When I awoke from my ankle replacement surgery, besides being in a fog, I knew that my life would change.
While knowing that I would be in a wheelchair, I did not realize the lessons that were headed my way. The experience changed how I view and perceive individuals who rely on wheelchairs every day. This recovery process allowed me to view the world from a different perspective and gain a small glimpse into their daily struggles.
While I discussed societal isms and their impact on recovery, I never really talked about how physical challenges like being in a wheelchair or using other mobility devices, such as a walker or cane, can affect one’s recovery.
I can now do so with a small amount of first-hand experience.
Using various mobility devices through my recovery has made me aware of additional challenges that some individuals face on a daily basis. Needing to rely on a tool to do something that most of us take for granted every day, like walking, adds additional obstacles that the majority of individuals never even think about.
I want you to imagine relying on a wheelchair and entering a building that does not have the necessary accommodations, such as an elevator, electric doors, or even a door frame that is wide enough to fit your wheels through it.
I want you to also picture struggling through a shopping mall with your cane when unsupervised kids who are running wild almost run into you or nearly cause you to trip and fall.
Think about going out to eat with your family, but all of the handicap spaces are taken, so you have to park further away and struggle to get to the restaurant in poor weather. While eating you look out the window and see a perfectly healthy looking family of four park in a handicap spot and walk right into the restaurant.
Using mobility items has also shown me how some people do not have the proper compassion or necessary insight to be thoughtful when they encounter someone who is using a wheelchair.
I wish I could say that this experience allowed me to see the good in others, unfortunately it hasn’t. It cannot be painted with pretty descriptive words that describe a society that is equipped to understand a world filled with courtesy, common politeness and empathy.
Rather, our society is an “always on the go and put yourself before others” society. Many people have become so caught up in their world, that they don’t take time to hold the door for one another, let-a-lone hold it for someone who is struggling to get around.
I can only imagine what life is like being a wheelchair on a permanent basis.
I could go on about all of my negative experiences but it would counterproductive.
So this leads me to think, “How do these challenges affect one’s recovery?”
Being in recovery alone is challenging, but having to integrate a mobility concern adds many additional challenges.
We all know that life is not fair and I know personally how difficult it can be to integrate other subcultures that encounter discrimination or lack of understanding of who I actually am.
Being in recovery and having a secondary challenge is, at times, difficult to manage.
While I know that others have learned to cope with these additional challenges, I have not.
I was only in a wheelchair for a brief amount of time, and it added many obstacles to my daily routine. When someone has an accident or is born with a disease that leaves them to rely on a wheelchair for the rest of their life, they must find ways to adapt permanently.
After an accident, many paraplegics and quadriplegics must learn how to completely change tasks they’ve been completing since they were two. Without the use of their legs, paraplegics must learn how to use a transfer board to slide from their bed or the car to their chair, adding difficulty to every morning routine or any basic trip outside the house. Some individuals may be able to use their arms but not their hands, so they use a special cuff to hold their utensils so they can eat or write.
The advocacy/educator part of me wants to help people “get in the know” and have more understanding.
It is often easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and struggles, but we need to walk out of the door each morning realizing that every single person we interact with has his or her own challenges as well. We must learn to be more compassionate with everyone around us, strangers and friends, because we don’t know what obstacles they are facing that day. We need to realize that just because someone looks okay, it doesn’t mean they are and we need to be more aware of those around us who are facing every day challenges.
I just received news that I will be in a wheelchair again, due to more complications with my ankle. While I am not looking forward to it, I will be going into this recovery process much more educated than last time. I’m also grateful to have experienced this challenge because I have learned a lot and have a better understanding of individuals who rely on mobility devices.
Your partner in recovery,