Yesterday I wrote a little about how illness ages us prematurely, I only scrapped the surface as I was quite honestly getting tired so I had to wind it into a close. What I didn’t write yesterday was something I think is actually really important to all of us with any debilitating condition and it is our total appearance. I have seen it for more years that I care to mention, from a long time before I even had my belief confirmed, that all the aids produced for us, from walking stick onwards, are all in general incredibly ugly. I can honestly say that the first walking stick I was given was so bad that I didn’t use it as much as I should have and probably made things worse for myself. I know it has to do with vanity, but if we were all honest, every person who owns more than one mirror is vain. The reason I didn’t want to use it was simple, it was made of silver coloured metal, with a large grey handle and even larger grey rubber lump on the end to stop it slipping, it was thick and clumpy and the majority of people I had seen with a stick like that were mainly the elderly. Every time I picked it up, I instantly felt embarrassed by it, 30 years older than my age and even more conspicuous than I already was, almost as though I was slinging on a sign around my neck that simply said “Old and useless”. I have always been a person with a distinct style, I have also worn black from head to toe nearly all my adult life, that stick against the dark me, stood out like a sore thumb, but it wasn’t until I started to have problems gripping things that they changed it to a stick that my hand was cradled on the top of, by luck it totally black, but more importantly to it’s looks was the fact that it lighter, thinner and very sleek looking. I suddenly had something that I was happy to use and to be seen with, as it didn’t change me into someone else, it allowed me to still look like me.
It was even worse with my first wheelchair, it was horrendous and we only went out with it a couple of time. Who wants to be sat on a red plastic chair with four small wheels, which meant the only way to move it was when someone pushed me in it. Being pushed around in a chair is the perfect way of making you feel worse than anything their illness could do to them and yes I did experience people speaking to Adam and ignoring me, as I clearly wasn’t quite right if I needed to be looked after in that way. Eventually, my walking became so bad, that it was clear that I needed a chair to be able to go to work as having someone pushing me, just wasn’t possible. With my illness now progressed to a point that satisfied the NHS tick list, a chair was ordered for me, at the time nearly all chairs were black so that part was wonderful, but again it look less medical and far more an accessory, as it had again that modern sleek look and was something you would have seen anyone of any age who was disabled using, it didn’t turn me into something I wasn’t.
Two paragraphs about two items, both saying very much the same thing, the design of many of the items that are supposed to help us, acutely do the opposite. I know that some might say that we should be grateful for anything that helps, but that just isn’t the real world and I would challenge them to be grateful to being made to feel like a freak. Too many people already fall into depression due to chronic illness and I am almost certain that the so-called “aids” play their part in that process. We don’t need reminders that we are ill, our bodies manage to tell us that without any problem, having it thrust upon us every time we move, along with being made to feel that we are suddenly ageing at the speed of a rocket, really doesn’t help anyone. I have seen it many times on TV that when it comes to children, their aids are made to go with their age and style. I agree that children and adults are different, but inside, well we really aren’t, in fact I would say that style is something that anyone over the age of 10 understands fully, none of us would put on a piece of clothing that we hated and then go out to important date, interview or night out, so why should anyone be forced into using something so alien to them, that it actually could make their health worse.
I have said it on twitter several times that it is the little things in life that matter, if we think about it most would agree that the things that make them the happiest aren’t generally the most expensive or showy things in their lives, they are the small and the personal. It is something that time and time again, I honestly think the NHS miss, if there was anything that could have pushed me into depression, it is, in fact, the NHS itself that has come the closest. They have an extreme knack when it comes to making you feel worse, I was lucky in some ways as I could afford to buy the smaller aids myself and replace the ones they supplied, my wrist brace is a perfect example, theirs makes you hand sweat in second and isn’t really adjustable, £30 bought me the perfect brace that I could wear all day and looked a million time better and allowed me to continue working. If those of us with disabilities were made to feel better about ourselves, rather than worse, well I think it is clear what the results might be, more happy disabled people with the confidence to be part of the world, rather than hiding away swallowing loads of antidepressants. It’s not rocket science, just because we are disabled doesn’t change us into people who don’t care about how we look and how we are perceived, if I had been given the right stick I might have walked more, done more and been fitter and more able for longer. It might have slowed down the process that meant I needed a wheelchair but even that proves my point as when I got the right chair for me, when I went out and about by myself, being confident about my personal appearance and my mode of transport, made me feel great and I was treated just as I was before anything was visible to the world, I came home even more confident and more alive than when I went out.
These things matter, not just to me, but to everyone out there right now at the start of this whole thing, maintaining our happiness as we slowly lose our health could well make the whole process slower as well, with more being active for longer and if the importance of that isn’t clear then I suggest you read back through my blog as all the reason to stay as healthy as we can are all right here.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 18/10/12 – Sorting through the week