A few weeks ago I purchased my very own walking stick and today I am going to explain why this decision feels like one of the biggest decisions I’ve made so far in my almost 22 years of life.
There are two major reasons that I got this walking stick. The first being because I do not feel steady on my feet, especially if I have to walk more than a few metres. When I am out this would normally mean I wait in the car or I sometimes use the walls around me to help me balance. My legs are extremely weak and can go numb at any time so obviously walking is not easy for me. Imagine the worst ‘jelly legs’ you’ve ever had and multiply that feeling by about 20 and that’s how my legs feel on a good day. I did not consult my doctor before making this decision though because I was afraid he would tell me not to. I was afraid his response would be along the lines of me becoming dependant on it too young and blah blah. Which is a fair point, but not one I agree with. I am almost 9 months into my illness and it only gets worse. My concern isn’t what will make me better because honestly, I don’t know that anything will. My concern is what will make my life easier.
My legs are extremely weak and unsteady, and because I have limited sensation in my feet it often feels as though I am walking on clouds. They also become fatigued really quickly, and with this they become even more unsteady and are more likely to become numb. Obviously a walking stick can’t fix my problems but it sure as hell will help me feel more steady when I’m out and about.
The second reason I got a walking stick was simply for confidence. I often don’t go out with friends because I hate walking around in public and I often struggle to voice when I need to rest and sit down. I thought having the stick would make it easier for me to walk a bit more than I would normally. I would also feel safer going out on my own, knowing that I would be a little less likely to fall (because yes, I do fall over quite frequently).
I walk at a pace that would have once infuriated me, so I understand when people give me dirty looks for walking too slow in front of them in the supermarket because on the surface I am just a normal young woman. I will always use a trolley when I shop because it helps me walk and also I can’t carry more than a few light items. I once had a lady verbally express her frustration at my slow pace and I just stood there mortified and unable to explain to her that I was disabled. I feel like the stick will be the end of people’s frustration and judgemental looks when I walk slowly and weirdly. It will be the flashing neon sign I need saying “I’m not trying to hold you up, I am genuinely struggling.” It will allow me to take my time and not have to worry about looking ‘normal’ in public.
I was kind of embarrassed to admit that half of my reason for wanting the walking stick was so that people knew I was disabled and would take more care before they shove past me on the street. I overcame this though after talking to a few other young people with similar circumstances to me. It’s hard having an invisible illness and sometimes you need strangers to know what’s going on without having to explain it to them. I don’t expect anyone who isn’t in my position to understand this but that’s ok. I’m not trying to ‘prove’ my illness, I’m just trying to make things a little easier for myself and give me a little more confidence to go out.
So, I have some very legitimate reasons for purchasing my bright pink walking stick, but why have I never pulled it out in public in the month that I’ve owned it? I will often put it in my handbag (because it’s a nifty compactable one) and keep it with me ‘just in case’ but I am yet to use it. The truth is I am so fucking scared. It makes my disability too scary and real for me. I know I need it and I know I shouldn’t care what I look like but I can’t help but feel terrified. No matter how much I talk myself into finally using it, I just can’t. I know that it’s stupid but I can’t seem to bring myself to using it.
It’s impossible to think that just nine short months ago I was dancing on a pole, and now I am going to walk with one. How does someone’s life change so drastically in such a short amount of time? It is like I’ve aged 70 years in this time. My pole dancing callouses have faded and have been replaced with knitting callouses. It’s ridiculous how different my life is. I know my life is different but I am still holding onto my outward appearance because if I can fool even a stranger into thinking my life is normal, I feel a little better. I am not sure why but I feel like using my stick is almost admitting defeat, like I’ve failed in some way. I know this doesn’t make much sense but it’s how I feel.
I know I’ll eventually get the courage to use it and when it happens I’ll realise how silly I’ve been this whole time. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and hope that I someday soon I’ll be less insecure about things.