Celebrations, wheelchairs and ‘invisible disability’

9 years yesterday since my head injury/trauma triggering, and I’m celebrating getting through a whole journey to Amsterdam and back WITHOUT USING A WHEELCHAIR!  Thank you, Lord!  Schiphol was a struggle, hanging hard onto David all the way, but we made it.

Why have a needed a wheelchair through airports (and through train stations if they are strange and I’m alone)?  The multiple stimuli, crowds, noise, people walking past me, banging of trays at security . . .  make me disorientated, slowed down, and sometimes I get me distressed.

Being in a wheelchair can also be distressing, as I’m right down in the crowd; but I can just let myself ‘blank out’ (maybe that’s what the therapist calls ‘dissociation’ again) and someone else will get me through.  Also, in a wheelchair, I’m not in control, and feeling out of control is one of the big problems with trauma.

On one never-to-be-forgot occasion, returning from my very first attempt at an air trip after the accident, I asked the wheelchair pusher to go slowly and to be careful over the bumps.  He was annoyed and started pushing me faster, so I tried to ask him to go slower, but he went faster still, and I found myself screaming – whereupon he panicked and went faster still.  Thankfully, David was there and managed to run up and stand in front of the chair, so the pusher had to stop.

I was in a state of shock!  It took some courage to go in a wheelchair again.  I got myself a big notice that said, ‘HEAD INJURY!  I need to avoid noise, crowds, bumps, bangs, flashing lights and swerves’.  I learnt that people take notice if something is printed and is big, whereas they don’t take you seriously if you just tell them verbally.  They especially don’t take you seriously if you look normal – if you have an ‘invisible disability’.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been left a long time in a noisy place while people who LOOK disabled were collected before me.

It’s been easier since I got an official looking badge from Headway, the head injury support group.  But I’m very thankful to be well enough now to have got through one trip without a wheelchair.

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