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When I Had to Choose Between Pain and Freedom

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“Thank you babe, for getting this darn walker out of the car!” I tell my boyfriend as I unfold my walker in front of me.

It was a warm, sunny, Sunday afternoon, and we had just left a long day at church. When we stopped at a local store because I was out of food, I saw the long walk to the front of the store from my handicapped parking spot, and sighed.

When I got to the front of the store, I was already tired out and we still had to shop. So I hobbled into the store with my boyfriend leading the way with the basket.

I have autoimmune diseases that are taking a lot from me — quickly. They’re also giving me things I really don’t want, like unimaginable and horrific pain, sleepless nights and days spent in bed.

I was able to go five minutes without pain. It came on quick and suddenly. My knees buckled, my breath was stolen from my body, my teeth clenched and my eyes watered. I bit my tongue and continued walking. I was determined to get the things I needed. I tried to hide the pain like I usually do — I hate when my boyfriend sees me in pain. But the mask came off quickly and in a loving way, he told me to sit and that he’d help me retrieve what I needed.

This is normalcy for my boyfriend and I. My walker doesn’t help me and the pain only stops when I sit. It’s hard on both of us and cuts our dates and fun times short. I don’t want to have my fun days stopped.

Later that night, I went home and thought about getting a wheelchair. I had been thinking of asking for a while now. I cried and asked myself why me? Getting a chair can be scary, and there are so many things to consider. I thought, what if they stare? What if they call me names? What about the judgment? I was afraid others would think this meant I was “giving up.” Is it worth it? I asked myself the same questions over and over again.

I eventually realized people’s opinions don’t matter, and if they wanted to stare, that’s their issue. If this would get me out and about, if this would give me some freedom, why not? My original worries grew and developed from society’s fear of those who are different. People tend to hate on anyone they can’t understand. Society makes people like me doubt themselves. Society tells me that because I can walk, I do not need a wheelchair. It’s funny how society is usually the reason many people become like myself: waiting until the last moment to get what they need.

Against what society wishes, but in agreement with my family and friends, I decided to listen to my sister and boyfriend and asked for a wheelchair. It was scary, nerve wracking and extremely hard to admit I needed it, but my doctor was amazing and thought I needed it as well.

As a society, we must change our thinking. Not all illnesses are visible, and we shouldn’t hesitate to get the support we need.

Originally published: September 10, 2016
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