Wheelchairs equaling freedom?
It’s not something you’d expect to hear or see, that’s for sure.
Words more commonly associated with ‘wheelchair’ include things like ‘confined to’, ‘bound’, ‘disability’, ‘handicapped’ and many, many more. It fills you with images of limitation and suffering.
The general consensus is that being in a wheelchair is a state many of us try to avoid, and entering it for the first time can certainly bring about some negative thoughts. Friends and family begin to look at you with pity or denial, as do the general public for that matter. You associate it with a loss of ability, a loss of independence… Heck, even doctors and therapists, in their ignorance, try to talk you out of it.
Until you realise what you are GAINING.
You aren’t usually using a wheelchair if you are fully capable, that’s for sure. Maybe you have a problem with your legs, making walking impossible (or close to it). Maybe it’s a spinal issue, anything from paralysis to arthritis, once again affecting your ability to walk- either at all, or with comfort and safety. Maybe blood pressure or heart-related problems affect your ability to mobilise, and you need a more efficient method of getting around.
Once you have acknowledged these limitations and embraced your life in a chair- one thing you’ll feel an abundance of is freedom. Little things- being able to keep up with your friends out shopping, when previously you could barely walk 500 metres in a day. Being able to load the dishwasher, without worrying about repetitive strain. Going for ‘walks’ with loved ones. In my case even sitting hurts- but once I am wheeling around in my chair my pain levels reduce, and sitting static is helped by armrests. (Having a cushion on a chair with a combined value of more than most cars I’ve purchased probably helps too).
I started with a hospital issue folding aluminium chair… It gave me back my independence and freedom as long as I was somewhere relatively flat and open spaced! Before long I was craving an upgrade, however, and just recently I acquired my ex-demo ultra-light rigid chair. And now nearly every social media post I do has the word ‘freedom’ in it… Which didn’t strike me as odd until today!
Instead of images of limitation and suffering, I am imagining how I looked whizzing around the shopping centre with a big grin on my face, looking to purchase a ‘celebratory’ new shirt. I smile when I am in my chair because it provides me with hope, and it has given back so much of what my pain dared to take from me.
My wheelchair doesn’t confine me, it LIBERATES me.
(Photo taken by author)