I don't really think of myself as "disabled".
Even when I got the diagnosis of Asperger's. I mean, Asperger's is an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Autism is classified as a disability, but this is how I've always been, so I don't feel any more "disabled" after the diagnosis than I did before.
Sure, there are things I can't do as well as most people, but usually I can work around them. "Please email that info to me, because I have already forgotten it." "Please, only one person talk at a time, otherwise I can't hear anyone." "Say again?" "I don't understand."
But then sometimes the walls fall down.
Last week was very difficult, but it could have been much worse.
The Tuesday before last, and the Friday before that, I had the visual halo of a migraine after going to the gym. This was disturbing – to say the least – so my wife, Mim, made an appointment for me at the doctor's.
And on the Wednesday evening – the evening before the appointment – my car's engine changed from running rough to tapping as I drove home from filling the tank. When I checked, the oil was basically dry.
So on Thursday morning Mim drove me to the doctor's appointment, where he told me I was probably dehydrated, and that I needed blood tests for everything. I was at high risk for Diabetes, high cholesterol, Lymph dysfunction, all sorts of things.
After the appointment, we went shopping and got a bottle of oil, and I filled the engine when we got home. I drove around the block, but the tapping didn't go away, so Mim called a mechanic, and we drove over for him to look at the car. It turned out that the tapping was fixable, the car needed a service (which I knew), and I had severely over-filled the engine, and was at risk of blowing the gaskets. We booked it in for a service the following Monday. Which meant that I would have to figure out the new train ticketing system to get to and from work.
On Saturday, Mim took me to get phlebotomised, which was relatively painless, even if it did delay my morning coffee by a couple of hours.
On Monday, she followed me to the mechanic's, and took me in to work. She gave her phone number, so that the mechanic would talk to her about the works required, and her mother drove the car home for us. Then Mim came and collected me from work. She also booked the followup doctor's appointment when I got notification that my results were in.
I'm not diabetic, by the way. (big sigh of relief.)
But that long tale, even with the happy endings (car is fixed, bloodwork looks normal, further gym sessions have been migraine-free), brought something else to light.
I could not have done any of it on my own.
Mim had long since found a medical clinic for us to go to, and had the number to hand. Mim knew the mechanic, and had his
number to hand. Mim had organised half a dozen people in an intricate dance of planning over a week, over and above the usual juggling involved with being a mother of two. Mim neither froze nor panicked when plans changed and unexpected emergencies popped up. Mim could make phone calls without having to force herself to.
If it were not for Mim, I would have had to pick a doctor randomly out of the phone book, not having any idea where to go. At this point I would have been paralysed by the choice between dozens of unknowns, and very likely given it up as Too Hard.
I would have had to pick a garage out of the phone book, again, randomly. Again, paralysed by a choice between unknowns, again likely to have given it up, or at least put it off and put it off and put it off...
I would have been unable to ask for help, leading me to be stressed out by learning how to buy a train ticket in the new system. (Although that there is now a need
to learn how to buy a train ticket is another rant, for another time.)
Even if I had been able to chose a doctor or mechanic, I would have been paralysed at the act of picking up the telephone and talking to them: an absolutely excruciating experience at the best of times, and the best of times is not when I'm worried about my health and my car and everything is failing at once and I need to cold call strangers and make snap decisions and complicated (for me) planning on the run.
With Mim looking out for me, everything turned out OK, and relatively without fuss, and quickly.
Without Mim, I would still
be stressing about finding a doctor, and prevaricating about actually organising to go, and putting off dealing with the car, and catching public transport in the heat and the rain, and avoiding the gym because I didn't know what was causing the migraines, and generally freaking out. Every point would have been a mountain to overcome, where most people see gentle hills at worst. And that's if Mim were to have only been on holiday last week. Without her at all in my life then I wouldn't be living where I do, likely wouldn't have the friends or social interaction that I do, wouldn't eat as well as I do.
Whenever I've made a step towards independence in the past, it was only possible because friends and family have helped me. A school friend helped me move out of my father's house, and in with him. And then helped me arrange a flat of my own. Where I lived off takeaway, and never used the kitchen, and washed my clothes far less often than I should have, and was in the early stages of scurvy before other friends noticed and gave me a prod. And those friends helped me move in to their share house, and through them I met Mim.
I owe my independence to the help of others. I don't think I would have been capable of any of it without their help.
And it was luck that led me to them: it was because my father saw an ad for the entrance exam for a selective entry state school, and he took me to take that test, and I passed, and I chose Japanese instead of French or German, and I repeated year ten, and I joined the Stage Crew. If any of those things had not happened then I wouldn't have met any of these people, and I would not be where I am now.
I simply could not have done it without their help.
And so, by this luck, this series of strokes of luck, I am privileged. I am privileged in that while I have Asperger's, I don't have to think of myself as disabled.
Because other people have helped me in those things which I cannot handle on my own, simple and normal things which most people take for granted, like arranging a place to live, and eating, and seeing a doctor, and getting the car serviced, and dealing with minor crises, and so I am saved from most of those things which could so easily go so very wrong.
I love Mim. She is my wife, and my friend, and the mother of my children, and besides all that, the person who enables me to function as if I were normal. I cannot express how grateful I am to be so lucky.