What I Remind Myself When I Feel Trapped By My Disability

I have been using a wheelchair since I was 4 years old. Mom often recounts the memory of me walking back and forth in my playpen while both my legs were in casts. “Remember that?” she asks, and always have to tell her “no, I don’t.” It’s nice that my mom and dad have those memories, but all I remember are my numerous wheelchairs.

I have had many mixed emotions and feelings about the relationship between my wheelchair and myself over the years. Yes, you heard me right, I said I am in a relationship with my chair. And no, it’s not the kind of relationship where TLC’s “Strange Addictions” will be calling me asking me to be on an episode of their show. But it has definitely been and still is at times a love/hate kind of relationship. If you think about it, aside from the relationships with our families, our wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, AFO’s etc. have all been with us throughout a substantial part of our lives. So why wouldn’t they be a part of the overall relationship we have with our disability or disabilities?

Just like anything that is with you day in and day out, you can have a moment where you just hate it altogether. And the equipment we use often sees the brunt of all that. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried, screamed, and swore at my chair simply because I was fed up with struggling that particular day at transferring onto the toilet. Or my hips and legs were going into spasms because I was leaning over too long in my chair trying to pick something up off the floor that not even my grabber was successful at getting for me.

There have even been days where I have felt more trapped than mobile being in my chair. On days like that, I have pictured myself just getting up and standing in front of or to the side of the sitting me, stretching out, and walking around like it’s just another ordinary day. And there are bad days when all I  want to do is toss the damn wheelchair out the nearest door or window, my way of saying,“screw you, CP.”

I have to remember in these moments of pain, frustration, anger, or even fear that I am stronger than any moment of weakness or emotional breakdown. I have to remind myself that I am human. That moments and days like that are going to occur whether I am sitting in a wheelchair or not. That this happens to everyone, regardless of their personal circumstances. Everyone has to deal with something, and my CP makes me no different than the person beside me going through something. The only difference is that I may have to make more room for adjustments and improvements to make the situation more accessible to me.

I think about how many people with and without disabilities have a shared desire to make the world more accessible for everyone to grow and thrive. That is the key thing I remember when my chair feels more like a trap than a way of transportation for me, a tool. Tools help build and improve upon something to make it better. And there is no better example of that than a person with a disability or disabilities using the mobility equipment they need.

So when you’re feeling trapped by your disability, remember the equipment you need and the unique abilities you have within give you an advantage, not a disadvantage to show the world what you are capable of accomplishing. The only one truly “trapping” you is you.

Getty image by Halfpoint.

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