5 Ways My Life Changed When I Lived With Someone With Disabilities

5 Ways My Life Changed When I Lived With Someone With Disabilities

Any family living with a disabled adult knows that life completely changes with them around.

Several years ago after the death of my grandfather, my aunt moved in with my family. She's 45-years-old, deaf, intellectually delayed, OCD and my favorite person. As a kid, my favorite weekends were the ones where she'd visit us for a few nights, sleep on the futon in our bedroom, play games with us and take notes while watching movies. When she moved in, I was excited. We'd have Wendy around all the time and nothing could be better. And while this was definitely the case, there were plenty of huge changes that came from living with someone with special needs. Anyone who's been in a similar situation would agree that life with a disabled child or adult at home is completely exhausting, amazing and constantly unexpected.

These are just a few of the ways that life with Wendy changed the lives of my family and I; things I'm sure many other families like ours will relate to in a very real way.

1. I became infinitely more patient than ever before.

Answering the same question dozens of times and waiting 10 extra minutes to get in the car while your disabled aunt wanders around in the house and turns on and back off every light switch builds patience incredibly quickly. These examples are different for every person, but I'd guarantee that every caretaker of a disabled adult has developed immense patience living with someone who takes extra time to do just about everything.

2. My family built and moved into a new house.

When my aunt moved in, our house just wasn't equipped to take on an extra person, particularly an adult with disabilities. She stayed temporarily in our finished basement, but my parents soon decided to build a new home, and we moved the next year. Though this example certainly isn't universal, many families living with a disabled relative may have made similar large life changes to accommodate for the person they're caring for.

3. Making a commitment became equivalent to signing a binding contract.

When I tell my aunt I'll take her to the library today, I will be taking her to the library. If I don't, then I won't hear the end of it until the second we finally enter the library the next day. I learned very quickly never to tell Wendy we'd do something without knowing for sure if I could actually do it. She's the person I'd least want to disappoint, and the one who'd never let me live it down if I did.

4. I thought 10 times less about my own needs and 10 times more about hers.

Is that her calling me right now? She needs me to brush her hair? She needs help cutting up stickers? She needs a snack? Water? A hug?

These were my more common thoughts throughout a day at home with Wendy. Not only did she make constant requests and demands of me, but I wanted her to be happy and satisfied at all times, and concerned myself far more with that than whatever I had going on.

5. Our family dynamic shifted.

We went from a "normal" family with three children to a kooky three kid-two parent-one Wendy household (though my sister and I were only there half of the time, and spent the other half with our other parents). She's my aunt and my mom's sister, but in many ways, she's more like one of the kids -- and a much more high maintenance one at that. We suddenly used ASL more than ever before, spent portions of every dinner updating Wendy on the current topic of discussion and took weekly visits to the library to choose movies for her to watch. My parents' attention became more divided than ever before, though I was completely unbothered by it, knowing that my attention had also become more Wendy-centric. That's just what she expects.

We were still the same family, but the subtler things automatically shifted when Wendy came to be a permanent member of our house.

Cover Image Credit: Annie Burdick

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To The Friends That Helped Me Become The 'Me" I Am Today, Thank You

It's amazing what can happen when you're around people that inspire you instead of bring you down.
"Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life." — Amy Poehler

Walking into high school, I had maybe two friends. Throughout my four years, my friend group has grown, changed (multiple times) and subsequently shrunk.

Walking out of high school, I have two best friends that I trust with my life, and I couldn’t be happier.

Every teenager struggles with identity. It’s easy to feel alone, which is why when you find someone that compliments you in a way that makes it easier to be yourself, you should hold on as tight as you can.

Sometimes, there are people that you just click with. It’s really hard to explain, but when you meet these people, you know. Some people just match your weirdness, and it’s easy to open up and just be yourself around them.

There was a moment that I had a few weeks ago when I was in the car with my best friend after school and we were drinking coffee and yell-singing to Big Time Rush and I realized, I was happy.

Without knowing, having her support I grew so much as a person.

She’s taught me so much just by being there for me in a way that no one has before. I know that no matter what, she’s there. Whenever I’ve had a bad day or was stressed or upset, she’s been there.

She taught me to stand up for myself in a way that no one ever has. I’m not scared to go after what I want because she’s always there to tell me the truth and help me through whatever trials I may face.

I’m finally with people who make me a better person whenever I’m around them. They help me be the best “me” that I can.

I never knew it, but I had been in the dark my entire life. I’ve always been worried about what other people thought, and I always thought that I had to make sure that my friends were happy or else they wouldn’t want to be around me.

Whenever I was unhappy, or if they upset me, I never thought that I could address it or they’d be upset.

I’ll let you in on a secret: any friendship or relationship that can be ruined by talking about feelings or expectations isn’t worth it. There isn’t much to ruin.

By finding people that inspire me to be the best version of myself while also simultaneously helping them reach their goals, my life and mental health improved so much more than when I was relying on a boyfriend or myself.

To my best friends that helped me become the “me” I am today, thank you. You helped me in more ways than you probably know.

Cover Image Credit: Cassi Stewart

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Once Upon A Time My Sister Was My Rival And Now She's My Best Friend

Siblings: from rivals to best friends

For as long as I can remember, it has been my job to be the annoying little sister. I did the typical little sister things: I bothered her and her friends, I disagreed with her just to get a rise out of her, and I used all of her things without asking.

To say the least, I was a complete hellion to my sister, Marley.

These crazy antics of mine continued through elementary school and into middle school until she went off to college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

What was I going to do with myself? I no longer had someone to constantly annoy nor was I going to be able to borrow things "without giving them back.”

But most importantly, I no longer had her there to laugh with, watch movies with, or someone to seek advice from.

Whether my sister knew it or not, she was my role model for absolutely everything. Her clothes, her makeup, and how well she did in school. She was everything I aspired to be like.

As the years went by, I became slightly less annoying--only slightly--and all of my antics began to die down. I no longer felt like it was "my job" to be the annoying little sister.

Now that I’m in college, and she has started a new life with her husband and a new job, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve grown incredibly close.

Marley is the first person I tell things about my life, the person I go to for advice, the one I can call when something hilarious happens on Tru TV’s “Impractical Jokers,” or someone to just catch up with on what has been going on in each other's lives.

On November 11, 2017, I gave a speech at Marley’s wedding where I stated: “I care about my sister more than anyone else here today and, being the little sister I am, I will protect her in every way that I can…” That remains true every day.

No matter the circumstances, I would drop everything to help my sister. She may live all the way down in Florida, but I would book the fastest plane to get me down there if she needed me.

We may fight with our siblings and do dumb things just to annoy them, but we will always have their back and grow closer as the years go by.

Simply put, we went from being rivals to best friends.

And to my sister: thank you for being you and for allowing me to grow up with such an amazing role model in my life. I don’t know where I would be without you.

Cover Image Credit: F8 Photography

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