23 May 2019

Using A Wheelchair is Not The End of The World

I have used a wheelchair since I was about 15 which is around 11 years ago. Jesus Christ when did I get so old? Anyway, I've been using a wheelchair for a long time. I use it more now than when I first got one as my health has deteriorated and will continue to do so. So why is everyone so obsessed with getting me out of the chair and walking again? My wheelchair has not ruined my life. It has, in fact, made my life a million times better. I can get out of the house more, I have less pain when out and about and I get to experience life. My wheelchair has allowed me to have the life of an average 20ish girl instead of constantly being stuck in the house in too much pain.

I am sat in a pink wheelchair amongst a pile of orange fallen leaves. I am wearing a long blue jumper, black tights and ugg boots. The background is a tree and a church
I am fed up with people acting like a wheelchair is the end of the world and like we can't possibly be living a fulfilled life. Doctors are probably the worst for this. I have been with the same GP surgery for about 18 years and they still ask if I'm managing to reduce my time in the chair. Physios always say their aim is to make it so I can walk more and potentially cure my lifelong, chronic, genetic condition (good joke). My chair isn't making my health worse, and it means I can do more. Surely that's a win? In fact, overdoing it and refusing to use my chair as a teenager actually made my health a hell of a lot worse and caused a lot of damage.

Yes, of course being able to walk pain-free would make my life easier. The world is not set up for wheelchairs. Shout out to steps, non dropped curbs, narrow doors etc. However, I will never be able to walk pain-free and please don't start with the positive thinking crap. No amount of positive thinking is going to sort out my genes and produce decent collagen. My joints are always going to hurt and dislocate. It's a fact and one that I came to terms with many years ago.

When I was younger and refusing to use my wheelchair (I mean it was an ugly one) I spent most of my time in bed in pain purely from walking around school. I literally spent my life at school or in bed recovering. If we went out I usually had to cut the day short because of pain or spend the rest of my outing grouchy. I was a nightmare to be around because I was just in so much pain. My wheelchair has completely changed that. Now I'm only a nightmare to be around if I'm hungry so I can actually enjoy time out with my family. Well, if they feed me.

I decided to write this post after watching several TV shows where a character is injured and told they might never walk again. Obviously, this is completely different to my situation and I can't even begin to understand how scary that experience is (my brother can though). It will obviously have a massive impact on your mental health and affect everyone differently. However, I am fed up of these characters constantly being told that they will walk again, they just have to work hard and be positive. When they are freaking out about if they have to use a wheelchair forever, everyone tells them that that won't happen (and of course in these shows it never does). What about all the people watching that that has and is happening to? Do you know how awful it makes you feel when all you see on TV are characters who would rather die than use a wheelchair? Tv shows portray wheelchairs as the worst thing that can happen to you and a disabled persons happily ever after is being cured. That's not real life and we need to do better.
Image shows my brother on the left and me on the right. We are sat in wheelchairs and posing in a mirror in Ikea. Ollie is wearing a black vest top and shorts. I am wearing an orange vest top and shorts. There are more mirrors in the background
I saw another show where an extreme sports person was depressed because he'd never ski again and the doctors kept telling him to have hope & be positive that they would find an experimental treatment that would cure him. I'm sorry but instead of filling someone with false hope why not take the time to tell them about all the sports disabled people can do. You can still ski as a disabled person. Sit skiing is a thing and I know loads of people who love it. Pretty much every sport has been adapted for disabled people. I am more active now than I ever was before I accepted I was ill. Why can't family members, friends and health professionals take the time to find things they can do now instead of things they will be able to do when they are cured which may never happen? If you love something, instead of pushing yourself to do it the conventional able-bodied way, find a way to adapt it.

This post is for anyone who thinks their life is over because they need a wheelchair. I've been there. I've fought against having to use one but in the end the only person that lost out was me. Having to use a wheelchair isn't horrific punishment. If you have chronic pain like me then it will make your life 10x easier. Yes a wheelchair can hold you back from some things and make life more complicated. Don't let it stop you living your life though and don't let anyone tell you that you need to make yourself more ill because walking in pain is better than using a chair. Wheelchairs can be great and aren't a prison. They offer freedom.


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