Going to college away from home freshman year can be hard. But going to college away from home as “the girl in the wheelchair,” can be even harder.
The summer before my senior year of high school I was in a pretty bad car accident. I got in the car with my “friend” at the time and we were both pretty drunk, the next thing I remembered was lying in a hospital bed with one tube down my throat, one up my nose, and one in my side. Hearing the words “you’re never gonna walk again” can be pretty traumatic. Having to hear them with no friends there to support you can be devastating. I had never truly understood the term “you find out who your friends are” until I was in the hospital with minimal visitors, excluding family. The “friend” that I was in the accident with has yet to talk to me to this day. The accident was almost two years ago. Going back to high school in a wheelchair is one thing, but going to college two hours away from your house, with no friends, is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
So when I got to Appalachian, I assumed everyone would be nice and thoughtful towards the handicap kid but sadly I was wrong. Over the course of the school year when I would go to the market directly across from my dorm, I had the door held open for me 4, maybe 5 times. The constant stares I got while shopping in the market, and while pushing up a hill to get to the market, crippled me to the point that I couldn’t go back by myself. After just the first month of school, I had gotten to the point where, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t make myself go out of my dorm.
For a decent amount of time, I would only leave my dorm to go to class. If I needed to get groceries I would go to the market. When I would go to the market I would get enough to ensure that I wouldn’t need to go back for at least a week. This went on from the middle of September until the middle of March, pretty much my entire freshman year. Social media played a part in my ‘not wanting to leave my room’ phase. When you look on Instagram all you’re going to see is other people having fun with their friends. Seeing this while lying in my room alone wasn’t exactly a self-esteem booster. I know that people are only going to post the high-points in their life, but it was still hard to see considering I didn’t have any high-points to post, let alone friends to have high-points with.
Making friends wasn’t easy for me. I would talk to people in my classes but that usually ended when it was time to go to the next class. I guess everyone just assumed that since I was in a wheelchair I couldn’t do what they were doing. I can not count the number of times I have said this throughout my two year paraplegic journey, I can do anything anybody else can do I just do it differently. That seems like a foreign concept to most people. They see a wheelchair and automatically assume that I’m limited.
If I learned anything from my freshman year of college, it was how to deal with being alone.