​I Am a Friend, Not a Burden

Posted by Nila Morton in Life After Paralysis on December 29, 2022 # Lifestyle

Nila and her friendsThere are many discussions about romantic relationships. How to get one, the signs of a toxic relationship or a healthy one, what to look for in a partner, and so much more. But there is little discussion about the importance of friendships.

In my opinion, I believe real, true friendships are more important than romantic relationships. I’m not saying that romantic relationships aren’t needed. Still, it’s nothing more beautiful than when you’re surrounded by true friends who give you support, love, care, and inspiration as well as give you the environment to be your authentic self.

I would be lying if I said that kind of friendship is easy to find as a wheelchair user because ableism has affected the way people interact with disabled people. Most people tend to believe the misconception about disabled people instead of being willing to unlearn their internal ableism to see disabled people as people.

Growing up, I can say that building friendships was challenging because people weren’t understanding of my situation since they had never lived it. I rarely was seen as a friend, only a “disabled” friend, which affected the way they would treat me. The need for friendship to flourish are considered a burden when it comes to me because people believe they’re taking on a responsibility of a caregiver instead of a friend. For instance, a person helping their abled-bodied friend would be considered an act of kindness because they see someone, they care about needing help. With a “disabled” friend, the person may consider helping them as a burden because they’re focused on the disability, not the actual person. There have been many occasions where people admitted that being my friend is “too much” or it’s a “burden” because I may need help, or I require certain accommodations.

For many years, I believed my wheelchair would prevent me from having friendships. I knew, and still do know, my life is different but not so different that my disability should influence the way people treat me. It took until later in my college career to realize that it never was about my wheelchair or my disability. It was the fact that people couldn’t think outside the box society had created about disabled people. Those people were unwilling to understand that you can acknowledge one’s disability and not allow that to determine how you will treat that person or how you consider the friendship.

I am a friend, not a burden. Being friends with me is no different than being friends with someone who’s not a wheelchair user. Friendship with me just requires understanding.

As my friends would say, being friends with me taught them to listen to disabled people so they can be educated. To be aware of the privileges they may have and how to use those privileges to help disabled people be heard. To be aware of places that lack accessibility. To acknowledge my disability because they want to make sure to accommodate me so I can be included. To have more patience and not feel bad if I have to cancel or change plans. The most important of all is to understand at the end of the day, I am Nila.

That’s what friendship is. To be understanding, compassionate, willing to learn, and aware. Most importantly, to see your friends for who they are and love them for who they are. Everyone deserves that kind of friendship, disabled or not.

I’m very blessed to have the friends I do now, and I hope every disabled person will be able to have a true friendship because we are friends, not burdens.

My name is Nila Morton. I’m a 23-year-old woman in a wheelchair. I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology and hope to become a Clinical Psychologist one day. I love being around my family and friends. I have a dog named Chloe, who is the light of my life. My favorite things to do are shopping, traveling, trying new restaurants, writing, and reading. I hope that every day I inspire other disabled people to not be ashamed of their disability and to live their life to the fullest.

Social Media:
Instagram/TikTok/Twitter: @nilanmorton

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.