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When I Realized I Needed a Walking Stick at Age 22

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It is a scary and isolating place to be in when your health starts to decline, especially when your life has only just begun. Only last year I was able to go out, work and live a relatively normal life without pain and fatigue, simple thing I took for granted. Now I have an illness that makes getting out of bed feel like an accomplishment (and sometimes the only one). More often than not I find it quite painful to walk, and even trips that are relatively short I find quite strenuous and find myself crashing as soon as I get home. And then there was the moment that I realized that the only thing that would help me get around would be a… walking stick. Yes, even the words themselves scared me. My mind went into overload and I just didn’t want to acknowledge that this was how bad things had gotten. What would people think? Would I be able to deal with all of the questions? I’m only 22 — I don’t need a walking stick. Walking sticks are typically for the elderly. 

My main concern was that a condition considered invisible was about to become visible, the hope of a cure slowly ebbing further away. Sadly, having a walking stick and letting it be a visible representation of your condition is quite often the only way people take it seriously. In my case I do not look like I have any condition and am regularly told that I look well and that there can’t possibly be anything wrong with me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to look really ill, but it’s upsetting that people regularly assume that you are the picture of health just because you look OK on the outside. What they don’t understand is the battle you are furiously fighting on the inside. 

When purchasing the walking stick I wanted to choose one that didn’t look too “olde worlde.” I never knew that there were so many different options now, and reluctantly paid for a floral walking stick that looked sturdy yet feminine. However, as my hands and wrists tend to hurt I found the stick painful to use. Since then my dad brought me one that was more comfortable for my hand as the handle was shaped in a way that would make it more comfortable to grasp. 

I do get a lot of looks and stares when I am out, but I try my best to ignore them. I can see that they are automatically judging me for having a walking stick and still being so young, as if I am just using it as a prop or making some sort of fashion statement. Thankfully my family and friends have been very understanding and supportive throughout the last few months and always make sure I am not overdoing it. 

I have come to realize that the only people I need in my life are the ones who need me in theirs, even when I have nothing else to offer them but myself. I wouldn’t wish what I am going through on anyone and if I could take away this horrible condition I have I would do it in a heartbeat. People who judge are not worth your time, and your time and effort is much better used for something more beneficial for you!

I have learned that having to using a walking aid isn’t a sign of weakness, but shows that you are not letting the condition get the better of you. It shows you are brave enough to take control of your own situation and not struggling just because of what others might say. Like me, you might not feel like you are in the place in your life you want to be but, although this transformation is hard, you are not falling apart — you’re just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful!

Follow this journey on Fibroloveaffair.

Originally published: August 1, 2016
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