I came across an article recently written by Virali Modi on Slate.com outlining some of her experiences about being in a wheelchair. I know that I’ve explained why I’m in a wheelchair, how I think slightly differently as a result, and how it affects my daily living but what I don’t feel I’ve explained well enough is how my being in a wheelchair makes me feel different… in good ways and bad.
As with anything, the wheelchair has its ups and its downs. In my previous post, Just How Much Does the Wheelchair Affect my Daily Living?, I told you that the wheelchair is something I don’t consciously think about that often and that I often ‘see’ myself as standing until there is something that makes it obvious to me (like a bookshelf being too high). While all of that is true, I have become more aware of other little things that I realise behave slightly differently as a result of the chair since I published that article. Since I designed the blog to be a medium for me to express my opinions and experiences on life with a disability, I feel I should provide an update to the original article. So here goes…
1. I’m always seated
Although I’ve been disabled for my entire life, the wheelchair has only been part of my life for the past five or so years. Even when I wasn’t in a wheelchair, though, the nature of how I ‘walked’ was largely based on ‘hanging’ from my arms. In other words, I never truly stood. While I never stood properly (in the sense of weight-bearing through my feet and legs) I was still verticle.
Now some years down the line of being in a wheelchair, I still find myself using words like ‘walking’ or ‘standing’ when referring to what I’m doing. It’s just part of my vocabulary and I don’t notice myself using it until the person I’m talking to has a decidedly puzzled look on their face. Once the initial confusion subsides, however, they don’t seem to mind it too much.
Something that has been playing around in my mind in the last couple of days in particular: emotional coping mechanisms. I’m not entirely sure why. Sure, everyone has their own proverbial emotional rollercoaster that takes them through the highs and lows of their lives and, for the most part, it’s not a bad thing. Hell, if nothing else it keeps life interesting.
What made me start thinking ’emotional coping mechanisms’ specifically I cannot say. Perhaps, weirdly, I’ve been feeling somewhat contemplative over the last couple of days. Reasons for this train of thought aside, I thought I could discuss one particular coping mechanism that I use to get through the more ‘entertaining’ parts of my rollercoaster. I know that this trick works for me and I also know that it is one of the relatively common ones. That said, not all of these will ‘gel’ with everyone.
Anyway, down to business…
This is perhaps one of the earliest and longest lasting of my ‘tools.’ I started my first journal on my thirteenth birthday. While I haven’t been straining to write in my journal every single day, I find myself gravitating towards it on a semi-regular basis.
Now going into the eighth year of a relationship with journaling, I found the reasoning behind my journaling has taken several forms and I seem to regularly change its raison d’étre. For instance, I still remember the reason I first decided to start journaling in the first place: I wanted to join history.
This is something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while but have never really got around to it until now. I guess there’s no time like the present so… why not now?
On 24 May 2011, I went into the Operating Theatre to undergo a several-hour surgery that (in theory) would make walking easier and correct the slight leg-length discrepancy. Several years later, I can say that the goal of the operation had been achieved but sometimes I wonder whether it was worth it given the Nightmare I went through. Yes, the operation seemed straightforward enough on paper but, in hindsight, there were several things that could have gone better.
After coming out of the surgery I was high on pain medication (as you’d expect) but within an hour or so I realised that I was far from high enough. As my doctors’ knew I had spasmed in a fashion that is not too dissimilar to those of a child’s growing pains. That notwithstanding, they decided that I should be in hip-to-toe casts on both legs. Completely forgetting that spasms were triggered by stress, I launched into a spasm down the length of both legs for about 2 hours. Stopping it would have been simple enough: (1) break them physically like growing pains, or (2) medication to stop the spasm. Obviously, option 1 was a no-go and nor was option 2 as the medication, apparently “severally lower my oxygen levels” so they were reluctant to give me the aforesaid ‘lifesavers’.
I’m actually a little surprised with the traffic that’s been coming here. The Disability Diaries hasn’t been running very long in real terms but I’ve been in and out of the Blogosphere since my early-teens if memory serves. That said, it was only recently with the establishment of The Disability Diaries that I have felt a true, lasting relationship begin to form.
If I’m honest, one of the earliest things I remember on the subject was just wanting a space to write. Writing short stories and things like that never really interested me though. I’m not that type of person. I don’t think that I’m particularly imaginative when it comes to cooking up a story, expanding on it, and maintaining it over time. I’m far better with non-fiction writing. ‘The Blog’ seemed like a good idea at the time as it was a space that could be my own but, at the same time, not so private that I felt no one would read it.
While I blogging has been something I’d periodically get into and drop out of, it feels different with The Disability Diaries. Somehow it feels like it better portrays me as a person. This is most probably due to the fact that I am coming more into my own as a writer and becoming more confident in writing. There is no doubt that I find myself being far more confident in my writing ability in the last couple of years or so but I think knowing people are willing to read it inspires me to continue.
As I’ve said in a few other posts on this blog, I was born with a physical disability and have spent my entire life having to use some kind of mobility device. At no point in my life have I been entirely ‘normal’ and experienced life from a ‘non-disabled perspective’. Although I’ve peppered details of what my life is like, I don’t think, I have sat down and given you a comprehensive, all-in-one explanation of how I view this topic. I plan on rectifying that now. To make this a little easier to write and, no doubt easier to read, I’m going to structure it around 3 questions.