker, wheelchair, etc. You and your partner have the fortune of getting creative – which can be super fun in itself.
  3. Move confidently. It’s easy to showcase yourself without showing your assisting apparatus while online dating, but my guess is you’re planning to meet up with the person at some point, right? Show who you are unapologetically. People will adapt and enjoy who you are outside of it. And if one or two bad apples don’t, they aren’t the one(s) anyway. Remember, you have muscular dystrophy, but that’s not who you are.
  4. Have fun! Dating should be a fun experience – for everyone. You are not the exception. Go ahead and feel yourself! Get sexy and enjoy yourself. Your disability is not all of who you are. It’s something to embrace and work around at times, but you are still the wonderful, amazing person you’ve always been. Look in the mirror and remind yourself, if you’ve got to, then tilt your chin up and show the world!

Here’s to you! May we find our special someone who we can be Crazy in Love with til’ the End of TimeCheers!

Published by girlschronicallyrock

I was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My personality is friendly, strong work ethic, and great professional skills that makes her the hustler she is today. I graduated from Framingham State University with Bachelor’s in Fashion Design and Merchandising, a year after I graduated from Cambridge College with a Master’s degree in Business Management. While earning my degree I gained invaluable experience in the business/financial and Fashion Industry with working at different departments at Cambridge Savings Bank and many merchandising companies such as Motherhood Maternity, Tommy John, Spanx, Echo Design and Fossil Group. While in Framingham State University, I was in the Fashion Club and Black Student Union Club where I was able to meet new people and gain and learn a new experience in both groups with a different diverse of people. I knew I always had a passion for fashion from in middle school and new I wanted to be a Fashion Designer. I looked up to Fashion Designers like Kimora Lee Simmons and Betsey Johnson. I love their unique different styles and just two successful entrepreneurs who are making it in the fashion world and continuing to grow. My dream is to possibly meet both of them one day, even maybe do some business together. At the present time, I am working as a Merchandise Coordinator for Tommy John inside of Macy’s and Nordstrom within the Boston Area. I also owned my own t-shirt line business called Girls Chronically Rock which was inspired by myself because I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy back in graduate school so I wanted to make something inspirational, motivating for people who may have a chronic illness like myself or may be battling anything in their life, to let them know that they rock no matter what. With the wonderful work experiences over the years, I am really just an easy-going person where sometimes I love to be at home watching lifetime movies or many of my tv shows that I love to watch on a daily basis. I like spending time with family and friends whether its traveling, going out to eat and going to special events. Through my education and work experience, I have gained the knowledge and skills necessary to excel as a Fashion Designer and Visual Merchandiser. I am both qualified and eager to strive at my business Girls Chronically Rock and continue with dedication, and I know my hard work will pay off and I will reach my goals. I will soon hope to have my t-shirt line sold in department stores such as: local boutique stores, Macy’s, Karmaloop Foot Locker and many more. Here is a little more in depth detail about how I was diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy: I have Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (MD); I was diagnosed at the age 24. I was born and raised in Cambridge, MA and went to high school in Cambridge. I received my bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising and then furthered my education in getting my Master’s degree in Business. When I first discovered my symptoms of my MD, it was crazy to me because I started to get symptoms around 2009. While in graduate school I began to repeatedly fall, and my leg would just give out on me without notice. I would fall to the ground and not be able to pick myself back up, I would need assistance from someone to lift me up with all their might, because it was something I just wasn’t capable of doing on my own. I also began notice when I tried to reach for certain things in the kitchen cabinets or try to exercise I was unable to lift my right arm up all the way. I kind of just thought to myself maybe I need to go on a diet and lose weight, but in the back of my mind I knew it something more. So I went to see an orthopedic, but I was told that this was more of a neuro-muscular issue, so I then went to see a Neurologist. Once I saw the Neurologist, she then tested me and gave me muscle biopsy, MRI, an EMG and every other test you can think of. So after multiple tests, I was finally diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. Limb-Girdle is a form of MD that affects the limb of the shoulders all the way down to the legs, which progressively over time eventually gets worse. The first thing I thought was how long am I going to live will I be in a wheelchair soon, and what is my life going to be like from now on. I knew I had to be strong and continue to do what I have to do so I started doing some research on it and read what eating healthy and exercising would help. I joined weight watchers with my cousin and I lost over 36 pounds and I felt great. I’ve able to keep half the weight still off, and I am still determined to lose more. They have multiple types of Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, and 5 years later my doctor’s are still trying to figure which type I have exactly. The only thing they know at this point is from the types I may have can affect my heart which is why I often have to go get a echo-cardiogram test that tests my heart to make sure everything is ok. Living with Limb-Girdle Muscular dystrophy is still new to me every day. I wake up every day not knowing how my legs are going to feel or what pain I may have when leaving my house. I try to be very careful when walking because I don’t want to fall, because I won’t be able to pick myself back up. Although I am on my feet a lot for work, after a certain amount of hours, my legs start to weaken. I am currently a visual merchandiser at different locations a very popular clothing store. I enjoy my job because it keeps me and my legs active and I enjoy traveling to the different store locations and doing what I love and my part in the fashion industry. I have the wonderful support from my family and friends but at the ending of the day, they have NO IDEA what I go through on daily basis or what I’m feeling. I try to explain to them how my legs feel, but it’s just so hard to explain. I still go out and enjoy my life as normal, but sometimes I always have certain things in the back of my mind. When going out I find myself researching about where I am going first, like does this place have stairs?, does it have an elevator?, do they accommodate handicap people? So all of these things I worry about when I go out and my friends and family have no idea. Living with MD has made me realize how strong I am and knowing I have no choice but to deal with this. I sometimes get stares because people wonder what a young girl like me is doing either walking with a limp, with a cane, or parking in a handicap parking spot. But I don’t mind because they just don’t know me or know what I have. Although my MD has progressed over the years and getting worse, I have learned to except it and make certain changes in to my life such as now walking with a cane in order to keep my balance and helping me not to fall. At this point I am just taking everything day by day and staying strong. But there is one thing I want people to know by reading this quote. "There’s no “cure” or a pill will “fix it”, but at one point I thought it may help. And I thought the same with therapy and food. But it’s my endless support from family and friend that helps. It is hardest thing that I have ever done, and I found myself much stronger for doing it. Never, ever underestimate the power of your desire. If you want to live badly enough, you can live. The greater question, at least for me was: How do I decide I want to live? That is the question I’m still working on?" AS SEEN IN...

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