What’s Your Invisible Wheelchair?

I came across this post by @hopeheals on Instagram last week:

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“I recently posed the question “What’s your invisible wheelchair?” and these were some of your answers.
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The story of our wounding seems so personal—like no one else could understand—but it is in fact universal. It’s ALL our stories. This doesn’t mean our specific pains matter less because other people are hurting more, but rather it means we don’t have to feel so alone in our struggles. And if we all share the story of wounding, then we must all share the story of healing too.”

This post jumped off the screen to me because this is exactly what has been stirring in my heart over the last few years. We like to segment ourselves based on the category of our pain - cancer, divorce, death of our child, abuse, financial stress, marital struggle, depression, and the list goes on. We stay in our silos and talk over and over and over again about our specific type of pain. We think that no one else could understand us.

Before I continue let me stop here and say this. In the early days and for many many many days and months, perhaps for always, it is healthy and necessary to find a community of people that have experienced or are experiencing pain like yours. Pain in your same category. There is nothing more healing than looking in the eyes of someone who is experiencing a story like yours who can say, “I understand. I have been there”. There is tremendous power in sitting with someone who knows what IT is like. In the early days after Ethan died, I looked for women who had endured the death of their own child from congenital heart disease and who were still standing. I desperately needed to see that I could live through it too.

That is why doing our work, wrestling, asking the questions, grieving, crying, listening and growing are all so important. Do you see that it is not only for you, but also for others? First it is for you, so you can live on this earth with your hurts. But after that, it is for others so they can see it’s possible for them too.

As you grow in your healing it is so valuable to see that, like @hopeheals suggests, we all have an invisible wheelchair. We are all carrying something that causes us great sadness. This wheelchair does not have to divide us, it can unite us. It can help us to see one another in a more gentle way. One another’s stories of healing and growth offer inspiration to keep going and keep growing.

When I am out and about with Bodey it is clear I have a child with significant challenge. There is no hiding his actual wheelchair. It’s right there for all to see. The outward, evident manifestation of his muscular dystrophy can make me feel on display, other than and separated from others. Even if I don’t want it to, it does. While children with illness and special needs are second nature to me, they are not to most people. Maybe it’s most challenging because his illness asks me to confront my own insecuriites, prejuidices and ideas about what makes a good life.

It was frankly socially easier to have the wheelchair of grief because I could hide it. When I met new people it was my choice whether or not to mention Ethan. Though I felt like I was carrying this huge, bursting secret about a part of my life, I could hide it if I wanted to. I could pretend.

But here’s the thing - if you get up close and get to know Bodey, you will be captivated by him. You will learn that he is tremendously social, that he has more grit and determination than most and you will covet his long thick eyelashes:-) Meeting him might even cause you to confront your own insecurities and ideas about what makes a good life.

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When I am honest about my story and share my wheelchairs, both seen and unseen, I get the privilege of stepping inside other’s stories. I have the opportunity to teach others how to transform their story and find joy in life, and I learn something new from them every time.

Our painful story does not have to divide us. We need to stop judging the severity of our pain versus theirs. Our wounds do not need to contain us and keep us from others. They don’t need to keep us in our silo. Our commitment to growth and healing is a beacon for others, still at an earlier stage of the journey. Opening our eyes to the stories of others connects us and helps us on our own journey.

There is abundant power in accepting your story, your wheelchair. Whether it’s visible or not. There is even greater power in your commitment to healing and transformation. Please share both stories. Share the struggle and share the healing. Because we are both, walking the balance beam of both and. Both struggle and healing. Both joy and pain. Both. And that is healthy honest living. Because we all have something. And that something connects us to one another.

Sunday Love to each of you. ❤️


PS. My friend Stefanie was recently on Melissa Radke’s podcast Ordinary People. Ordinary Things. talking about this very idea, that pain is pain. She has a beautiful and hard story. I think you will feel seen and encouraged by listening to this conversation. Listen here.