Last night, I realised I had overdone it. I hobbled back to the bed, sat down, pulled myself up to the bedhead with just my arms working (using legs and stomach muscles hurts too much) and, with shaking hands, found and took a tramadol. Lying there, talking to the Dutchman, I just breathed and hoped it would go away soon. It hurt so much.
Thing is, I spent a week in a wheelchair when I went to the Netherlands to see him. I also used a cane to get around and had to do a lot of sleeping the first two days because moving about was incredibly painful and difficult.
The last time I was in this much pain was when I broke my back in 2012. On holiday in America in 2013, I needed to use a wheelchair for the last part of the day in Universal Studios. I remember being pushed past hundreds of people, and feeling like I was going to be in the wheelchair forever. It was so hard to eat, because I was in so much pain. I felt exhausted and slept for most of the next day.
Since then, I have developed a fear of being in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Me, 26. The others are worried but not terrified.
That experience in Universal Studios taught me something. I watched people’s faces crease in pity for me, and I had small children stare. I think a lot of them were staring in horror. I look younger than I am. Wheelchairs are for old people, right!? Why is that girl in one!?
The cyst is still there. I’m still in pain, but maybe I get an end to this at some point.
Someone with a permanent, chronic illness does not.
Through being in a wheelchair, I’ve gained a small insight into what it must be like to be permanently in one. What it must be like to be perfectly mentally capable, but have someone stare over your head and ask whoever’s pushing you if you wanted chips or rice with your meal. What must it be like to have someone glare at you when you weakly stand, legs wobbling, to go and use the disabled bathroom- you can stand, surely you’re a fraud! The look on one woman’s face as she sees you laughing with your family and fiancé at your fit, able sister’s amusing antics, because YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR, and you’re young. Why are you not walking!? Lazy cow.
I have it lucky. I can only assume at some point, I will be able to walk properly, to run again, to go to the gym and to actually not be in pain when I eat or go to the bathroom. That will happen for me.
However, for a lot of people out there…
This is their reality.
There are hundreds, thousands of people across the globe who can’t get out of bed in the morning without a carer, friend, or partner to help them. There are hundreds of people who look at the entrance to a building and feel defeated, because they can’t get their chair up those steps. There are people every day who have to patiently explain to intolerant assholes that actually, they have MS, and whilst they can walk a little, they can’t walk the distance through an airport the size of a large shopping centre without collapsing at some point.
To anyone with any sort of disability, I’ve been put in your shoes two times now, and, as a usually able-bodied person… I apologise.
Society treats you like second-class citizens. It does not hold doors, build ramps, or ask the right questions. It favours those who can just run back into the shop for that item they forgot. It favours those who look and present as normal, and that’s not good enough.
I apologise for the way people speak about those with disabilities. We are selfish and cruel. We do not ask you what you want or how you feel.
I apologise for the governments who refuse to admit that they do not do enough to help you. There’s few provisions for your physical health and wellbeing, let alone mental health. I am sorry we continue to elect these assholes.
I’m also sorry for how society tried to teach me that somehow, your disability was your fault. I saw examples of shunning and shaming and, luckily, had parents who were good at teaching me that this behaviour was wrong. I grew up with children in the playground who would insult someone with disableist slurs, and learned not to say anything.
I’m sorry I never understood better.
Trust me, now I will say something.
I am, however, lucky that I have been around parents who wanted to teach me right. I am lucky that they hate discrimination and prejudice. My aunt who has ME is in a wheelchair for we need to go somewhere that requires her to walk a long distance, and I’ve watched her own situations where she could have been really upset. Instead, she’s flipped them on their heads and demonstrated that she can boss this situation.
I promise I will speak up whenever I see an idiot in a disabled parking space. I promise to always address the person in the wheelchair. I promise to get angry when someone blocks the access ramp with a badly-placed item.
Most of all? I promise to listen.