I have a friend who knows I have a disability but she has never treated me like I am special. She helps me when I need it, looks out for me, and makes sure I’m okay, but she has never babied me or handled me with kid gloves. She tells me off, tells me to shut up, tells me not to be stupid, and has pulled me off of a guy. She has no compunction about being forward with me. I won’t lie and pretend that it doesn’t hurt, but I’m glad that she’s blunt with me in a way that other people aren’t. It gives me a wake up call to the fact that, though I have got better physically, people still coddle me and are gentle with me when they see or are made aware of my disability.
A couple of months ago, I did something for which I expected her to tell me off. She didn’t, and later explained that she hadn’t told me off because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I understand that if she thought I had done something wrong or was about to do something wrong, she would have told me off and I definitely would have listened to her. Looking back on that experience, I find myself wishing she had told me off for it – or advised me against it before it happened – so that I wouldn’t have done it at all.
My friend has really helped me put a lot into perspective and to accept that, though people treat me like I am special, I am not special. She treats me like she would any other friend: she takes care of me when I’m a puking crying drunk mess, she listens to me moan about boys, we have fun nights out together, and she tells it to me straight when I’m being stupid. That’s what friends do and what friends are for. She and I have been through a lot together – especially in the last year – and she’s really shown me that friendships aren’t linear: they go up and down and backwards and forwards and sideways and back around again. She grounds me and helps me stay grounded, especially when I tend to get mired in small details and forget to look at the big picture. I am very grateful not only for her presence in my life, but the ways in which she has transformed my life and positively changed me.
‘The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.’ – Richard Bach