Wednesday, April 11, 2007

PictureBlog - Marvin Story

It occurred to me that I have not posted much about Marvin (the 'leccy wheelchair - he's clunky and complains a lot - paranoid android - geddit?), or the positive effects on my general health and mobility that I've had recently from using a wheelchair. Then I was posting on the 'But You Don't Look Sick?' posting boards about wheelchairs and Why They Are Good, and it made me remember that I have not yet done so here. So today you can blame everyone there for my spewing forth rubbish. They'll be so pleased.

Being stuck in the house for the last few months has caused me some moderate depression - and a lot of anxiety. While we were waiting for our NHS chair (which we knew would be bulky and heavy, and I have no muscle strength for self-propelling anyway), we found a seven-year-old electric chair for sale that was sitting in someone's garage, for a fantastic price. As I keep saying to The Girl: it's possibly the best little investment I ever made. (Admittedly, the best investment I made prior to this was my Creative, which was never very user-friendly and has now died, just as its one-year warranty runs out. So as investments go, this is definitely better.)

Marvin. As you can see, he takes up half the downstairs hallway. I pray daily that I will never have to try and get him up the stairs.

Mind the blinding light. (Tremble in fear, cars, for I approach!) The Girl, as we see here, tends to do the putting together of Marvin. Which takes effort. I can manage all by myself on a reasonable day, though. Go me, etcetera.

Yes, I know I look awful in this picture.

I now use Marvin to get myself around most of the time. We sometimes switch to the manual chair (mostly because we can get it into the car, which is useful) when we go to the supermarket or a restaurant or even the theatre. (I still can't believe that I am actually able to go to the theatre again now. How good is that?!) As a result of these wheelchairs, especially the 'leccy one, I am getting my life back - getting around on local buses, attending church social events, about to start an art class, even looking into voluntary work and (for later on) paid part-time work... I've accepted that I'm not going to be back to my former self (that'll be the obsessive workaholic volunteer-for-everything can't-say-no adrenaline junkie, then) anytime soon. But, I feel like I'm starting to have access to things that I had lost. I wasn't prepared to give up completely - which I was in danger of doing - and the wheelchair has started to mean that I don't have to. I'm good with that.

And yes, it's also strange, in lots of ways. Ten years in disability rights activism, and I never really thought about how non-disabled people see wheelchair-users as either entirely invisible or very excitingly obvious!... or why dropped kerbs are important... or why steps can pose a bit of a problem to some people... We focus on what we know. And I know some of the stuff that comes with being disabled. I'm just learning how to walk the tightrope between the worlds of visible and invisible disability. Which, in a 40kg wheelchair, gets risky. (Look, I made a funny! ...*ahem*) But I shall save the ruminations on 'becoming more visible' for another time.

In short, I think wheelchairs are a fantastic spoon-saver.* I don't understand why half the medical community (and most of the rest of the world) thinks they're a bad thing that will somehow reduce our mobility. My mobility has increased since I started using the electric chair, because I'm not collapsed in bed, exhausted from post-exertional fatigue, the whole time. I don't need to use it if I'm walking short distances, and I even had one day last week when I didn't need to use my stick! I am seeing it as part of my way back into the 'real world'. If I want to work and have a life again, I need to do some of that from a wheelchair. I don't care. I can teach from a wheelchair, and I plan to do just that. I shall be a useful member of society yet. I can work on my return to being a walking member of society later.

*A phrase we use at the BYDLS posting board. Which is a very good place.

Cross-posting somewhere, soon, I'm sure...