Friday, May 12, 2017

The Weight of Being The Only One

Sometimes, and this worries me, I can go days without seeing another wheelchair user. On the road, as I am now, we travel from place to place stopping along the way to eat, to do the opposite of eat, to just take a break. Often we will do this at malls or restaurants, places where I'm fairly guaranteed access to a toilet. The disabled stalls will be full but inside everyone is walking, I'm aware that many have invisible disabilities and my kinship to them as a member of the disability community is likewise invisible, but that leaves  me, pushing hard down hallways and waiting for the accessible stall, feeling quite alone. And then it come, the weight of being the only one. I am sure I am not the only person who has ever felt this.

The same is true of most hotels I stay in, most of the lectures I give, most of the people I meet from day to day. I am sitting, they are not. I am rolling, they are not. I am requesting space, they are not. There are times when I completely disidentify with the people around me. I know that I fall into the 'category' of being a person but it doesn't feel like that. It just feels lonely.

Yesterday I rolled into a pub and there was an older woman sitting in a transport wheelchair, she was slowly eating her dinner. By the setting next to her and the partially eaten plate of food I assume that the person she was with was up and doing something. My pathway through the crowd had me going just behind her chair. I said to her, "Sometimes it's just nice to see another person in a chair." Her hand reached out and touched my shoulder, she said, "I know."

She knew.

And I felt immediately less alone.

The weight lifted.

And I could breathe again.


Unknown said...

Dave you are not the only one just the brave one. Going out with a disability can be daunting therefore for some people just not worth it. It is the work that people like yourself do that makes it less daunting day by day and one day it will be just that more easy.
I went out yesterday and had a good outing everyone seeming to understand what a cane means but not so on Sunday at the mall. Kudos to you going to malls I find that environment the least tolerant. I'm generally fed up and close to tears waiting for wheeltrans to take me home. So keep up the wonderful and very meaningful work you do.
Remember that when you do see someone.

ABEhrhardt said...

Too many of us stay home most of the time.

Between the walker, and the fact that I have CFS, and NO energy, I don't get out much because it's exhausting.

A wheelchair may be freedom, but it isn't free - the effort keeps people like me from being out where you can see us.

And most things out there in the world aren't much fun when you're exhausted.

Jenni said...

Yes, I agree. *wheelchair user high-five!*