The memory that best sums up my Mum’s way of dealing with her disability (she has had MS for almost 30 years and is in a wheelchair), is this:
One day probably about a decade ago, I was in the kitchen when I heard yelling from the other side of the house. Having my Mum in a wheelchair, I’ve always been on my toes when such a thing happens and I bounded to the hallway leading to her room, to find her lying on her back, still in her wheelchair, her legs dangling in the air.
“Jesus Christ Ciara (My Mum’s a big fan of tossing the JC in her thick Irish accent), I don’t know what the hell happened. I think I forgot to put the stopper back on the chair when I got back in.” She told me this as she lay in her vulnerable position on the floor.
Which led me to try and pick her and the chair off the floor. To which I failed miserably, over and over again. We tried everything including trying to grab the rails that my Dad had installed in the hallway, and still no luck.
In this situation, most people would probably get angry, or upset, or curse God for spinning the roulette of life in such a crappy manner. At least I was starting to head in that direction. Until my Mum started to laugh and laugh and laugh, to which I started hysterically laughing, and we sat there crying in laughter in what a futile scene was playing out until we couldn’t laugh anymore.
And then I gave one more push, and managed to get my Mum back up and on the road again, marveling at her incredible attitude.
After, of course, putting the stoppers back on, on her chair.
I thought of this story the other day, as I hopped around my room, trying to get myself dressed in the most awkward of positions, after taking a bath that required me contorting my body to get myself clean and avoid getting my cast wet. (I fractured the navicular bone in my foot and will be in a cast for 6-8 weeks)
I was starting to get frustrated and angry and feeling sorry for myself mid-changing, when something hit me.
This is what my Mum has to deal with every. single. day.
And my next thought, how the F does she do it with such a positive attitude and a genuine smile constantly pasted on her face #martyr
It also reinforced to me how much us able bodied folk take for granted, and how in our day to day buzz and busyness that often most of us lack a sense of compassion towards those that are not as fortunate to be healthy.
Sure the next few weeks are going to suck for me, but there is an end point. Which has made my Mum even greater of a hero in my eyes than she already is as I’ve gotten even just a small taste of what her reality is like.
I by no means am an expert in having a physical disability, but these are things I’ve learned in my 2 Weeks of #crutchlife
1. Don’t Ask: Just Help
One of my best friends at home had a baby a few months ago, and as I’ve learned through my friend’s stories, it is no easy task to be a new mother. I was at my friends for dinner one night, when I absent-mindedly cleaned up the dishes and ended up doing the whole kitchen.
My friend later said to me, how much she appreciated me doing that, because in her words, you’d never ask a friend to do that, but when you’re exhausted and juggling kids, someone just doing that without her asking was monumental.
Being that every task takes me five years these days to do, I totally get it now, random acts of helping is pretty much the most amazing thing.
When in doubt, just help.
2. It’s OK To Ask For Help
I am a fairly independent person, but after a couple of weeks of crawling, crutching, hopping and taking twenty five years to do anything, I realize that I need some help. My patient roommate has already requested that I stop using my two tag lines “Could you do me a favor and Would you mind” and just get straight to the point of what I need. He wants to help.
Most people want to help, and it’s ok to not be a hero all the time and let them.
Also, realize that most of us hate asking for help. If I ask you to help with something, I’m pretty desperate.
This week I needed groceries badly, as the only thing worse than an injured Cmac is a hungry Cmac. I asked a couple of friends if they’d help me, and no one could, probably not realizing that I was desperate and I already hated having to ask for help. It put me in a bad mood for about five minutes until I remembered the next lesson from my Mum
3. Just Get On With It
My Mum is one of the most independent people I know and just goes with it. She has a pool class that she loves to go to, and a lot of the times there aren’t people there that can drive her or take her. No worries! She just takes “Handi-dart” the transportation for disabled people, and then has whatever random helper is available help her at the pool.
I took inspiration with that attitude yesterday when I found myself frustrated that no one was helping me with my groceries. I headed over to Target, which I’ve found has electric scooters, to go and grocery shop, and despite smashing into a display and dislodging it (and trying to casually fix it), I managed to get everything I needed and get home in one piece, and now at least have solved one of my current life issues (cue hungry Cmac)
4. Sometimes Life Blows: Embrace It
As someone that likes to shower multiple times a day, work out, and keep a tidy house, I have to say that accepting that I can’t do it all right now is frustrating. Basically any task is judged with how much effort it is going to take and discarded accordingly.
That being said, not much is making the cut right now, and currently, my foot wear is usually one pink croc, the hair on my legs (not under my cast) is hitting about a quarter of an inch growth, and my hair is starting to look like a dread because the thought of the effort of taking a shower exhausts me before I even get anywhere near it.
There are two great books that I love, “Man’s Search for Meaning” and “Tuesdays with Morrie” that both talk about just absorbing shitty experiences without letting them hit you to the point where you can’t function. I’ve had to let go and just accept a lot of things right now in terms of how I am just going to be lacking right now.
There are so many positives to being in this state right now, and it’s such a valuable reminder to something that I’ve always been fortunate enough to realize through my Mum: our health is a gift.
Even for me, having that lesson in front of me all the time, it’s easy for us to forget and have compassion to those around us that aren’t able to function, and sometimes it just takes being in a hospital for even a couple of hours to get a reality check about what bad truly looks like.
I was feeling a bit mopey the other day at the hospital trying to crutch from one location to another to get a cat scan, have a doc visit etc. As I was sitting waiting for one appointment, I saw a mom trying to control her developmentally disabled child. I couldn’t help but think how most of us have no idea what tough or challenging truly is, and how it really only takes a few hours in a hospital to realize what a gift a healthy body and mind is.
And at the end of the day, as my Mum has taught me, when life isn’t going the way we want it to, the best medicine is to just laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
The end point is going to be there whatever way I want to get to it, and just like anything else that frustrates us in life, the best way to deal with the tough stuff is to try and absorb every good possible lesson that we can no matter what curveballs life throws our way.