I usually start posts like these by defining the word in question, but I don’t think it’s necessary to define the word itself in this case. Therefore I am going to assume that everyone knows what trust means. Rather, I’d like to introduce the concept of trust within the context of living with a disability.
Since I am disabled and have been since birth, I was trained to think (or perhaps I just chose to think) that many of the non-disabled people around me–whether they were fellow students, acquaintances, extended family members, or new friends–didn’t know how to help me if I needed help with anything. It wasn’t because I was trying to alienate or separate myself; rather, it was about surviving. I had to know how to help myself before I asked anyone else for assistance. If not, what would happen if I were in a situation where I needed help and there was no one around, and I didn’t know how to resolve it on my own? I’d be stuck, right? I can not afford to be stuck. That’s part of why I would almost never ask anyone around me for help: because there was a lack of trust there. If I ask you for help, it’s because I trust you. It’s also a sign that I know you know how to help me if I need it.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t struggle with certain things due to the CP, because I absolutely do. To name just a few: opening doors while handling the crutches (it’s a lot harder than I may make it look); going up and down stairs with the crutches; or carrying pretty much anything while using the crutches, from a sealed water bottle to a plastic bag full of random stuff. Carrying items while walking can significantly alter my gait pattern, and thus makes it much more likely that I’ll fall over. Even though I am aware of this, am I going to ask you for help if there is no trust? No, most likely not. This isn’t me displaying “trust issues.” I really don’t think I have trust issues in the traditional sense. I just try to be self sufficient and as independent as I possibly can.
Another struggle that I often encounter is what to do at an event where there may be a buffet. It might not seem like a big deal, but buffets are very inaccessible for somebody who moves like me. I can not carry a plate of hot food with my crutches, and there’s no way I can carry the same hot plate of food without my crutches. If I were to try getting food anyway, that plate would surely end up on the floor, and probably so would I. In my opinion, what is tied to trust is its inherent vulnerability. Asking somebody for help with a buffet makes me feel vulnerable. Asking somebody I trust for help still makes me feel vulnerable, but less so. At least if I feel vulnerable and exposed with someone trustworthy, I can still feel overwhelmingly safe at the same time.
The lovely human being pictured above has been my dear, dear friend for about 20 years. As you might imagine, she is the epitome of my childhood, good times and rough times. Before I used crutches, she would push me around in my stroller and defend me when I would get made fun of. She is the only one of my friends who was by my side for all four of my surgeries, and then cheered me on through recovery. She brought me sweet chocolate treats once my stomach could tolerate it after anesthesia, and I was stuck at home immobile. She is somebody whose invaluable friendship comes along with undeniable trust. Most of all, she is somebody who truly and wordlessly understands the occasional struggle or difficulty I may come across as someone who is disabled. If I need help, she knows what to do. If I don’t need help, she also knows what to do. In any case, she has always been supportive and I am sincerely grateful to her. Trust is vital in friendships, and this is one friendship I wholeheartedly cherish.