I am a disability advocate, artist and an aunt. I am writing about Awakenings, which means to be suddenly aware of something. We all have those tiny moments of awareness, and finding Love was a big awakening that took place in my adult life.
Finding love was a big awakening in my life.
Right before Christmas last year, I got engaged to TJ. Having a disability and relationship building is one thing. Getting married to my sweetheart TJ who has autism is another story that I want to tell.
As people with disabilities, we have rules about money.
Since we both have developmental disabilities, we receive Social Security Benefits. As citizens, we have rules; as people with disabilities, we have rules about money. We have to make sure that we track our income with our Social Security money. If we make too much money, our benefits will be cut. Since I get my Social Security from my work credits, I could get married legally without losing my benefits. I have chosen not to do so. TJ and I will be able to keep our Social Security Benefits.
Yes, we are still getting married but not signing a marriage license. Recently, one of my bridesmaids asked me, "Why am I in your wedding if you two are not getting married?" This shocked me, but then I had an awakening moment. You do not need a license to say that you are getting married, but you need support, love, family and friends to support you.
Having support from friends makes all the difference.
I am glad to have people in my life who support my marriage, like Katie and Nancy. Katie offered to be my wedding planner- free of charge. Nancy’s daughter will be in my wedding. Having support from friends makes all the difference whenever things get tough. A ceremony/reception is a time of blessings and celebrations.
We are learning about making choices.
Our journey started at an advocacy conference. TJ and I are excited about our new chapter in our life. We are learning about living together and the ability to make choices. We have a great support team in our jobs, friends and family. We will always learn about each other in everything we do. For me, that is what love is all about.
We are happy with the support we have.
There are many advocates who wish to tie the knot but money, benefits, and guardianship and family members will not allow them. TJ and I are very happy with the support we have.
In April of 2020, we will have a place that we call home and enjoy family and friends wherever we go.
Diana Mairose is a voting rights advocate who works as an Advocacy Support Adviser for Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services.