Accepting the Need for Mobility Assistance
Let’s face it, dealing with the changes to life that multiple sclerosis brings is hard enough but when the day comes that you may start having trouble with mobility those changes become even more difficult. It doesn't matter if you're a prideful man or a strong and independent woman, it’s hard to admit to yourself that you need a wheelchair or any other form of mobility assistance.
The first time I ever sat in a wheelchair
I (like many others, especially my age) was so prideful and stubborn at the beginning of my diagnosis. I kept pushing and pushing my way through the various deficits that arose until finally, one day, my mother and I were on our way to my neurologist’s office (I believe to receive my MRI results) and after making it from the parking lot to the front of the hospital I just stopped. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take one more agonizing step. I was so tired, fatigued, and my foot gave up on trying not to drag. My mother asked if she should grab a wheelchair but I just stood there… I didn’t want one, not one bit, but I couldn’t move. I had no choice – “Yes.” My mother grabbed a wheelchair from in front of the hospital building and that was the first (but far from last) time I had ever sat in a wheelchair.
Worried how people would perceive me
Fast forward a couple of years to my life in an inpatient physical rehabilitation hospital where I was bedridden upon my intake. It took weeks but I eventually was able to push myself around in a wheelchair for short distances and could even walk in a circle around the room with a walker and a physical therapist holding on to my hips. That 6-week experience really humbled me and by the time I could push myself around in a wheelchair I was so happy! I could get around without having to call someone to help me to the restroom! Get to my desk or porch I had instead of laying in bed for 8 hours waiting for someone to show up and help me around. Even still, once I was released back to public life, I worried about how people would perceive me. I hated that my ex-girlfriend (who was and still is a very close and dear friend to me) had to see me like that and help me get my wheelchair in and out of the car but still, she was a trooper and did everything to help even with her back pain.
Starting to use a cane
Eventually I worked my way out of the wheelchair with much walker practice around the house and started using a cane. When I was first practicing my walking with a cane in the safety of my home I used my late Grandmother’s (who most certainly had MS) adjustable aluminum cane and once I felt ready to venture out of the house without a wheelchair I ordered a wooden “Dr. House” replica cane from Fashionablecanes.com (where a lot of my MS friends bought theirs). If I was going to be seen walking around town with a cane I was going to look good!
Learning to accept mobility assistance
It was all very difficult at first but after thinking about it I realized that I would rather use a wheelchair or a cane to get out and see people or go places than worry about what people thought forcing me to remain in my room living life vicariously through other people on Facebook. I remember going to the Orange County Fair in SoCal with another friend of mine who had MS and we both had our wheelchairs and “designated drivers”. It was hard to let a girl see me like that and push me around in a wheelchair but did I have fun that night? Yes!
I could still experience life and feel independent
So it was the fact that I knew I could still experience life (so long as I swallowed my pride and used assistance) and the mentality that it was just a stepping stone. I made my way from being bedridden to being pushed around all limp in a wheelchair to pushing myself in a wheelchair, to taking a few steps with a walker and assistance to using a cane; in my mind, it was only a matter of time before I started walking again (despite my neurologist’s prediction). When I started using a cane I just owned it; I constantly thought of Dr. House and how he twirled his cane between his fingers all cool-like while he was thinking and I learned to do the same. I felt good; independent.
Too stubborn to let MS keep me in bed
So what I learned was that being stubborn can be both good and bad. Being too stubborn to accept that you need mobility assistance is bad. But being too stubborn to let MS keep you in bed? GOOD! Because I was just the right amount of stubborn at the right times, I am walking on my own again. Not great, maybe a little drunk-like sometimes, but still, on my own and one day, I WILL RUN AGAIN.
So ask yourself this; would you rather get out, see some of the world, smell the air, feel the breeze and hear the sounds of life? Or would you rather remain fearful of how people will look at you and remain in your bedroom to see only what your window and your computer allows you to?...
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We want to check in. How are you feeling?