Chariots of Enlightenment: Overcoming My Fear of a Wheelchair

Chariots of Enlightenment: Overcoming My Fear of a Wheelchair

Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) is an education in and of itself. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I am a different person now, nine years after my diagnosis. I hope to learn and grow over the next nine years as MS continues to shape my perspective on life.

MS has positively influenced my mindset. Ignorance has given way to enlightenment; humility and gratitude are now my mainstays. I truly understand what it means to take things one day at a time. And I do. And with each passing day, awareness unfurls.

One such realization is the price of freedom. While the cost of independence varies, its value is priceless. The ability to drive, grocery shop, go out to dinner, see friends, and travel equates to psychological well-being. When we are happy and fulfilled, we are better able to cope with whatever MS has in store.

I chose to liberate myself last week. I went to Costco early to avoid the crowds. My legs were useless and pain and foot drop made it difficult to stand. My cart was more of an awkward walker than a basket. It was then that I saw the seated cart. I could not avert my eyes.

I did not hesitate to sit down. I began to relax and when I felt safe and secure, off I went.

Freedom has a price. Its value is indeterminable as it lies within. Liberate yourself and its worth becomes apparent. It took me years to get over my fear of needing a wheelchair. I was afraid of what this meant about the trajectory of my disease. I feared the looks of pity, inaccessibility, and my new reality.

I am ashamed at my lack of depth. I hope that my admission will allow you to embrace rather than fear these devices. I am grateful for the enlightenment as my experience has given way to a unique understanding. Exposure can evaporate ignorance — the choice is yours.

I think back to that day in Costco and feel blessed. My choice inspired growth through my ability to surrender. I see wheelchairs as chariots with wings allowing me to live, thrive, and be free.

I can fly — the world looks good from up here.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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6 comments

  1. Daphne Phillips says:

    I still do not want a wheelchair. I want to stand up with my Walker and go where I have to. I thank God for my ability to do this.

    • Anita says:

      I am with you. I still walk thankfully but I can’t see myself going to the mall or Disney anymore (we used to go yearly). And when I grocery shop I must have a cart. But I walk my 2 dogs everyday, one at a time. While on the leash, my dog provides momentum for me. The second which I usually do after a 5 min rest is tough. But I force myself. And 3 times a year, I will go to physical therapy for about 10 visits each working on stretching, strengthening and balance. I also started high dose Biotin. Was diagnosed with PPMS 4 years ago at age of 56. I pray I can keep this up.

  2. Bryan McCall says:

    I’ve had m.s. for 35 years. My walking and mobility are some what limited. I stayed away from wheel chairs and carts because I was embarrassed and it made me feel awkward in public. One morning, my wife was reading the Sunday LA Times newspaper when she came across an ad for a new type of light weight collapsible power wheel chair. I looked at the ad and decided to look at their website. I really liked the whole concept of this new chair. It’s called a Zinger. Small, light weight and collapsible. The Zinger has opened so many new opportunities for my independence and freedom. I’ve had the chair for a year and half and I have found it outstanding and has given me a renewed sense of my old self. My wife and I have been to the malls, Costco and to Pismo Beach. I have a new lease on my life.

    • Cynthia King says:

      Yes, but the zinger has no CPT number, so reimbursement through Medicare is a no go. My policy doesn’t cover anything except a fully motorized wheelchair, and I’m not there yet. A scooter would be a nice bridge between a walker or a fully motorized wheelchair. I wish they gave an allowance each year for a mobility aid, it could be ‘saved’ each year for a cumulative sum that you could offset with an out of pocket if you want something specific. I am wheelchair adverse. I have a fear that once I use one I will never get out of it. I will use a transport chair if the distance is too much. I probably will end up using a wheelchair sooner rather than later. I just don’t want to admit it to myself.

  3. madeline newton says:

    i agree it was for along time something that i didn’t want to use either but when i took my children and grand children to Disneyland i rented a scooter and boy that was so great …i was able to keep going all day …i don’t use it except when i am some place where i will be walking a lot …i tell you they are well worth owning one …use it for family picnics …they are great …hope more take the time to try one out …well worth it …we carry ours in the motorhome for you never know when or where you may need it….have a wonderful day …

  4. cyn says:

    I have needed ”seated” mobility for a couple of years…and hated the look of ”medical” wheelchairs. So I searched online and was amazed at all of the really ”cool” looking mobility devices there are out there! My favorite motorized one is my ”Boomer buggy covered”…although it is currently needing repair …so I can’t use it right now. Everyone stops me to ask about it…most think it a smaller ”smart car ”and are surprised to learn that it is a mobility scooter. Everyone wants a picture.
    So..instead of inspiring pity …I bring a smile to faces.
    I also have a similar wheelchair to the one mentioned above….and it is quite cool….not so ”medical”. You do need to have some balance and coordination for some of these devices. Also check out the Alinker…a really cool walking bike.
    there are devices out there that will lift your spirits instead of making you feel dependent or helpless.
    Attitude is a big part of this journey.
    I have had MS for 50 years.

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