I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my powerchair. I think I’ve eluded to that fact before but I’m not sure I’ve ever really blogged about it.
Before I went to uni I only used my manual chair when out of the house. I could walk a very short distance and I wobbled around the house and fell over a lot. I also lived with my parents and younger brother and sister. When I went to uni I started using my chair “at home” more but still walked a bit with my walker. That didn’t last too long. In part because I was doing more and I can do more from my chair than from standing because I don’t exert so much energy on standing and trying to balance. And not needing to balance means I have my hands free for doing stuff like making a sandwich or whatever. The decision was hastened somewhat by the fact I was living with/spending a lot of time with a couple of other disabled people who would tease me and make cutting comments about the fact I was walking (looking back it was probably jealousy).
I lost a lot of my ability to walk as a result, can’t walk as far and find it more tiring because I’m out condition. Maybe I could get some of that strength back but it was never functional walking and what’s the point of being able to walk to the sink if I can’t brush my teeth when I’m there or walking to the washing machine only to be unable to load it? When I wheel there I can do those things. My balance will always be lacking and that’ll never happen.
And at uni I lived on campus. I had support workers a lot of the time (all the time in the first two years) to help me get to places and the places I went weren’t on top of each other but equally weren’t literal miles apart. So if they weren’t around and I wanted to pick up my post, go to the computer room, get some milk etc I could do it with enough time.
In my last couple of years there I knew a lot of the security guards and maintenance people and sometimes if they saw me on their rounds they’d bump me over kerbs so I didn’t have to take the accessible but longer route or give me a shove up a hill. The guys in the nearby takeaway had steps but they carried me up them hundreds of times. If you had a parcel you had to collect it but the woman in charge of the post found someone to bring me mine.
I was so independent. I loved it and I swore blind I’d never get a powerchair.
Then I left uni and circumstances meant I ended up living in the middle of nowhere for a year and a half. There was no accessible public transport. Hell, there were hardly dropped kerbs. If I wanted to go somewhere, anywhere and not pay a tenner each way I was gonna need that powerchair.
So in the space of a couple of days I went from “no way, no how, not ever.” to “I’ve just ordered my first powerchair and I’m waiting for it to come”
And it was the right decision.
I’ve said so many times that my manual chair gives me my independence but my powerchair gives me the freedom of the outside world. I have done so many things with it like going to the paralympics for days on end and visiting friends in Birmingham and simply just deciding yesterday that yes, I have already been to town today but do you know what I think I’ll go back and go to Sainsburys. And even with taxis and my manual I couldn’t have done those. That’s where the love part of it comes in.
So many moments, so many memories. So much fun and such freedom all because of my batteries and my wheels.
But again, not doing as much in my manual means I’ve lost condition and I can’t do as much. It means that someones offered to give me a drop me somewhere I’m going in a few weeks. Powerchair accessible public transport is proving difficult and the offer of a lift is there. And the hate part of this love hate relationship comes in. Because I need my powerchair for the distances involved once I’m there I think. They don’t have a wheelchair accessible vehicle and neither do I, meaning I’d have to collapse my manual into the boot of thier car. So I think about it then have to thank them and say it probably won’t work out. Which might mean I end up not going.
But I also know damn well that before I got my powerchair I’d have been able to do the distances involved. And even though it’s been practically ten years since the day I decided I’d get my first powerchair I blame myself and for those few minutes before rational sense returns I wish I’d never got the damn thing. It gives me my freedom and I love it. But sometimes it feels like it made me relient and I hate that.
Sometimes on the rare occasions I am out and about solo in my manual (which will usually be when I’m with someone but they’ve wandered off to the loo or the cash point or some such) people will coment that I should have a powerchair. I’ve even had complete strangers stop me on the street and offer to fundraise to get me one. It’s always amusing to see their face when you go “yeah, I’ve got one but I wanted to use my manual today”
For me having the powerchair isn’t the end of the story. Because I mostly love it. Apart from those rare times like tonight when it makes it harder and I have a little bit of hate for it.