“If you can walk, why are you in a wheelchair?”
“You shouldn’t be using your wheelchair, you can walk.”
“Aren’t you worried that if people who actually need a wheelchair find out that you really don’t than they’ll think you’re an imposter.”
This is just a short list of things people have said to me in regards to my mobility. Typically I don’t know how to best respond to these statements, but I’ll do it now, in the hopes that my thoughts are clearer written than spoken.
—The majority of wheelchair users can in fact walk, to varying to degrees. I can’t speak for all wheelchair users so I won’t. A symptom of CP is muscle fatigue which happens more quickly and lasts longer than the average person. Using a wheelchair for longer (or unknown) distances helps combat this.
—Even if you know the person in question, who elected you judge and jury over a life that’s not yours? When you can actually try living in the body of someone with CP then you can have input.
—See above paragraphs. As to whether the people who “actually need” a wheelchair will think I’m an imposter; really? I really don’t think people have time to invest in shutting someone out based on a judgment, which is probably incorrect in the first place. The disability community isn’t a secret society with rules and regulations and shunning practices that need to be infiltrated.
Whether or not to use a wheelchair is a personal choice for those with higher functioning CP so I can’t speak for everyone. I can however speak for myself. It’s one of the best parts of having a blog.
I waited a long time for a wheelchair that I could call my own. It wasn’t a decision I came to quickly because it took well over a decade to accomplish, nevertheless it’s not a decision that you should make quickly (if you can help it).
For years I suffered with chronic back pain. Even when it was at its lowest level it wouldn’t take long before the headache would occur as well. I tried to ignore the problem but it didn’t take long before pain control patches and stashes of “back up meds” became a daily thing. College (for example) was a really great time in my life but I doubt I did anything positive for my health back then, in fact I wonder if some of the decisions I made then will affect me later on.
I don’t always use my wheelchair when I should, and the same goes for when I shouldn’t. Each experience is a judgment call; with each decision I learn more about my own mobility. Looking back, I wish I had a wheelchair in college. It would’ve helped me out a lot. Then again I’m not sure I would’ve used it.
I do own a pair of crutches. I prefer not to use them. A lot of people will use them before turning to a chair but it’s not for me. My balance isn’t great & I come from a uniquely coordinated family as is. Crutches cause me to trip a lot, I trip, others trip over my crutches, which causes me to trip. It’s like a cat on a freshly cleaned kitchen floor.
Using a wheelchair is a safer option.
Crutches help with the back pain, but only to a point. There comes a time when using crutches becomes just as tiring as using just my own two feet. Sometimes it’s easier to just take the chair than pack everything up and head out the door.
Speaking from my own experience I find that people are more accepting of people in wheelchair than people who use other assistive devices, especially if you’re younger. I don’t know what it is but I get treated better using a wheelchair than crutches. I know it sounds like a cop out but sometimes it’s better to take the “easy” way, especially in situations when there can be unknowns.
I wish I didn’t have to decide whether or not to use a wheelchair but it’s part of my life. I really wouldn’t have it any other way, because I’ve known no other way.
*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 11, 2013