I’ve been a paraplegic for nearly 18 months so you might think “how can you have learnt anything? you’re must still be getting you’re head around not walking!”, and yes if you think that you would be correct; i’m still coming to terms with the fact that I won’t walk again, I still wake up some mornings crying because I can’t move my legs and then i realise that its okay, they were like that when I went to bed. However, being a full time wheelchair user has taught be SO many things! The main reason for this post is to hopefully give people insight into how I’ve changed and also to help people who are new to the paraplegic life, to let them know what its REALLY like and what its taught me.
1. There are so many other disabled people out there. Now I obviously knew this before I was in a wheelchair, I didn’t think we were like a rare species of human or anything, I just think I’d not really noticed. Well clearly I wasn’t paying attention or maybe its because I’m now at the same height as a lot of wheelchair users, because I notice so many more disabled people (wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users). I’m telling you this because its made me realise how much disabled people discreetly stick together, the amount of times a fellow disabled person has held the lift for me or got the bus drivers to get the ramp out for me (seriously NCT bus drivers, you can stare at me all you like, I’m not getting on your bus unless you get the ramp down! I can’t just get up and walk onto the bus you know!) is incredible! Its like a secret sense of community, makes being disabled that little easier.
2. Its a lot harder than you think to push yourself. I’m going to admit it, before I was paralysed it always looked like so much fun! If someone had a wheelchair at school or there was just one in a supermarket, I would always want to get in it and try to do a wheelie. But now I’m a wheelchair user full time, its not so much fun; I mean yes my wheelchair is a really cool colour and I’m extremely grateful for having a lightweight chair because so many others get the NHS(other healthcare systems are available) ‘light-weight’ ones and trust me, they are NOT light weight. I always used to see wheelchair users with huge upper arm muscles and pushing themselves with ease, in reality they’ve probably been in a wheelchair most of their lives so of course its going to be easy for them, but after 18 months I still struggle getting to the top of a small hill without help! So don’t expect it to be easy pushing yourself if you’ve only just got into a chair.
3. Other people are so nosey. SO MANY PEOPLE WILL STARE! At first it really used to upset me because I was self conscious as it was, I didn’t need other people silently judging me for something that is out of my control. I understand most people are just curious, or in my case because I’m only 21 its people feeling sorry for me, but I really wish they wouldn’t constantly stare! I’m getting used to it now, I find that if I’m going out I to wear something that makes me feel pretty or do my makeup so I feel HOT; it tends to make me feel less self conscious and not really bothered why people are staring. As well as staring, people just walk up to me and say “why are you in a wheelchair?” to which I say “its due to a neurological condition, its left me a paraplegic”; I feel that this is all people need to know unless they’re friends or family, or reading this blog ;), but no random strangers feel its acceptable to ask really personal questions just so they can find out exactly how I got into my wheelchair. If you’re one of the people that do this, STOP.
4. It’s no longer the worst thing in the world if something simple goes wrong. Simply put, i’ve fought for my life and to be able to live the life I lead as independently as possible, I’ve beat the odds and I’m proud of that. So if my plans for the day get cancelled or they don’t have the dress I want in my size, its no longer the ‘worst day ever’, because trust me I’ve had my worst day ever and I survived! So I think I’ll survive having my plans cancelled, worse has happened.
5. A lot of your ‘friends’ don’t care. Now this might not apply to everyone, I bet there are people out there where all their friends have been amazing and there when needed; that however was not the case for me and many others. I’m not saying it was all my friends that upped and left, god no, in fact without my 2 best friends I think I’d of gone mad! Especially when Stuart’s at university, they have been amazing at making me feel ‘normal’; but a lot of people who I considered friends just wanted to meet up, find out the ‘wheelchair gossip’, and now they aren’t bothered and don’t care about me. I don’t know if they feel that I’m too much to cope with, too much hassle, or they just don’t know how to talk to me now my legs don’t work, but honestly I’m still the same I just can’t move my legs!
Being a paraplegic comes with so many more challenges than these, and its taught me so many more things but I think this post is long enough now! I hope this has helped to enlighten people on some of paraplegic life or helped some newbie wheelchair users on what wheelchair is REALLY like.
Speak to ya soon,