After a spinal cord injury, they tell you to get over the fact you use a wheelchair and get used to your life. This obviously is easier said than done, but it’s especially difficult when the whole world equates your wheelchair with everything the opposite you’re not trying to fight – dependency, inability and unhappiness.
The wheelchair – you gotta love how it can be the universal symbol of everything you don’t want it to mean. As a wheelchair-user, I’m sure it gets old. We can all relate.
The world sees our wheelchair and most people get sad, or they feel pity for us, and this is the last thing we need. We need to be surrounded by positive people, even positive strangers. Think of Richard Simmons, but this isn’t easy when all we get are pitiful vibes whenever we leave our front door.
Oh the wheelchair. No matter where we roll, we can’t get away from everything it silently communicates to the world. All of this wouldn’t bother me so much if I wasn’t still trying to achieve full self-acceptance. It’s like leaving your home and not realizing there’s strawberry jam on your face. Everybody is looking at you, but not saying anything.
This experience is especially pronounced whenever I’m at family events. I can see when I arrive, exiting my van and rolling on the lawn toward the festivities, the instant uncomfortableness I emanate. So many people I’m related to are even uncomfortable around me. They never knew me as a wheelchair-user growing up so even after 20 years of me needing a wheelchair, it’s still hard for them to get used to.
I can see it when it happens too. They see me, my wheelchair, and then I notice a slightly sad look cross their face. It kills me every time because I know there’s nothing I can do about it. The last thing I want to do is make feel sad when they see me, but the wheelchair does it everytime. It’s an instant Debbie downer.
Don’t get me wrong I do get it – it’s never easy seeing someone you love or care for use a wheelchair. I know many of them will never get used to seeing me this way. I just wish they could learn to get past it and not allow their base feelings to take over.
Let’s put it this way, it would be a joy to attend a family event and be greeted by genuine smiles, not a pity that hangs in the air. Maybe one day…it will finally happen.
What’s your trick for helping family members get past this?