Normalise using mobility aids
I am the worlds worst when it comes to having a positive outlook on using my mobility aids.
It’s been a definite love/hate relationship for me. Even 12 years into my illness I still have that battle.
One of the main things for me personally is the fact my illness is completely invisible to anyone. There’s no plaster casts on my ‘broken joints’. There’s no bruising or swelling visible. I don’t walk with a limp or have a missing limb.
So, to anyone that meets me I look like anyone else. Until they clock that I use a walking stick.
So when I meet people, quite often for the first time, I will be greeted with the usual comment ‘ Oh what have you done?’. Meaning I must have hurt my leg in some spectacular fashion and that I’m now going to tell you the full hilarious story!
Then ensues the hesitation. Do I say I’ve got M.E and Fibromyalgia knowing they really wont have a clue what that is. Or do I just go with the Hypermobility and explain that my joints can dislocate? Because we all know that as long as most people can relate to what you’re telling them then they’ll have at least a little understanding. Even if we haven’t experienced a broken bone or a dislocation we can assume how painful that could be as a possibility.
But to explain that my body hurts ALL of the time for no reason and that fatigue can be so overwhelming sometimes that I cannot hold my own bodyweight up long enough to make a cup of coffee. A normal brain isn’t set up to to understand constant, never ending pain. They can totally get the idea of short term or acute pain, for example a broken bone or appendicitis. Something they know to be extremely painful and that they can visualise that level of pain.
So, that leads me back to the whole reason I struggle with using my walking stick even now. I pre-empt what they will say and know I’ll opt for the easier reply. BUT I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO EVEN EXPERIENCE THAT OR EXPLAIN MYSELF!
I also don’t actually fall over if I don’t use my walking stick- shock horror. Which means if I am somewhere that I know I can sit down at any time my stick will be propped at my chair or with my belongings depending on where I am. If I’m going somewhere and I don’t know how long I will be standing for then my stick will be with me all of the time.
I think this can lead to the confusion of the ‘Does she really need it?’ YES I bloody well do and I shouldn’t have to explain that to anyone.
Don’t get me started on the types of mobility aids that are out there available to buy. Let’s just say there’s a lot of old lady style ones, and if that’s your bag then go for it. But when you’re not ‘old’ and I do NOT consider 50 to be old. Let alone start to even contemplate what teenagers and people in the 20’s and 30’s must think about the choices we have available to us. It’s kind of disgraceful that most mobility aids are generally hospital grey or white. It doesn’t give much space for any personality, and guess what………we ARE people with actual personalities!
I had a conversation with someone recently who said to me that if they had to use a walking stick for any reason they would find something completely fabulous and just flaunt it. That got me thinking about why I try to hide mine and it really does come down to confidence I think. I fear people’s automatic judgement of me when I have my walking stick. There, I’ve said it out loud.
It’s ridiculous but there it is. I hate the fact people can make a judgement on you, or how well you can do a job when they first see you with a walking stick or a wheelchair. Perhaps in an underlying way that shows in my own behaviour when I’m using my walking stick were I will automatically hide it out of the way, and I’m definitely working everyday on changing that.
I credit the changes in my thoughts to turning 50. I’m getting less tolerant of the bullshit and more comfortable with me as I am. We need to actively normalise using mobility aids if the mainstream attitude is to change in any way.
So, I started to google funky walking sticks and very recently I came across a company on Instagram ( targeted marketing at its best) called Neo-Walk and immediately loved their feed. It was full of beautiful, colourful, out of the ordinary, funky walking sticks. Within days I’d chosen and ordered one. I love it!
Their customer service answering my questions via DM’s was excellent and gave me total confidence in what I was buying. The delivery was incredibly fast once payment was properly sorted and it arrived very well packaged. I was so chuffed with it I made a reel on my IG feed if you want to check it out.
I love to shout out great independent businesses and this one is no exception. The founder uses mobility aids herself and totally understands the market and her customers needs.
My bubble stick, as I call it, will be my ‘going out stick’. The one I will use for events or nights out rather than my plain old beaten up black one that I like to hide in the corner. My youngest calls me Mr Glass ( if you know, you know!).
Normalising people young and old using mobility aids, whether that is walking sticks, crutches, rollators or wheelchairs is the only way mainstream attitudes will change. For me personally I need to work on how I ‘think’ people are judging me when maybe a lot of the time they’re not.
From now on I intend to take my bolshy 50 year old Irish attitude by the horns and flaunt my Mr Glass walking stick or any of my impending Neo-Walk collection………because believe me I will have a collection.
So please let me know if you have a LOVE or HATE relationship with your mobility aids and why.
Also whether you’ve discovered the wonderful world of Neo-Walk……..as I may well be VERY late to that party.