Don't Be Afraid to Use a Mobility Aid
Fourteen years ago, way before I received my juvenile Parkinson’s disease diagnosis and my official blue disability parking pass, I thought I would use those shoes children wear with the wheels in the heels to get around. My right foot had this annoying tendency to drag with each step, so I thought it would be easier to roll. I imagined myself coolly gliding down the city sidewalk, bobbing in and out of pedestrian traffic.
When I tried the shoes, I found the balance was more difficult than I thought. I had to lean back — way back, to tip myself onto the wheels in the heel of the shoe. My adult body didn’t trust that I wouldn’t continue to fall back onto the hard concrete of the sidewalk.
End of rolling dream number one.
My next grand idea was to get one of those kick scooters. I imagined myself kick-scooting breezily along the sidewalk on my urban commute, wind in my hair. But my inner critic said, “An adult on a kick scooter? Come on Nicole, that would look silly.” Sigh. If only I had had the courage.
End of rolling dream number two.
My initial optimism for rolling lost, I resorted to dragging my stumbling, spastic body around and hiding the difficulty I was having. I used a cane sparingly, mostly when I didn’t think I would see anyone I know. I didn’t know how to explain why I could move easily at some times and others not. I thought people would be confused if I used a mobility aid sometimes and other times not.
Recently, my friend told me about seeing a circus performer who performs using crutches. When she visited him backstage, she was surprised to find that he was using a wheelchair and said so. He told her that using the wheelchair is what allowed him to conserve his energy so he could dance using the crutches on stage. If he spent his whole day dragging himself around on crutches, he wouldn’t have the energy to dance.
A few days later, I was on a walk with another friend and our young sons. It was excruciating for me to move my body, but I really wanted to be there, so I pushed through. It was exhausting and it was the last straw. I want to enjoy my life as much as I can, so if that means I use a mobility aid, then that is what I will do. I am totally done making things harder on myself for fear of what I or anyone else thinks about what it means to use a mobility aid.
Rolling dream revived…
The next day I dragged myself right into a sporting goods store and bought myself an electric scooter (in 2020, it is now socially acceptable for adults to scoot). When I got it home and tried it, I found it too hard to maintain my balance on it.
So, I swallowed my pride and went to the home health store and bought myself a rollator, a walker with wheels. I have only had it for a couple of days but it is already making life totally easier and it has this handy basket to transport things around.
I even mustered up the courage to bring the rollator to a course I took on the weekend. I parked it beside my chair and used it when I needed it and didn’t when I didn’t. I didn’t worry if other people found that confusing. My body can move sometimes and other times not. That’s what’s happening.
It is funny how age or pain or something else finally wears away the neural pathways in the brain for the thought: “Oh no, what will they think of me?” Or maybe those kinds of thoughts are stored in the substia nigra, the part of my brain that is apparently in shut-down mode. If I could only find a time portal leading to my past self, I would shout into it: “Hey Nicole,
Using a mobility aid doesn’t mean anything. It does not mean you are weak or you are letting your illness “win.” It is not a tragedy. You don’t have to use it all the time and you don’t have to explain. Just roll!”
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to use a mobility aid!
Love yourself enough to do what you need to do to enjoy life as much as possible.
Getty image by FamVeld.