Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New Life as a Part-Time Wheelchair User

Being a new part-time wheelchair user is weird. Or let me rephrase it. It's a weird experience.

After trying a wheelchair with my Occupational Therapist at the rehab centre I was at, I was surprised at how much it helped me. My legs weren't giving out, I wasn't sweating and getting dizzy, and my eyes weren't going blurry. So we went ahead and made the decision that the chair would be a benefit for me and improve my quality of life, and I decided I'd push past the nerves of public judgement.

I knew there would be some adjusting when I started using it just about a month ago. I knew there would be eyes on me. I knew my arms would be exhausted from self-propelling.

As a generally self-conscious person in social situations, I don't like drawing attention to myself in a room. I want to stay with my friends, my people.

Regardless of the chair, I'm already the type of person who worries if a stranger looks at me the wrong way or stares for too long. I automatically start wondering if my I have something on my face, if my fly is undone, or that maybe they just hate my outfit. My mind goes to the worst. And this is something I'm working on and will always be working on.

At the conference this past week, I wouldn't have been able to get anywhere in the giant hotel without it and it was such a great tool. It was confirmation that it was the right decision to start using it. Not to mention I have loving friends who were willing to push me on the carpet while I held their drink. I was with my people, and I knew they'd stare down anyone who gave me any looks.

But on a day like this week where I was dropped off at the mall and went alone with my chair, I didn't feel as safe. People stared, and I didn't blame them, because a wheelchair tends to just draw your eyes. Some people were extremely kind and made room for me to wheel around them. Others watched me trying to get by while they were blocking the aisle, and stood still.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding wheelchairs. People who don't know wheelchair users, or who are just unaware, sometimes think that everyone who uses their wheelchair are stuck to their chair. They're not necessarily aware that there are multiple uses for wheelchairs. That many wheelchair users can walk, but can't walk long distances, or have a chronic illness and need a chair part time due to their symptoms. So like I've said, no, it's not a miracle when a wheelchair user gets up and walks. But I'll save this for another post, because it'll be long winded.

It's a miracle... she can walk!

So to some strangers, it's mind blowing to them that they can see me in a wheelchair at the mall during the day, and then see me walking at night.  But during the day, when I’m wanting to do the whole mall, my wheelchair is my savior. At night, if I’m just going into one store quickly, I don’t need it. And sometimes this baffles people. And that’s something I’m going to have to learn to live with.


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