STILETTO – a high pointed HEEL on a woman’s shoe or a small dagger.
WHEELS – a medieval instrument of torture or a vehicle for personal mobility.
I struggle with an uncomfortable dissonance between my mind and body every minute of every day. You might imagine that, eventually, you would accept huge physical changes. And, there is a level of pragmatic acceptance. With some angst, some help and some time (oh, and a lot of money as disability is a very expensive business), I have been able to engineer solutions to most physical difficulties.
Psychologically, it is a much more difficult and disconcerting adjustment. I have to deal with both my own, and others, perceptions regarding wheelchair users and disability – a very potent confluence of assumption and expectation.
Let me state the obvious - in our society, people respond very differently to good looking, independent, blue eyed, blondes than they do to fat, red faced, wheelchair bound, blue eyed blondes…and few bother to hide it. Speaking from experience, it’s a lot more fun as the former!
I totally continue to visualise myself as I used to look – I get a shock when I look into a mirror and do not see myself looking back. I am continually surprised and incredibly upset at my invisibility to others. I am just not used to it. Perhaps this is what happens as we age but to be thrust into it some decades too early is shocking.
Alongside this, I encounter the ludicrously low expectations of quality of life for the wheelchair user from almost every quarter. I am amazed, amused and incredulous at the patronising comments, the rudeness, the lack of physical accessibility and the surprise expressed when I do not conform to the perceived stereotype of helpless, hopeless cripple.