When I Realized My Mental and Physical Health Were of Equal Importance
A few months ago the pain in my hips started to get more intense. There were days I could barely walk without help. My hip was moving out of place a lot, causing me to fall often. I knew I needed something to help.
I spoke to one of my doctors inquiring about a cane. I wasn’t sure if it would help or hinder. He agreed it would be a good idea, so I got one. Then came the new challenge of getting comfortable using it.
At first I would only use it around the house and when I had bad days, I just wouldn’t go out to places where I had to walk. I was embarrassed and scared about the reactions I would get as a seemingly healthy 19 year old using a cane. Then it came time for me to go out of town with the forensics team I help coach on. We were going to the Bay Area for three day,s which meant both a lot of walking and a lot of time in the car – two things that aggravate my pain. I decided that, for the first time, I would bring my cane out in public with me.
I had a lot of fun on that trip. I loved getting to go with my team and spend time with friends, however, from a health standpoint that trip was miserable. I didn’t have any pain medication at the time that was working for me. I also did not use my cane in situations where I should have. I was scared of other people’s reaction for me using it part of the time and walking normal part of the time. Because I couldn’t get over myself, it stayed folded up in my bag most of the trip.
It wasn’t until the very last day when I broke it out. At that point I literally could not walk any farther. I was fighting to keep the tears away so my team wouldn’t know how much pain I was really in. I sat outside on a bench when they went into the museum and I sat in the car when they went to the thrift store because I could not go any further.
Because I had not been able to get over my pride the first two days and actually use my cane when I needed it, by the third day I couldn’t hardly walk any farther with it.
When I was sitting outside the museum I texted a friend of mine. She made me understand that the same way I am comfortable advocating for my mental health needs, I need to do the same with my physical health. It’s no different. She was right. I can’t let fear of what other people think keep me from doing things that could help myself.
After that trip I started to use my cane more. I didn’t use it everyday, but on the days I needed it I took it with me. At my doctors request I ended up using crutches for a few months around my college campus because of all the walking I had to do. I’ve recently taken myself off of those as I’m training my dog, Jenny, for mobility work. On the bad days, though, I’ll still use my cane.
I’m no longer afraid of reactions I’ll get around school or in public. The only place I don’t take my cane is church. I still have not fully gotten over that uneasiness. However, that is just my own fears and doubts getting in the way.
Starting to use a cane when I’m only 19 was rough for me, but I realized that I can’t worry about what other people think, I can’t worry about where I thought I would be at this point in my life, and I can’t worry about what this might mean for me long-term. No one knows what the future holds.
For right now I’m going to use my cane if I need it, and I’m going to remember that just like advocating for my mental health is important, so is my physical health.
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