As a wheelchair user In a lot of ways my emotional challenges were probably typical of anyone with a disability who needed to use a wheelchair to continue with daily life. Although I was not completely immobile, the pain I suffered in my childhood was beyond anything I can put into words, so having a wheelchair was a large relief not just to my body but my mind too. Don’t get me wrong I definitely had my moments: stress, frustration and anger were not only my weakness,I became emotionally drained, but it was also my empowerment. I needed that frustration and anger to keep me going, screaming at my own body to move when I was seized up, and the agony that ensued for moving it.
I really had to train myself to accept help from family and friends, and try not to be so fiercely independent. Trying to do everything on my own was deep seated within me, I didn’t want to look weak, or behave differently from my classmates, so I tried my hardest to keep up and stay involved. Unfortunately children can be quite cruel, and on a number of occasions when my friends got annoyed that I walked so slow, and couldn’t run around, they would make fun of me, and more than once actually ran away from me. My temper and sadness got the better of me, I would shout after them horrible names for leaving me, but then break down and cry whilst hobbling home, knowing that I was different and they didn’t like me being disabled.
The emotional stages of fear, grief and denial I went through was extremely hard as a child, I once was a “normal” child, and then I wasn’t. I would rely on friends to push me around in my wheelchair especially when my arms and wrists got tired, but if they weren’t interested in helping because the novelty had worn off, I had to find a way to get home, or for the next week or so I wasn’t invited out to hang out, and because I depended on them for support, if I wasn’t invited, I had no option but to stay indoors, and find something else to do those evenings.
Due to the physical challenges it unfortunately impacted heavily on my emotional state, it was draining not just on me as a person, but everyone around me, and for those years of my childhood, they were harder to cope with than I would have ever imagined.
As a long cane user: My emotional state has definitely varied over the years since my sight loss began. In some ways it was similar to my emotional state when I was in a wheelchair but it dipped and progressed in lots of different ways. As I started to lose my sight I feared a lot for my future and became frequently angry over the lack o control, my late teenage years were particularly distressing because although I had accepted I couldn’t see as well as I used to, I was in denial that it could get worse, and exclaimed several times over the years I would take my own life if I ever lost my sight completely.
Because my sight deteriorated in stages it was in some ways easier to get a handle on it and adjust to my lack of vision, but because I knew exactly what I was losing I became far more angry and upset, and it all boiled down to the loss of control, and asking others for more and more help.
When I suddenly lost my remaining vision, it was a real blow. I went into the hospital knowing I would regain more sight, and waking up from my operation with nothing. The reason I say knowing was pure denial; my Surgeon, who was also my Professor, had done this more than once over the years, so even though I knew the risks I refused to believe there would be a bad outcome. After 24 hours I had light perception and a tiny pin prick of my old vision, that was what made me carry on with life, and realise things could be worse. I’ve still had my moments of ultimate distress, fear for my future, and grieve for what i’ve lost. But through the help of family, friends and a counsellor I now take each day as it comes, and see everyday as a new challenge to conquer! 🙂 🙂 🙂