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Working Through My 'Burden Complex' as a Disabled Adult

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By definition, a burden is a load, typically a heavy one. I have cerebral palsy, am an amputee and use a wheelchair. Therefore, I heavily rely on family, aides and sometimes friends for my care including toilet and car transfers and other basic needs.

For me, having a burden complex looks like not drinking a lot so no one has to lift me unnecessarily. I find myself not wanting to go to certain places because I feel bad that the person I am with has to do a lot for me. Although the specifics may vary for those who have visible and/or non-visible disabilities, I am certain I am not the only person with a disability who feels this way.

I am not sure when my complex started, but I remember as I got older, I would ask a family member or an aide for help and detect a bit of annoyance coming from them. This led to me feeling like I was doing something wrong or being a burden. This feeling of guilt has stopped mostly now due to some amazing people in my life. Although I do still feel it at times, these new people in my life will not hesitate to offer to do something for me, and if there’s something I want to do, I am more comfortable asking. Most of the time, people are willing and try their best to make it happen. And when they do say no, I understand, accept it and move on.

I think the part of the burden complex that is hardest for me is explaining it to people that may find it silly or think I am being unreasonable for feeling this way. If you are disabled, you might have experienced this and understand what I am talking about. The key for me to get over feeling like a burden was to realize I am a person who has a disability and requires more assistance than someone who is not disabled, and there is no shame in asking for it. I think others in the disability community would struggle less with this feeling if we talked about it openly within our community and with others outside of the community. We need a non-judgmental way to approach this topic and start a conversation on how not to feel like this, because no one, disabled or not, ever deserves to feel like a burden.

Originally published: January 15, 2020
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