One of the biggest changes in my life, was the onset of chronic illness. Update: Since writing this Blog post, I have, as of June 27th 2017, now conclusively been diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.
An Uninvited Change.
Although I can trace the slow progression of my illnesses back to my early twenties, it was in 2010 that the major symptoms started to manifest in what would become a fast and powerful onslaught of debilitation. The years following 2010 would see my health further decline to the point of being classified as Disabled in 2016.
Making A Friend of the Enemy.
One of the most visible characteristics of my illnesses, is that I now use a walking stick almost constantly. Sadly, the days of my being able to walk without pain and weakness have diminished and so pain, weakness, stumbling and occasional falls have become my new normal. That said, although I now consider a walking stick to be ‘my friend’, so to speak, it was certainly not the case, initially. The idea of using, and being seen to use, a walking stick was something that I resisted for as long as I could. The irony of being the son of a Stuntman and needing an aid to simply walk seemed somehow ridiculous. I can reflect on that now and recognise that this discomfort was all about my sense of ego. In fact, I make a point of reminding myself of the way my Dad had learnt to fall safely, in his field of work. I must try harder to remember to fall like a Stuntman next time I fall!
Acceptance is Liberating.
Today, you will see me walking around with one of my walking sticks and today I am fully accepting of my need to use it. My ankles and sometimes my legs give way, sometimes I stumble and sometimes I fall. My walking stick offers me both the stability I need, but also reassurance within that stability; a reassurance that helps me to continue to push myself rather than become defeated.
The Trouble With Ego.
If you are coming to terms with a change to your health and you find yourself at that stage when you know that a walking aid is needed, but you can’t quite face that reality, then I would say that it is absolutely healthy and right to keep that fighting spirit but essential that you do allow yourself, when you really need to, to use a walking aid in order to prevent further injury.
It can be helpful to recognise that what may be preventing you from making the necessary change can, in fact, be your own ego and the fear of how you think others will perceive and judge you. In my experience, my fears were unfounded. I was not rejected, ridiculed or treated badly by anyone. I am not stared at and I am, in fact, only treated kindly by others. I had never viewed anyone else that uses a walking stick, or walking aid, in any way negatively; so why I initially developed my resistance to a walking stick was all about how I perceived myself and what it had meant to me. I have hated becoming Disabled but when I learnt that my walking stick would make me better able, I soon learnt that it was indeed ‘my friend’, not my enemy.
If you have had a similar experience, do feel free to leave a comment below, for there are many people facing their own personal battle and it can be uplifting to show that change need not be a completely negative experience.