As I’m sure many of you are aware I am the reluctantly proud owner of a walking stick named Little Johnny by a good friend of mine. For those of you who are not aware of the story, to put it simply, we have a love/hate relationship. Johnny spent about six months in the corner gathering dust, until one day I was frogmarched home by my friend to get him and take him for a walk. To be honest, this made me hate him a little bit more, especially when colleagues at my then job saw me struggling to cope with him on a bus. But I knew I had to persevere, my health wasn’t improving, so it was this or walk around looking like I’d had some terrible sort of accident in the toilet department or get overtaken by elderly ladies with shopping trollies (this actually happened).
I refer to the stick as ‘him’ as it makes it easier to deal with. My friend refers to his cane as Michael (Caine) as he needed help coping with using it at first, then it just became Michael, and Johnny just became Johnny. Also, I give everything a name, my cars were called Nigel and Matilda and were referred to as such, and not as ‘my car’. I realise this is not normal in many people’s eyes but where’s the fun in being ‘normal’?!
Here’s a typical day with Johnny:
Get ready to leave house, wonder should I take Johnny.
To and fro a little, pick him up, put him down, fold him into a bag, get him back out.
Leave house with Johnny, try to work out which side needs most support – hang on, why are those people looking at me, oh wait they’re not.
Get to bus stop, get groaned at by person wanting to sit on seat. But I’m taking up the last space. Get stared at a little.
Get on bus – people either flee if I sit next to them, which is odd, or a lady 70+ tells me off as I don’t look disabled and I’m sitting in ‘her’ seat.
Get off bus, people huff and puff as I take my time.
Walk for a bit, put Johnny away, it’s too stressful. But wait, I really hurt. What shall I do?!
You get the idea…
Anyway, back to Johnny. We’ve slowly been taking more trips together and he’s been out to meet my friends (one of whom tried to steal him, yes that’s you Lord Stu!) and life with him has been getting slightly easier. There are even times when I feel at a loss without him. I’ve been taking him out voluntarily and not after being told to do so by a close friend or my wife. There is a situation or two where I do get nasty things said to me about having him but I’m doing my best to take it in my stride. We also often get looked at and glared at by elderly people. For example, on my way to work today I needed a seat at the front of the bus, my hips were not my friend, and an elderly gentleman as taking up a seat with his bag and I didn’t feel comfortable asking him to move it while he just glared at me, so I sat behind him instead. But the thing is those seats say for ‘those less able to stand’ and today, like most days, that was me.
I get angry at myself for not standing my ground, saying something to the person with the bag that’s got the window seat, or to the people who laugh at me. But here’s what I really want to say:
Don’t laugh at me because I’m 29 and using a stick, do you think I want to be this way? No of course I don’t, but if it enables me a little more freedom, independence, and the ability to get to work in the mornings then I can and will use one. And no, it’s not pretty, pink and flowery to get attention or create a talking point, it’s to make it a little easier to use. And anyway, pink is my favourite colour, not that it’s got anything to do with you. So stop staring at me, stop taking the mickey, and let me sit down on that flippin’ seat because my body is exhausted, sore and if you stare at me much more I may well cry.
Sadly, I realise that all of the people I want to say this to will never actually read this, but perhaps if I can write it down, I can take steps at building myself up to say it, just like the steps I took in taking Johnny out. It may have taken me a year, but I got there, and I will come back a stronger person from this.
To celebrate this occasion, I decided to get Johnny a friend, a kind of mail order bride if you will. She’s called Dotty, she’s shiny, and new, and a lot lighter than Johnny but doesn’t fold away in my bag (great when I’m too embarrassed). So, without further ado, meet Dotty:
Isn’t she pretty. I’m hoping it won’t be long before our first outing because I actually do want to show her off!
Do you use any walking aids or use a wheelchair? How do you feel about using them? Have things changed over time for you? I’d really love to hear from you all on his subject.
Until next time…
Karen, Johnny and Dotty xxx