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Don't Be Ashamed of the Tools You Need to Function

Since I started writing about living with chronic illnesses, I’ve joined several communities, pages and support groups for different conditions. A comment I often see from those with chronic illnesses and other disabilities is how they feel ashamed for needing to use different devices and medications in order to live their lives. This upsets me because none of us should have to feel that way.

There are so many different conditions that make us need tools that aid in our quality of life. In addition to genetic disorders, there are complications from viruses, infections, degenerative disorders, injuries and a number of other ways one may come to need these things.

For many of us, the reality is we don’t have a choice. If we want to be able to function in our daily lives, we have to have help, because our bodies don’t cooperate like the average person’s. We have to get creative about how we accomplish simple tasks others don’t even have to think about. Sometimes, all the creativity in the world doesn’t give us the ability to do what is needed.

Those times are when we have to rely on medications, treatments, procedures or medical devices. People with better health even need them from time to time. My own first experience with this happened when I was a teenager and broke my foot. I had to wear a cast and use crutches. Some people weren’t so nice about it — we all know how teenagers can be — but I didn’t have a choice because I still had to go to school.

I didn’t think too much of the bigger picture back then. I’m still pretty lucky, considering the only medical devices I currently need are braces for a few joints and a pin in my foot — well, aside from the surgical clamps I evidently have hanging out inside me. I’m also fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) enough to be one of those people that can force themselves to move through extremely severe pain, even when it’s damaging. I feel lucky that I’m relatively mobile without the use of a wheelchair or scooter. I may very well get to where I need those things eventually, but not yet.

Like my father, who’s had to use a powered wheelchair to be mobile since he had a stroke at 71 years old. That man is the most dedicated, hard-working man I have ever seen in my entire life. He was in the Air Force, then served as law enforcement for a few years, then switched over to private investigation that led to him starting his own insurance agency that became an anchor of the community. He also served as a member of the Board of Education for our local school system for over 20 years. He worked every day of his life, except Sundays, in one form or another, and even drove himself to the hospital when he had the stroke. Yet, he still has to deal with people stereotyping him because he is in a wheelchair.

He doesn’t let it get to him because he’s about the most well-adjusted person on the planet, but I know others have a much harder time. On top of all the pain and symptoms of your conditions, you already deal with just about every negative emotion possible, from anger to feelings of worthlessness. If you’re someone who doesn’t have to fight your body every day, it’s probably pretty hard for you to imagine what it’s like, but just try for a minute.

Try to imagine not being able to ever go to sleep and wake up feeling rested. Imagine fairly bad pain you’ve felt. Now, picture it never leaving, and how it would start to eat at you, day in and day out. Think of the exhaustion that would set in. You know how you feel when you haven’t slept well, or at all, for few days? And the relief when you finally get some rest? Imagine never getting that feeling of relief, but always having that exhausted feeling. And on top of all of this — we also have life in general to deal with, the emotions about why our bodies just won’t work and then have people making us feel ashamed for having to use different devices, treatments and medications to attempt to get just a little bit of relief, or be able to still be mobile.

I’m sure you’d like to just say, “Well, they have to deal with those feelings themselves.” Yeah, but it’d be a whole lot easier if those who don’t go through these experiences would make it easier by accepting there is nothing wrong with the tools and resources we need. When you don’t feel like the whole world is judging you for being in your 30s with a cane, or having to use a wheelchair to go grocery shopping, it’s much easier to get over those feelings in your own mind.

For those of you struggling with using these devices and other resources to function in your daily lives — be proud. The fact that you’re out using these tools shows you are strong. Don’t have any negative feelings towards needing them just because society has led us to believe we should. They are wrong.

Getty image via stevanovicigor