As a relative newcomer to the world of aided mobility, one of the questions I often have to consider is how much and under what circumstances, on any given day, I will need to use my crutch. Sometimes I am 100% certain I will need it: If the distance from my car or any other form of transportation is more than three blocks I will definitely need it. I will need it, as I’ve mentioned, for shorter distances if the terrain is uneven. I will also need it in any situation where a lot of standing (such as a cocktail party) is to be expected, even if the actual walking I will be doing is kept to a minimum. I’ve also learned (the hard way) that I will need it most evenings and after a workout, even for short distances, because fatigue makes the ever present weakness in my left leg and foot a greater mobility challenge. There are plenty of other circumstances, however, wherein it is difficult to both estimate the amount of walking/standing and my own body’s ability to hold up. Under such circumstances, I tend to be conservative; I bring my crutch along for the ride just in case.
And then. There is a thing called foolishness. And another called vanity. They make a terrific pair. Today, I fell prey to both.
I’ve been in and out of my Stateside office a lot over the past couple of days. Gathering documents. Submitting reimbursements. Creating work-related PDFs and loading them onto my iPad. Attending meetings. Trying to avoid bumping into casual acquaintances, who know next to nothing about my now very visible disability. In other words, I’ve been hiding. A little bit. Today, I was scheduled to have a meeting with a Superior. The Superior in question is quite pleasant and personable. And he always gives thoughtful intelligent advice about my own work. But. He doesn’t know about my disability/mobility issues. And I’ll be the first to admit, the past few days have left me a little blue and a lot tired. I blame both Ehlers-Danlos and pre-departure stress. And as a result, today I was not feeling especially brave. I just wanted, just for this one meeting, for my interaction with my Superior–let’s call him C.–to be “normal” and without questions. I wanted it so much that left my crutch in my car, even though I had already been on my feet a lot, even though the walk from the parking garage to my building was a longish, and even though I knew C. and I would be doing even more walking, because he’d mentioned he’d wanted to go for coffee. I was about ten meters from my car, on a downhill slope in the parking garage, when I first began to regret my REALLY FOOLISH decision. By the time I got to my building I was limping and stooped with fatigue and had to sit for several minutes before moving forward toward C.’s office. That’s when the pain in my leg and back kicked in. I managed to trek slowly behind C. as we walked the short distance to Starbuck’s and spent most of my meeting with him distracted by my body’s indignation at my foolhardy decision to abandon my crutch. At one point, I even began having irrational fantasies about magically retrieving it–think Bewitched–and returning to my meeting unscathed. When C. and I finished I actually considered hailing a taxi to take me from my building to the parking garage, but fortunately I was able to (eventually) shuffle back to my car. Suffice it to say, the rest of the day has been less than pleasant and far from productive, although after a period of rest I did manage to drive to my local mobility store and saunter (AIDED! AIDED! For the love of god, AIDED!) in to buy a “highly-recommended-for-Ehlers-Danlos” super shock-absorbing, super gripping, flexible Tornado Tip for my stick. Which really is as fabulous as they say. (Takes the “thudding” right out of crutching and makes the wrist SOOOO happy.) And it is even nifty looking. See?
But. Cool accessories aside. I DEFINITELY learned my lesson today: Even when I’m not feeling especially brave I’m going to have to be. I’m going to have to use my aid every single time I need it. I cannot go back to who I was or how I was before. Things have changed. For good. And in my body’s opinion, for the better.