“Do not place your values on other people,” said a brilliant therapist I once knew.
Having an invisible disability is exhausting. I find myself walking a tightrope, balancing a bar across my shoulders. At the end of each bar is a heavy basket. One basket carries other people’s expectations of me. The second basket carries my expectations of other people. If I favor my efforts towards one basket, I will fall. Alternatively, I may collapse under the burden of both baskets. What is the right choice?
This is the question I have spent the greater part of my recovery hoping to find out.
There are times that what you want from me is beyond my capabilities. You may be empathetic, but you don’t have my disability. You just don’t know. My capabilities fluctuate based on the day of the week, the time of the day, what triggers I attempted to jump over that day, if the moon is in retrograde, etc. It makes no sense to you why I can’t do the thing other people can do so easily. It makes no sense to you why I can’t do the same exact thing I have easily done before. Understanding my limitations is beyond YOUR capabilities.
You may not be so compassionate. Maybe you feel forced into a situation where you have to pick up my slack. You feel resentful. From your perspective, I am lazy, selfish, inconsiderate, and not even trying. Bridging this gap of misunderstanding between us may be beyond BOTH our capabilities.
It’s not always about me desperately trying to live up to your expectations. What about the expectations I place on you? My mental illnesses do not exist on a remote island. My recovery experiences are not solitary. The reality is you may need compassion, love, and support just as much as I do.
People do the best they can with what they have at the time they have it. A farmer may not know how to perform open heart surgery; adversely, a surgeon may not know how to harvest grain. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. Different is just different, not necessarily more or less. My limitations may be different from yours. What’s important is to recognize that we both have limitations. We can move forward by mutually respecting one another’s limitations.
Easier said than done, I know. That’s why recovery is an ever-evolving journey. Disability or not, we all have our challenges. It’s not fair for me to disregard your challenges just because they are different from mine. It’s not fair for me to get angry at your assumptions of me while I place my own assumptions on you. You and I need to let go of the impossibilities placed before us to just be. Let us be who we are in whatever capacity that may be in that moment.
The answer is to drop both baskets and walk forward one step at a time.