In praise of the stick

I have inherited two traits from my Mom and Dad that make handling a chronic condition particularly silly. I have my Mom’s belief that “I mustn’t bother the doctor” and my Dad’s belief that despite two hip replacements, spondylioarthritis, ankles that don’t work, and a heart condition, using a stick is only for very special occasions. Combine this with my own desire to hide from the fact that I need the blooming thing and my desire to never make a fuss, and you have a person who gets themselves in an unnecessary pickle.

Why am I telling you this? Quite simply because I experienced something recently that illustrates our response to visible or invisible illness. I travelled abroad a couple of weeks ago, which is a challenge, but it’s something that means so much to me I will do it for as long as I can. Seeing new places makes me feel alive. Anyway, this meant I had to use The Airport. I hate airports now, they are noisy, bright, confusing and involve lots and lots of walking. Special Assistance is available, and is useful only but if you remember to book it. I was in a lot of pain because I’d ended up walking further than I anticipated the weekend before which left me quite poorly. Combine it with an early morning and I was in a situation where I needed to swallow my pride and use my stick*.  I hate the thing. It’s not the right size (I’ve never been measured), it gets in my way and it makes me feel like I’m making a fuss. In reality using it was it was the best thing I could have done. I was directed to the fast track aisles (no queuing, lots of seats,helpful faces), I had doors held open for me and people smiled. Best of all, I didn’t have people tutting and chuntering as I walked too slowly. Seeing the stick seemed to mean that folk understood and could modify their behaviour*. It was nice. And awful.

You see, I don’t want to have to have a symbol to experience patience. I’d like it if I could move at my own pace without feeling embarrassed or troublesome. I’ve been in a grumpy hurry enough times to know that manners sometimes run away but that grumpy hurry, or plain ignorance has an impact.  Like everything, it just comes down to being actively kind.I often shy away from writing about the day to day of my illness, I’d hate folk to think I’m mithering or seeking pity, but the difference in people’s behaviour when they saw me using a  stick astounded me. It made me reflect on my own behaviour and all the times I’ve been impatient with folk. And it made me wonder how I’m going to handle things in the future, so I don’t end up ploughing through a situation and making myself worse. A very wise friend told me I need to get my asking for help head on, I’ve always been the fixer, so needing help is a tricky thing. Asking for it is pretty much impossible (what if people think I’m just looking for attention?), and receiving it brings me out in a rash*. She’s right though. I do need to. Next week.

Anyway, I had a smashing break and saw a lot of interesting ruins and mountains, a tortoise and this weird thing called sunshine. It made the flight and the complications and extended recovery worth it. I’m full of inspiration and ideas and can’t wait to get back to writing creatively. Trying to feel normal is a tricky thing. Trying to navigate the ignorance of others is even trickier. As ever I owe so much to those who make the effort to help me to carry on being part of things, and who see past the brave face. You’re smashing .

Normal writing blogs will resume soon. Happy Thursday everyone x



*I know I’m lucky to have a choice.

*I know that many people have rotten experiences when using walking aids and wheelchairs and I don’t intend to dilute that. I was just shocked at how kind people were to me that day.

*this isn’t entirely accurate.P1050467



  1. Bryony Ford says:

    I completely agree with all this!
    I feel lucky than I am able to choose to use my wheelchair – it makes it a positive thing as having it enables me to do more things, rather than feeling forced into using it.
    I still struggle with assuming people will be surprised/confused/annoyed when I get out and push it up a hill, or carry it up stairs, but I am basing this worry on other people’s writing about bad experiences, they don’t tend to mention the good ones, so it makes you imagine people will be rude all the time, so far, noone has rudely confronted me about my part time use of it, I just get friends and other people, assuming it means I cannot walk and that I have been having a bad time, and being shocked and a bit upset or, with strangers, overly helpful. But their motivation is all kind, and I probably have assumed in the past that all younger people using wheelchairs have had a spinal injury.
    I do find it makes me feel a bit conspicuous, I stand out a lot, people talk to me more and are helpful when it’s not needed, but that is an expected consequence for someone who doesn’t like to be too noticeable.
    I feel guilty for finding it fun, but I do.


    1. KathrynAnna says:

      Its so odd isn’t it. I don’t think I’ve ever considered the emotional side of it before being in the situation.Most people are lovely, just too busy to see sometimes.


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