A recent conversation between the Bionic Hiker and myself went like this:
BH: You should write a guest post for my blog!
Me: What would I write about?
BH: You could write about what its like to be married to a disabled athlete.
Me: How many posts can you write about applying Tiger balm?
So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on being married to an outdoor enthusiast and aspiring athlete who also happens to have a disability.
Walking the line between being a reality check and a buzz kill.
When my husband first began expressing interest in rock climbing and mountaineering, it was difficult for me to share the excitement. With his physical condition, he already deals with pain on a daily basis. I was not interested in him introducing new pain. It didn’t help that he was devouring books on high altitude expeditions and routinely sharing about death and mayhem.
His excitement also started shortly after a Yellowstone trip in 2010. Most of the time I think the Bionic Hiker makes good decisions in outdoor adventures, however, on this particular trip I had refused to go on a hike. He had started down the sloppy muddy trail in the rain while I stood at the trailhead with our 3 year old son refusing to hike a rim trail
where there was a large sign stating “Hike at your own risk, children not recommended”. I wasn’t interested in seeing my husband loose his balance and slip and slide over the edge or futilely try to keep my son on the inside of the trail from the rim while he was loosing traction during the poor conditions.
So at times the disability feels like a henchman lurking behind a bush waiting to come and knock him out. While I’m not necessarily a good protector against men wielding crowbars, sometimes I trick myself into thinking if I say the right thing I can keep him from harm or danger. I know, its so silly to think a husband would actually listen to his wife. So in the meantime, it’s always there, and I balance concern and fear of future suffering with being a supportive partner.
The first time he tried rock climbing is a prime example. His first time in a rock climbing class resulted in an injury that required months of physical therapy and a miserable car ride home. He was ready to give up and I was ready to agree with him. I didn’t want to watch him incur injury after injury trying to do something his body simply couldn’t handle. I’m glad he proved me wrong and he has quickly surpassed my ability. I almost discouraged him from it in the name of being a “reality check” when I really would have been killing a dream. Which is why I have supported him returning to the sport that almost took his life (skiing).
On the positive side
For the 30 years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve considered myself an uncoordinated non athlete with an aversion to anything labeled a sport. However, I can’t exactly sit comfortably on the sidelines using pathetic excuses when the Bionic Hiker manages to stay active and challenge himself physically. Bad memories of dodge ball from my school years don’t hold weight next to having two steel bars in ones back. I never would have tried rock climbing had it not been for him, and he’s started me on course leading to a much healthier and happier me.
When we are both trying new things, I don’t have the self-consciousness that other women with my self-imposed labels might have (at least most of the time!). With my lack of ability and his disability we almost have a level playing field.
I have to say that the Bionic Hiker is quite admirable. He is the one that could choose self-consciousness because of the limp he walks with or the challenges he faces while learning to climb, but his zest for life trumps that card.