I remember several big changes very clearly from when I became ill in 2007.
- When you’re sat in a wheelchair, strangers feel entitled to talk to you or about you as if you’re stupid.
- You have to learn to accept help with things you never dreamed you’d lose the ability to perform.
- Your world feels very small.
When you are in a wheelchair you get to see a different view of the world to upright people. I am great for finding lost earrings and loose change, but the worst part is getting lost in crowds and being at general fart height. Yes indeed, next time you let a sneaky one out in the Tesco queue, please check for any wheelchairs behind you first. You may be shortening our lives by years! But people do feel that its ok to talk about you to the person you’re with for some reason. The classic happened at a supermarket checkout with Big Sis, as I presented my card to pay, the cashier asked her if I knew my PIN number! I’ve been at concerts with Mr Neo Walk and the usher has asked him if I can get out of my wheelchair! Now I don’t consider myself the brainiest kid in the cabbage patch, but I’ve raised two offspring, Cherub and Hagrid, started my own successful business and stayed alive for 52 years. Therefore I think I can speak for myself. If I did a blog called ‘Things that grind my gears’ that would be one of the top ones. Along with the fart thing close behind!
Also in a wheelchair who hasn’t suffered the disappointment of using a fabulous ramp to get into a lovely cafe, only to find the only loo is upstairs! Better lay off the coffee in there then or they’ll have an unexpected water feature.
So I never thought I’d ever need help with the basics again until I was poorly. Showering, stairs, cooking and dressing all took on the persona of an iron man triathlon. From being a fiercely independent person and a do’er’ I suddenly felt vulnerable and had to learn to graciously accept offers of help, and to ask for help, which is much harder. I still wrestle with that one now and would rather struggle than ask. There is aways a way to get something done. Throw me a quandary and it’s my pleasure to solve it, close all the doors and I’ll find that window.
I am still always very grateful when I’m alone for offers of help in supermarket car parks getting back in the van. I feel sorry for those people who then said they were afraid to offer me help in case it insulted me, as they had been verbally bashed by other disabled people who hadn’t wanted the help. Whats wrong with a simple thanks but no thanks? Sorry guys, but just because we are in wheelchairs it doesn’t automatically make us nice people. Instead of an L plate, maybe we should come with an A,B or C plate. Alright, Brilliant or Creep!
How small the world feels when you can barely walk. Following several surgeries and long hospital stays my world had shrunk to the size of one room. Initially I couldn’t cope with the thought of it being any bigger. As my head became stronger and my mind was ready for the challenge, my body remained weak and in pain. It took me a long time to persuade myself to use a wheelchair in public, and then eventually crutches and walking sticks. The only barriers were my guilt, pride and acceptance of the life changes I had gone through, but good grief did they put up a fight. This was the reason I started making my walking sticks. The ones that were readily available were grey, ugly, old fashioned and made me feel twice my age. I was embarrassed to be seen with them, even when I’d stopped being embarrassed about my body changes.
So now I am very proud to be able to play a small part in the same journey for many other people. They’ve met their life changes, they’ve gone through the pain of recovery or some may not see any future improvement, and they have identified that their smaller worlds need a helping hand to get big again. Whether it’s a walking stick, a wheelchair, a prosthetic or a brace, embrace it, don’t resent it, love it for giving the world back to you. I know with my ‘garage’ of goodies I can go out with my dogs, I can go shopping on my own, I can walk to the pub, and I have all events covered. I once again have my independence and for me that’s the biggest thing I lost, not my leg. I have a tattoo, and the word is Believe. It is to remind me to believe in myself, my strength and that things will change, and also to believe my loved ones around me will get me through this.
Don’t be ashamed of it and don’t be defined by your disability, because we are all so much more than that. In the past I have been known to describe myself as Lyndsay Leg, as if that’s the most memorable thing about me. So I stop myself doing that now. I am Lyndsay with the dogs, I am Lyndsay with the green van, or I am Lyndsay who loves skiing. Or maybe I should just say I’m Lyndsay B (for Brilliant) and hope nobody ever describes me as Lyndsay C…!!!
We are not here to be average, we are here to be awesome…and we all are.