t h e w o r l d o f i n v i s i b l e i l l n e s s


bigstock-little-girl-in-beautiful-dress-34574639How can I do what I do?  Especially when I awfulize.

I know now how to help someone out of quicksand, but that wasn’t until much later, after the little girl died.

Friends’ two-year-old daughter and her little brother were in mom’s car when it was t-boned on an icy road.  The little boy had cuts and bruises but the little girl was paralyzed from the neck down.  She couldn’t breathe, move, or speak.

When we visited the Pediatric ICU, she looked mystified.

And something else, beyond all that, or maybe I imagined it.

How could a parent, any parent, explain to a little girl the reason that the her life of movement, laughter, and speech was in an instant replaced by the very opposite.   No one, no one, can make sense of something like this.

No one could; I know, I tried.  For a year I looked for someone or something to explain it to me.

When she died a year later, I experienced the most intense grief I’ve felt before or since, even at the death of my parents.  I passed a year immersed and overwhelmed by sorrow and anger, finding nothing to ease their pain.

Only now, twenty-five years later, do I understand that my intense grief and terror is a recognition of my own childhood experience  being “unable to speak”.   There is no “new normal”; while adaptation occurs, and each of us goes on, there is, I think, at the core of us something unhealed.

For me, that ancient pain is calmed as I help clients face and express their own astonishment at what has happened to them.  Even though I could do nothing to give a “voice” to that little girl, her benevolence has taught me how to speak.

Kathe Skinner is a therapist and relationship coach  specializing in couples work, especially where relationships are affected by invisible disability.  Multiple sclerosis has taught Kathe that there are many “languages” other than the ones we may be born with — like walking instead of running, or writing music instead of singing.  She and her husband David, with their two eloquent cats, Petey and Lucy, live in Colorado.  By the way, you help someone out of quicksand by extending a branch to pull them out, not by going under yourself by jumping  in to help.

Categories: Effect of invisible (hidden) disability on relationship

2 replies

  1. First of all I would like to say excellent blog!
    I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
    I’ve had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just
    trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?

    • Thanks for the kind words, Emmanuel! Centering and clearing happen when I become lost in the project; I’m all about what I’m writing about. Suggestion about those lost minutes: just write, and plan to edit heavily. Sometimes the idea (headline) changes as I start writing. Only way to do it is to do it!

      Good luck!


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