At the moment I’m all about embracing the good things in my life. I never imagined that I would be grateful for my wheelchair; but when I truly think about it I am. My wheelchair is not my illness, it’s an obvious sign; but it’s not an extension of the ME, it’s just the tool I use to be able to get around. For that reason I can see it as a blessing. Without it I would not be able to go very far.
When I first got a wheelchair I hated it with a passion, I was convinced that everyone was staring at me, judging me for being in it, questioning why a perfectly healthy looking fifteen year old was sitting in an old lady chair. The truth is there were lots of looks, people do stare, they do a double take, a quick glance or sometimes a full on gander. It did make me cringe, creep down in the chair, try to shrink away and become invisible. When I saw people my own age, especially guys or groups of girls I literally wanted to vanish, to cease to exist. Nobody ever said anything; but you can communicate a lot with a look, even if the glance was between them and not aimed directly at me.
The absolute worst thing was seeing people who knew me from before, the looks of pity were like knives through my heart, reinforcing how far I’d fallen from the life I used to love and how bad my reality had become. I’d get Mum to avoid people if we saw them coming, changing direction, ducking behind displays, just to spare myself the hurt.
At that time I wanted to avoid going out, so that I didn’t have to go through the humiliation; but then I got so ill that I could even get out of bed, let alone go anywhere. It was then that I longed for the chair, would have done anything just to be able to go out in it again, no matter who saw me.
My attitude to the wheelchair changed completely once I started being able to go out again, after six years inside. I was eager, excited even and I didn’t care who saw me. In fact I was pleased to see people.”Look at me, I’m out again. I’m getting better!”
That’s not to say it was easy, at times I felt completely invisible. Guys do not flirt with girls in wheelchairs. It’s only happened to me once and I was so stunned I wasn’t sure what to say; but I managed! 😉 I know the difference because I can sometimes go a short distance without the chair and it’s like suddenly you’re visible, people take notice, they make eye contact; but as soon as you sit down in the chair, their eyes slide over you like you’re just a piece of furniture. That’s hard.to get used to. Reassuring when you’re having a bad day and look dreadful; but not when you’ve made an effort and want to feel good.
That’s not the wheelchair’s fault though, that’s just society. The wheelchair has become an asset, as valuable to me as a car is to most other people. It helps me get from A to B and without it I would be lost. I never imagined I would count a wheelchair as a blessing; but maybe my outlook on life really is changing and I can appreciate things for the benefits they bring in to my life, not what they represent to other people.