There’s been a big debate going on over social media the last couple days about the book turned movie, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. If you don’t want to know how the story ends, you may not want to read this entry.
The premise of the story is a man who was into extreme sports, had an accident, and became a paraplegic. This woman starts to work as his support worker, they fall in love, but in the end he decides to opt for assisted suicide.
People are boycotting this movie because they think it’s showing having a disability as being tragic. I don’t think that’s what Moyes is portraying in her story at all. It’s not the being disabled that’s tragic, it’s having everything you love doing taken away that’s catastrophic.
The male lead in this story was a man’s man. Burly. Athletic. Dangerous. Now he relies on someone else to simply brush his teeth. In his eyes, his dignity has been stripped from him.
Imagine being a singer and your vocal chords are damaged – never to sing again. An artist whose arms have been amputated – never to paint again. Or a foodie, wannabe chef home cook with ischemic bowels thought never to eat again. Enter your passion and an accident that would rob it all from you – wouldn’t that be absolutely devastating? Your passions, hobbies, even your work, everything is all of a sudden limited or taken away from you completely. When all your life you’ve been told that anything is possible, now all of a sudden so many things that are impossible.
I was originally told I would never eat or drink again due to the removal of my small intestine and a third of my large. I LOVE my food. I love cooking, eating and hosting dinner parties. I’ve dreamt of opening a restaurant, teaching my kids to cook, and of course competing on Chopped Canada (which let’s be honest, I’m nowhere good enough of a cook to ever be on that show). I loved having people over and cooking for them and with thinking I would never eat or drink again, would I really want to cook meals for other people and not be able to partake? I’m a dreamer and these were only a few of the ones on my heart. But after my first diagnosis, my dreams came crashing down.
After my diagnosis, I went to a really dark place. I was extremely depressed. A huge portion of my life was all of a sudden gone. And I was beyond devastated.
So instead of seeing this movie as making disabilities portrayed as a tragic thing, what if we see it as dealing with a situational depression? There’s so much talk about depression and how it’s a part of a disease. Would people think of this movie differently if we saw it from that perspective? That his suicide isn’t because of the disability itself but because of the loss correlated with becoming disabled.
It takes time to adjust to the new normal after an accident or a diagnosis. Some people adjust more easily than others. Some aren’t able to adjust at all. If it wasn’t for having to take care of my daughter, there’s no way I would get out of bed. She helped me get out of my depression. Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone or something to fight for. And when all you do is compare your now to your past, it’s HARD! Always thinking of the things you loved to do, that you never will get to do again.
You still don’t want to go see the movie? Fine. But don’t belittle those of us who do see becoming disabled as tragic. Again, it’s not the disability itself that breaks us; it’s our past that we loved and lost that we mourn.