Just thinking about dating is an absolute monster of a thought when spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is on the table. My experiences have led me to believe that love does exist, but it takes strength to find.
For me, dating is one of those topics that usually results in a lot of overthinking and a bit of anxiety or depression. Embracing self-confidence is the best way to go, but I find that effort is oftentimes hampered by a feeling of being lesser than others. I tend to remind myself of my own worth most when my feelings of jealousy or loneliness come out.
Society holds a lot of standards for relationships, which makes forming them a lot more troublesome. People claim to be nonjudgmental, but I think that the division with interabled dating — relationships between disabled and able people — has never been greater. Popular trends like “cancel culture” are beneficial for bringing justice to intolerable behavior. The problem that I have is, the same people who cancel bad behavior have never considered dating someone disabled. If anyone is capable of holding unbiased ideals, I believe it is members of the SMA community.
I have had a few relationships with people over the years, and I keep them in mind as inspiration for the future. Breakups are rough, but I carry the memories as a way of acknowledging that there are people willing to go the distance for someone who is disabled.
The thing about being in a wheelchair is, people oftentimes feel some sort of intimidation before understanding they don’t need to. At some point in a well-established friendship, the person usually realizes that there is more character to the individual in a wheelchair. That is the point at which I’ve been most successful in the past.
Depending on the situation, socializing when you have SMA can be troublesome, in part due to transportation limitations. Something as simple as going out and making friends or socializing with strangers can be a little complicated. Lack of privacy and independence also take away from my chance of comfortably meeting with new people. The only thing harder than meeting someone new is meeting them with a caregiver following behind me.
In any case, if it is not the right time for meet new people in person, I know that alternatives are out there. Online alternatives, to be exact. Find a crew of friends online and then watch the relationships evolve.
Some days, finding love does feel hopeless. I can only get myself to understand that I have to be my best self and cherish the friendships I make along the way. Sometimes, the right person comes around who could change everything. Focusing on myself is the best possible way to live until the right person shows up.
Columnists on mySMAteam discuss SMA from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of mySMAteam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. Content on mySMAteam isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.