Most people are afraid of death, but for people with disabilities….not so much. I don’t know about you but as someone with a disability, I have plenty of other fear-inducing things to worry about. And it’s hard not to let these fears come into play. When you rely on so many factors outside of yourself to live independently – a working wheelchair, people showing up and something as simple (but really important) as electricity – it’s hard not to feel vulnerable. And vulnerability, I believe, can be one of the scariest things about living with a disability.
When you’re disabled, you’re usually not as physically apt as an able-bodied person, and if you’re looking at this from the “Animal Kingdom” standpoint, you know this puts you in a vulnerable position. And because of this vulnerability, I’ve had some really scary things happen. One of the first situations I was in was when my wheelchair tires suddenly popped, leaving me stranded in our backyard (slippery grass and no cell phone didn’t help). In an instant, I went from a rolling tank to a sitting duck. This sense of vulnerability was a new thing for me, and it scared the bejeezus out of me.
A few years later I found myself stuck in bed with no electricity. The power had gone out while I was sleeping, leaving me unable to call anyone when I woke up (I only had my landline phone with me, again, many years ago). And I had a new caregiver at the time. Since I didn’t answer to buzz her in, she just left, leaving me stuck in bed for 24 hours until my mother (thank god for parental sixth sense) called my building’s security to check on me. This was one of the scariest situations of my life (next to drowning when I broke my neck). No water, no food, yelling for help and no one answers, putting yourself on the ground to crawl for help only to realize you can’t crawl, yeah not pretty.
I could also tell you about the time when I was in my minivan. I parked and was backing up from the wheel when my body decided to go into a huge spasm, throwing me out of my chair onto the floor of my hot van, windows up (unfortunately) and yelling for help (also to no avail), but…I think you get the picture. As disabled folks, we’re prone to big time risky situations. I’ve found if we’re prepared for the worst (which will inevitably happen no matter how careful we are), the way we deal with these lingering fears will be that much better.
For me, I have to try really hard to resist the urge to go into panic attack mode whenever one of these things happens, but if you remain calm, I’ve found usually awesome things come about. When I dumped a cup of water onto my joystick a few months ago, leaving me stranded in my kitchen unable to drive my chair or call for help (or so I thought), I couldn’t believe it was happening. “I hate my life,” I thought. And then I realized I put my other phone, my cell phone, in my wheelchair’s side pocket. Thank God, thank God. I called for help, my friend came to blow dry my joystick and somehow it all came together; crisis averted.
No letting our fears overtake us is a lifelong battle people with disabilities all must face (no one likes to be vulnerable), but remember, having a cell phone on you is one of the best things you can do to make sure you stay as safe as possible. It’s up to you to make sure you don’t let your fears be the master of your life. Sure, we have legitimate reasons to be more on edge of possible crises, but that’s ok. Life goes on and so must we.
Have you ever let your fears hold you back as a disabled person?