It’s been over a year since I started using a wheelchair. I was advised by my Occupational Therapist that it would be a good idea to begin using it. They wanted me to be able to get back out and about, and to be safe. Walking sticks only annoyed me and tripped me over. Crutches need a bit of coordination which I don’t have a lot of
When I walk I hobble. My leg comes out and around, instead of stepping through, which causes problems in my hip and lower back. Falling over is a huge problem for me. I’ve caused some damage to myself including breaking toes on my CRPS affected leg, tearing the UCL in my right hand twice, jarring my neck and back, cuts, bruises, strains, pain… the list is endless. I can’t walk on uneven surfaces such as grass, dirt, pebbles and step stones. Crazy right?!
I dont get far when I do walk. Pain builds and things buckle. I have to stop all the time. Getting anywhere takes a long time or I get part way where I need to and I can’t get any further. The falling concerns the people around me.
When I first started using a chair, I saw it as a sign of my own weakness. I was embarrassed to have someone push the chair. I felt like a fraud when people would see me in it one day and hobbling the next. I hated being seen. I would sit forward at an angle to try and hide my chair. I didn’t want to tell my friends and family that this is what I needed. My feeling of self loathing was at an all time high.
I find when some people speak to me, they speak through me to my husband, or my friends. I have been into shops and had people ask my husband what I’m looking for when I’m right there. His response was quick ‘I don’t know, why don’t you ask her?’ Others speak to me like I was 2 years old. Just because a person is in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean that they can’t understand what is going on in the world around them. Even if they have difficulty communicating or other difficulties doesn’t mean they should be treated with such little respect. I know people don’t always mean to do it, or are not aware that they are doing it. I just ask that we be mindful. It’s like people who are blind or vision impaired do not like having people treat them as they are hearing impaired. And people who are hearing impaired don’t want you to yell and exaggerate moving your mouth when they are trying to lip read. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of ability or disability. As the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t look at a person and make assumptions. Speak to them just like you would everyone else. They have a voice. Sometimes it just takes a bit of patience to hear it.
I have had to learn that using a chair is not a sign that I am weak. Because I use a chair doesn’t mean I can’t walk or chose not to walk. I am not being lazy. I am not after attention. I am not after sympathy nor your judgement. It shows that I am someone who can admit they need stability. Someone who can admit that they need help to get around safely. Someone who wants back their independence and freedom that was stolen. Someone who wants to live their life!
How did this happen? I have to thank my husband for that. I mention him a lot, but really he’s the driving force behind me to do what I need to do. He accepted the wheelchair long before I did and he knew I was struggling. He made plans to take me places that I couldn’t get to before. He took me to a country music festival, shopping, a trip to the city just because. He showed me what was possible with my wheels. We dubbed my chair the ‘Flying Purple People Eater’.
Being able to gain back my freedom helps with my head too. I can get out of the house and do the grocery shopping, go out with friends and do the things I am missing out on. I can be ‘normal’. Normal for someone like me is hard. But the chair makes me feel normal. I’m not constantly worrying about falling, about people touching me or running into me. I don’t have to panic about being left on my own because I can keep up. I can do things for myself. Fresh air and independance are good for the soul.
I am working on myself. I am seeing the possibilities. I can enjoy the things I used to. I can go to watch my favourite NRL (Australian national Rugby league) team play again. I can enjoy being out of the house without wearing myself out as quickly. I can!
#CRPS #complexregionalpainsyndrome #mentalhealth #depression #anxiety #breakthestigma #wheelchair #fightforindependence