How I'm Working Towards Acceptance of My Chronic Illness and Mobility Aids

I talk about my disabilities a lot; it’s hard not to when they affect every second of your life. Today, I’m going to zone in on something I struggle hugely with: self-image.

You see, being sick with invisible illness can lead to a very big hit to your self-esteem. To the outside world, you don’t look like you’re struggling. They have no idea of your inner turmoil, of the battle you face every day. It’s easy to look in the mirror and forget you’re sick, even if it’s only for a second. I’d do anything to be as healthy as I look, but soon the mirror starts to crack. You start to see the flaws, the story behind every mark on your body. You know all the hidden meanings behind every curve, and what symptom they each represent. It’s all a part of your story; some things showing what you have beaten, and others which are still dragging you down.

It’s hard. Complicated. A messy combination of looking able-bodied, when your mind and body are falling apart.

It can take a toll on your mental health. If I’m being blunt, becoming sick has made me far more body-conscious than I used to be. Particularly in the last year, it’s been hard to accept the rapid weight gain from upping the anti-depressants I take for my generalized anxiety disorder. The magic blue pills stabilize me, but at what cost? Most of my clothes no longer fit me, so instead I have to decide between keeping them around just in case, or accepting my fate.

Mobility aids completely shatter the mirror. Suddenly, you can no longer pretend you’re “normal.” You must face up to reality. You must accept you’re disabled. Using mobility aids can bring new challenges. Have you tried to do a quick grocery trip on crutches, or coordinate opening a door without dropping your brew or your walking stick?

Buying a mobility aid is an investment into your quality of life. I bought my first mobility aid – a mobility scooter – just over two years ago, and since then I’ve gone through crutches, a walking stick, a manual wheelchair, and now a power wheelchair. They’ve all changed my life in unique ways, but equally every one has come with consequences. People often don’t expect a 23-year-old to need these things. I’ve tried to adjust in my quirky manner, which admittedly results in wacky, colorful designs.

The thing I’ve struggled with the most is the odd glimpse of myself in the mirror. In my head, I still look like the able-bodied gal from four years ago. Adding a bright aid turns me into a completely different person. It’s… confusing. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself.

I adore my power chair, I do, but for all the freedom it gives me, I might as well be wearing a neon banana costume. I look different from everyone else, and even from myself. While I openly deal with it by being a tad cocky, inside I’m battling my anxiety. I try to own the situation, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Using a chair means I have more energy and less pain, but it also triggers my self-doubt. Essentially, my inner dialogue is “Mean Girls” by now. If I can’t cope with how I look, how will anyone else be able to? Blah blah blah, you get the picture.

All these things said, I’m working on being better. Self-acceptance plays an important part in recovery. Every time I have a doubt, I try to train myself out of the negativity. Yes, I look different these days. No, it’s not even remotely close to how I thought my life would pan out. I have my bad days, but I’m still alive and kicking.

Follow this journey on Having a Natter With Nikii.

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