2019 has definitely been a year of many escapades, but it has mostly been a year of change and learning. And a lot of kicking my own backside.
It wasn’t so much a case of not being able to ignore or downplay my disability any more, but rather a case of my disability constantly tripping me over and then kicking me while I was down. And then screaming in my face at the top of its lungs. Into a megaphone. While blowing an air horn. No more fingers in ears, it wasn’t going to be ignored any more.
Back in January, I started using mobility aids visibly for the first time. I’d spent most of 2018 debating them back and forth with myself, always coming up with the excuse that I “just wasn’t sick enough” to warrant using one, which is just nonsense looking back. I had a long talk with myself, and with my family, and around the New Year I purchased my first mobility aid; a mint green folding walking stick covered in cartoon cats.
The first time I ever used that walking stick, I had it folded up in my backpack. I was sat in a coffee shop with my partner. I’d been putting it off, until I realised just how tired and in pain I was. Out came the walking stick, and cue the curious stares from some of the other patrons. Up until this point, my disabilities had been very much invisible and I appeared able-bodied, including to everyone who knew me in general. Suddenly everything that I’d been masking and playing down was visible, like a flashing neon sign screaming YOUNG DISABLED PERSON above my head.
Little did I know at the time, that was the day my life really began. The first time I looked my disability in the face and accepted it as a part of me was when my world opened up. Accepting the use of mobility aids was one of the best things I ever could have done for myself.
It definitely wasn’t a smooth ride, and it took a lot of work to build my confidence and accept my mobility aids as an extension of myself. Little did I know it, mostly because I had forced it out of my mind and paid it no attention, my mobility needs had been rapidly changing since about early to mid 2018. This meant that by the time I finally accepted help with my mobility, my needs and abilities were changing fast and I had to adapt all over again.
Enter; the manual wheelchair.
At this point I was still downplaying my needs, accepting only the bare minimum level of help because I couldn’t justify needing anything more than that. My manual wheelchair is a basic out-of-the-box one-size-fits-most model, but it’s my valuable companion to hospital appointments. It’s an enormous help at allowing me to see the outside world a bit more, but I can’t self propel in it and have to rely on someone to be able to push me around. Still, I’m forever grateful for my set of pink wobbly wheels.
And now, here we are! Back in the summer I gained access to a folding basic powerchair, which you can catch up with in my latest powerchair update.
So, what’s next?
My main, and so far only, New Years resolution is to stop apologising for taking up space. This past year I’ve had so many public encounters that have made me wish that I could shrink myself down or disappear, and many of those times I ended up panicking and upset, escaping the premises as fast as humanly possible. I’ve been chased out of coffee shops, stepped over, run in to, shouted at, jammed onto buses, jammed OUT of buses, and I’ve had my fair share of arse cheeks in my face, but I will no longer allow myself to feel guilt or shame for taking up a space with my wheelchair. My mobility aids are a part of me and my personal space, and I have every right to exist in that space comfortably and with boundaries. Oh yeah, and a woman GRABBED MY HAND, without even addressing me, to look at my engagement ring, and then was surprised when I actually spoke. I forgot about that one.
There’s a few things I’d like to have a go at in 2020; with the right support I’d like to start going to the gym again, because that was always something I’ve really enjoyed. As soon as I’ve sorted myself out with an adapted routine and acquired a preloved active user manual chair, I’ll be going back and crushing skulls with my Wonder Woman thighs. I want to do a charity 5K in said wheelchair, and I’d also really like to have a crack at some wheelchair sports, especially wheelchair racing.
In terms of non-sporting activities, I’m determined to start making YouTube videos again, work on more illustrations, work on blogging, and just be generally creative. I took a big break from creativity this year and I’ve DEFINITELY got a lot to be catching up on.
What are your plans for 2020? Is there anything new you’d like to try, or anything you’d like to learn?
Wishing you a safe, comfortable, and restful new year!