First trip to the shops in my wheelchair (with power assist)

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So I’m home, victorious, and damn proud of myself.  I might even order myself the watch I’ve been coveting for almost a year now.  I did that effing well.

Not going to pretend it was easy. When I arrived there were plenty of disabled parks, and I was actually hoping there’d be none left, so I could keep driving, go home and have an excuse as to why I couldn’t do the wheelchair today.

Then I sat in the car for a solid 15 minutes feeling tearful and sick to my stomach.  I considered going in on foot.  Going straight to the wallet shop and straight back.  I could have walked that far. But that’s all I would have been able to do, and I wouldn’t have found the things I bought for the Chicklet and the other presents I bought for the Gamerboy.  It would have been a waste of time and effort, getting the wheelchair in the car, driving it out there and…not using it.  But I thought about it. For quite a long time, actually.

wheelchairIt is really hard dealing with all this shit.  Accepting that you are one of the small minority of RAers who need a wheelchair is tough.  Really tough. Especially when you have always been a fiercely independent person and never relied on anyone your whole adult life (largely because anyone I ever tried to rely on let me down.).

And having to deal with it ALONE is harder.  Please don’t take that personally, but it is true. Physically having someone to do the heavy lifting. Emotionally having someone to hold my hand and tell me I can do this. All of that would have been great. Would have made it a whole lot easier. Someone to shield the looks.  To act normal. To crack bad jokes and make me smile. Yeah, it would have helped a lot.

For the record, I know I have at least two lots of friends who would have come with me, had I asked.  I could have arranged to meet them sometime and they would have helped me with the chair, and with the emotional crap that I’m oh so good at (NOT!).  But I needed to do this myself.  I will have to do this by myself all the time now.  So I may as well get used to it.  Rip that band-aid off, so to speak.  And, truth be told, if I couldn’t do it, if I buckled and cried and had a melty like my Aspie mini-mes so often do, I didn’t want my friends to see that.  Truth is, I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go through with it. That’s how big a deal this was to me.

Anyway. After about 15 minutes I just stopped snivelling, got the chair out of the car, and wheeled to the elevator.  And that was that.  Just. Do it.

The hard part was rolling out of the elevator, thinking everyone was staring at me.  And a few people were.  A few people got in my way. A few kids nearly got their feet run over.  Keep left people!

But most people, the vast majority of people, were really helpful.  I kept my head down for the first five minutes, because I was sure the sky would fall.  Straight to the bag shop where the wallets are kept.  Immediately there was a sales person to help me. That’s never happened in that shop before.  She was lovely.  I bought a wallet for my son, and one for myself, because mine broke two days ago.

Had I been walking I would have been struggling to stand up by now, in horrible pain, and feeling pretty miserable.  Instead I wheeled over to the backpacks and found one I really like.  I didn’t buy it, because MONEY, but I made a note of the price, and we’ll see what its worth in the post-Christmas sales…

By now I was comfortable, not in much pain, even if my feet still have that numb and pins and needles thing going on at the same time, I didn’t have to walk on them, I knew I wasn’t going to fall, so it was OK. Shoulders aren’t thrilled about the wheeling motion, but the power assist cut in very well, and I rolled comfortably, adjusting course with the hand rims.  Even though may hands aren’t strong, it doesn’t take much on a slick, polished concrete floor. Very little effort.

I was starting to see the upsides…

Off to the geek store, the gamer store.  Bagged a few bargains for the Gamerboy and one or two for the Chicklet. Again, the store assistant fell over himself trying to help.  People really do try hard to help, and I think that’s lovely. Maybe in time I’ll get sick of it, as others in wheelchairs have written. I don’t know.  I felt grateful for their extra care, maybe because I was feeling pretty fragile to begin with.  Kindness goes a long way.

And then I did a lap.  Thought I may as well get comfortable.  In fact, I decided I wasn’t leaving until I WAS comfortable. This is part of my life now.  I will NOT cry in the parking lot over it ever again.

I couldn’t access my daughter’s favourite clothing store – too much crap everywhere, not enough room. No big deal, she has enough clothes.  I could get into the hair and makeup store where they have the hair extensions she loves. Nope, not on sale, so they stayed there.  But again, lovely young girl came straight to me to offer help, and move a display out of the way to ensure I could navigate the store easily.

I passed a T-shirt rack. Plain khaki (new favourite colour) and white tanks for $5.00.  Sold!  Browsed the store, which was nicely laid out with wide aisles.  Saw a very cute jacket, but not in my size. Can’t win them all.

I was stacking up a nice pile of purchases on my lap, however. I’ll have to figure that out.  A nice big backpack to hang on the back of the chair was suggested and sounds like a good plan.

Onwards to the tech store.  I really do need a new phone now.  My iPhone runs out of battery at about 3pm if I choose to actually USE it.  It’s time.  I know what I want, I should never have deserted Samsung-land (exploding Galaxy Notes notwithstanding).  But the phone I want was $200 more there than online, even though it’s ‘on sale’.  I think I deserve a treat, but I haven’t lost my mind.  Also, the checkout system is pretty stupid – winding line up area, and a really high counter.  No way can I buy anything easily there. Ever.  But again, a salesman was at my side seconds after I rolled across the threshold, asking me how he could help.

Incredible experience, really.  Loads of service.  Loads of help offered in every store I entered.

Lots of stares from the general public.  And I mean a lot. At first I was uncomfortable, then I reverted to type, and just smiled back.  Some people looked away, embarassed.  Most just smiled back.  Problem solved.

Had I been stubborn and decided to shop on foot, I would have bought my son a wallet. And gone home. And been ashamed of myself. I would have missed out on browsing, and buying all the other cool stuff I got my kids for Christmas.

I would have been in horrible pain and spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch.  Fatigue would have overwhelmed me, and I would have felt like I let myself down.

Instead, I picked my son up from school.  My daughter came home on the bus. We hung out and read their reports. (They rocked it).  We laughed at some of the things the teachers wrote, and they told me lots of stories about their day, and about the whole year.

We’re getting Chinese food tonight – treat dinner.  I CAN drive down there to get it, because I saved energy and pain by using the wheelchair today.

My shoulders and hands are very sore, particularly the shoulders.  The right one is pulling into my neck and I’m going to have to ice it again.  That’s a daily thing though.  Time to see my surgeon.  Booked in for January.  I’m still flaring all over, but I’m not worse. I can still do things.  I can still function through the pain. It’s not severe, except the shoulder and the lumbar spine.  But I can manage.

So I’m going to get myself a bottle of bubbles, because I am celebrating. I did a really hard thing today.  A really hard thing.  I don’t expect anyone to understand how incredibly hard that was for me, so I don’t expect anyone to congratulate me, or tell me how awesome I am.  But I know how hard it was, and so I will congratulate myself.  Give myself a great big pat on the back and a nice bottle of wine.  I deserve it.  I do wish I had someone to share it with, but that’s OK.

I did it myself, and it will never, ever be that hard again.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I absolutely do understand. It’s like a defeat, like you aren’t strong enough. But you know what? A wheelchair is just a tool. You don’t expect to be able to open tin cans with your fingers. You need a tool, a can opener.
    Using this tool is going to make your life better and easier. Go for it.

  2. Well done for rocking it Neen! That first time is the hardest, you feel so ‘exposed’ I guess, but it does make life easier in the long run, saves energy and eliminates that extra pain. I’ve pimped mine out with Walking Dead stickers, to make it really mine. Enjoy the Chinese and wine!

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