Monday, April 7, 2014

"It's a miracle I look this good after everything I have been through..."

I have been trying to write this post for a while. I know it won't be the only post on this topic, but I still never knew what to write. Now, as I sit in my university common room - having left my books at home like a fool and considering that 9:30am is too early for lunch - I think I have the words figured out.

Like most people in this world, I love going to my best friends house. There are many great things at my best friends house. I have my "second family", "other mother", my favourite kind of tea, multiple best friends, all the animals I could ever want (including, any day now, chihuahua puppies) and there is always Pepsi Max. 

And whenever I go into the bathroom of this wonderful house, I see a sign that says: "It's a miracle I look this good after everything I have been through".

And do you know what? This is completely true. Dad, Mum, oldest daughter, extra German daughters and their youngest daughter, Charmaine, are all hot to trot.'s a miracle they all look this good after everything they have been through. 

Dear internet: I would like to introduce you to one of my best friends, Charmaine.

I honestly am not sure where to begin to describe Charmaine. The wise words of Julie Andrews say "let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start". To be honest, I'm not even sure where that is. 

Charmaine is one of the most loving and empathetic people I know. She has a very special way of connecting with people and the world around her. I think it is a gift. She's hilarious, crazy and fun. She can be damn cheeky. In many ways she's just like me in the way that she is a young woman, we live in the same area , and we both have dreams and goals in our lives. Charmaine has a disability, too - in fact, I would say she has more than one.

Charmaine was in a traumatic car accident a little over two years ago. She was not supposed to her survive, at all. When she did survive, she was not supposed to walk, talk, understand language, recognize people or be able to swallow again. 

Charmaine has exceeded these expectations, a thousandfold. Through the love and support of her family, friends and medical team; damn hard work; and things that simply cannot be explained by medical science, which we attribute to the grace of God. Charmaine eats. Charmaine is learning to walk again, she can walk with assistance or with a walker. Charmaine understands the world around her and can respond effectively through speech or another method. Charmaine knows who others are in her life -- and she loves them. Charmaine is still always improving.

I love this entire family beyond what I can say. Though I am normally cynical and a harsh realist, I do soften for a moment and believe that special friendships like this are when one soul joins across two bodies. When I think of Charmaine, it has occurred to me that her right side does not work effectively; and my left side is deficient. Together, we work as one. Some people come into our lives for a reason and some friendships are simply meant to be. I am lucky to be accepted into such a damn good looking family. I am thankful that they take me as I am, disability and all. That is a level of acceptance that I'm still not used to, and I appreciate so much.

Recently, I wrote that "Disability is not normal" and as soon as I wrote it, I wasn't sure I really thought it was true. I have a disability. Charmaine has a disability. Yet, I feel like we are both normal.

We are both more than our disability, absolutely. I am definitely all for person-focused and person-first language and thinking. But our disability is an intrinsic part of us - Charmaine's is more than mine, and that's just the truth of it. We cannot go through a day in our life without our disability being a part of it.

 But, Charmaine is normal to me. When I am with her, I feel normal.

We are friends. That is what matters. What the rest of society thinks of our disability becomes irrelevant - in that house, in that family - we are normal. Disability is accepted so much that we are given permission to be normal. Even when we are out in public together, I don't notice people staring until I consciously look. Disability isn't normal - I stand by that. But people are. And sometimes disability can be so accepted that whether it is normal or not: it doesn't matter. When it is accepted, it is no longer an issue. It mightn't be normal, but it can be okay.

Charmaine makes me feel normal, and her sister Sam once said to me that I make Charmaine feel normal. We are friends, there are no labels.

And we are damn good looking, too.

Charmaine - I love you.


  1. Friends promote awareness. Best friends accept.

    1. Anna, I love that.
      And you're right. I accept Charmaine. Charmaine accepts me.

  2. This was super lovely to read. There's nothing better than a best friend.

  3. What a lovely tribute to your best friend! Friends like her (and you) are rare! Theynare a true blessing! I hope someday Bethany finds a friend like you guys!

  4. Charmaine is very lucky to have a friend like you, who gives her so much love and support after she got involved in that car accident. It’s just really sad to imagine her suffering from the injuries she sustained and situation she got onto after that incident. It's heartbreaking, but as I read on, I felt the pride and love you have for her, and that was enough for me to get inspired. Thanks for sharing that! I wish you all the best!

    Sabrina Craig @ Medical Attorney NY