Working with Wheel:Life on part two of Dating with a disability. Such an honor to work with a great team.
Five years after Ali’s shallow water diving accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down with limited hand mobility, she went on a dating experiment (read more in part one). Healing from major surgery for a pressure sore, preparing for her 11th surgery from her injury, navigating life with a catheter and desperately wanting to experience romantic connection, Ali decided to approach dating with vulnerability, sexuality, and experimentation.
“I certainly did not approach dating as many do because I was in an experimentation phase of my life,” admits Ali. “When something didn’t work, I would try a new strategy, keep experimenting, and make sure to maintain some type of humor. Dating is supposed to be fun, even when it doesn’t always work out.”
Dating – a word loaded with so many emotions and often, a word that evokes the feeling of being utterly overwhelmed. If you add in dating with a disability, heightened anxiety tends to be the “norm” in our community.
After I broke my neck in 2010, becoming a C6 quadriplegic, I spent the better part of six years believing dating was a fairytale conceived for the able-bodied population.
I went through internal struggles living in hospitals for years on end with seemingly insurmountable medical complications and learning to accept my body the way it was. I didn’t see myself as a sexually beautiful human being. Essentially, I felt as if I was asexual, and I couldn’t fathom the concept of another person finding me sexy because I couldn’t muster up the strength to even look at myself in the mirror for nearly two years.
When my medical life started to become stable, something very interesting happened to me almost overnight – I decided to take on the Herculean mission of trying to date. I didn’t know where to start. Prior to my accident I had no trouble dating. I simply went to a bar and there were men everywhere. When I went back to bars in my wheelchair, trying to meet men, I was devastated to realize men were not looking at me as they used to. I didn’t look any different other than the fact that I was in a wheelchair. This changed everything for me.
I quickly came to the realization that I was going to have to change how I date. I spent several weeks researching different online dating websites and decided to take the dive into an unfamiliar world. I asked many of my friends in wheelchairs what their experiences were like and most responses were quite negative, unfortunately.
I had a different philosophy – the worst someone can say is no. ….”
This is hard to write – perhaps harder to deal with than chronic debilitating nerve pain, which I suffer from daily. When you are physically disabled and require 24/7 help to take care of all of your daily needs it requires a village of caregivers, family, friends, agencies, medical professionals, etc.
I preface what I’m about to dive into by first saying each and every person in my life who helps to take care of me, paid or not, Thank you! You physically help me live my life each and every day, which is the most beautiful gift I could ever ask for. I appreciate every single human who takes time out of their lives to make my own life possible. This, in turn, allows me to spend the time advocating for others who need my help. It also affords me the opportunity to live each and every day to its fullest and advocate for systemic disability inclusion.
Now, onto what is behind the curtain of my life that many who do not live with a disability simply do not see because much of it is hidden. My life is my own, but it is not at the same time. I can’t do what I want and how I want to do it at all times.
Pain. Chronic pain. It’s no joke. It’s debilitating. It can lead to death. It can be physically and psychologically crushing to your soul. Living with physical paralysis, for me, pales in comparison to pain. If asked that “What If” question whether I would prefer to live in chronic pain or be paralyzed, at this moment as I write this article – I choose paralysis. This is a pretty powerful statement if you think about it. I am essentially choosing to practically go broke, have people’s hands in my body all day long, have someone dress me, use catheters and suppositories, etc. Think about what I am saying.
This is how debilitating my chronic pain is. For anyone who lives in chronic pain, your life has been undoubtedly changed forever. I know mine has.
When I was living in the ICU after breaking my neck in 2010, I was one of the unlucky ones who also simultaneously suffered a very deep pressure sore on my behind, pulmonary embolisms, and died a few times. I thought “this was the worst of it” to myself. Wow, was I in for a rude awakening 3 weeks after my accident!
Love, Sex & Orgasms …Yup, I went there live on Rebel Love Podcast!It was a blast speak with Talia on so many subjects and shedding light on disability and sexuality.
Naturally this is a topic near and dear to my heart since my website has a tagline on this very topic!I don’t know if many of you know this, but my entire advocacy mission in life started 6 years ago because of a dating experiment I would write about on my Facebook page.
This is actually how the QUIRKY QUAD Diaries was founded… Simply trying to show women with disabilities that a love life is absolutely possible even in a wheelchair
Also, to be completely honest it was super fun to write about sex at a time when I was dealing with major life changing surgeries!