A person with MS holds a cane as a mobility aid as lots of eyes float in the background.

Fear of Mobility Aids

Recently, while discussing my article about the fear of falling, it came to my attention that there is another source of consternation on the flip side of that subject. While the fear of falling can be very intense for some, concerns about using a mobility aid can cause an equal amount of fear and anxiety. For a number of reasons, taking the step of using a mobility aid can be extremely difficult for many who live with multiple sclerosis.

MS mobility aids and appearances

Let’s face it, having to use a mobility aid like a wheelchair, cane, walker, or even a brace, can be a blow to one’s sense of vanity. No matter how accepting we may be of others that use these forms of assistance, when we have to do it ourselves, it can create a sense of dread. Most people are concerned with their appearance and they fear what using a mobility aid will do to it. We may recall how we’ve probably thought about others when seeing them with those aids and realize that now, people will see us that way. Will they think less of me? Will they think I’m unattractive? Will they do that thing where they tilt their head in pity when they see me? Those are scary thoughts to most of us.

Have I progressed?

For many, appearances aren’t the main concern, it’s the admission that using a mobility aid signifies that is so troubling. If I need a device to get around, does that mean my disease is getting worse? Am I fighting a losing battle? If I need a cane now, how long before I’m in a wheelchair? Or am bedridden? Or dead? Starting to use your first mobility aid can feel like the beginning of the end for many people (it’s definitely not, but it sure feels that way at first). For some, it will really bring home the seriousness of their disease and force them to deal with it. It’s one thing to have the occasional exacerbation and recover, it’s easy to be dismissive of MS when that happens. Those exacerbations add up though and can lead to needing a full-time mobility aid. Having to use an aid is certainly a wake-up call that MS is a big deal.

I don’t really need an aid

MS has a knack for making people toughen up throughout their journey with the disease. That can lead to a lot of attitudes that make us think we know better than the doctor. We often feel we are strong enough to get by without a mobility aid. I am very much guilty of this and it’s a reason why I fall as much as I do. I’ve not only become stubborn, I’ve begun to feel kind of invincible at times, like I can handle anything with no extra help. After all, I’m so used to catching myself at the last moment or leaning on a wall for support when needed, that it’s easy to think I don’t need any extra help. I’m wrong, of course.

In reality, it’s liberating

All of the reasons I’ve suggested already make falling seem like not so bad a choice, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Falling is dangerous and we need to take advantage of everything at our disposal to prevent it. In addition to that, embracing the use of a mobility aid can actually be quite liberating. If you can get past the mental hurdles I’ve already brought up, you’ll find that using an aid opens up more of the world to us. We can go to more places because we can travel further and longer. In addition to that, using a mobility aid helps you to not feel so fatigued so quickly or harshly.

Regaining some of our independence

That last point, about fatigue, is really a selling point to me, and I’m sure to others as well. If we use a device to take some of the effort off of us, we get worn down less quickly. That “MS tax” the following day isn’t as high either. Using a mobility aid also makes us more independent and allows us to rely less on others.

Mobility aids give us more than they take away

So, I know it’s hard, from a mental standpoint, to use a mobility aid, however, if you are prescribed one, try hard to get past the self-imposed stigma for your own benefit. Working with a physical/occupational therapist to properly fit and show you how to use your aid can be a crucial step in adopting one, so be sure to check that out. After that, try to focus on what it is giving you, not what it is taking away!

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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