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Is it February Yet?

There’s been so much happen these last few month and I’ve considered sitting and writing a number of times but for whatever the reason – whirlwind schedule, being unwell, or just lacking that motivational spark – I’ve not got round to it until now. I’m still living alone and managing even though sometimes it’s really hard. I wouldn’t be coping without my family and friends, and I am considering moving a bit closer to home, but the future is still a little uncertain. I have a been teaching more and I’m back working 3 days a week as a junior Dr. A prominent paper is even about to run a feature on my return to work. I’m building my social life back up. I’ve been doing more gigs, going out clubbing with my girls and even dating for the first time in the chair.


My therapy is going well, and I’m now managing to stand with only 30kg of assistance and knee blocks. Electro-stim has produced movements in my lower limbs too! This is exciting, but I am cautious in my optimism; no one really knows how this will progress. I’ve also been up in a harness on a treadmill. It’s the weirdest feeling; I can only describe it as running like a dinosaur - but I’m pretty sure that only makes sense in my head. Finally, and in more broad terms I’m getting stronger! My core balance is better. I haven’t fallen (even off the *!&*-ing shower chair) in a while – touches all wood in room – and I’m finding it easier to pick things up that I drop. These final may seem like small things but all progress is progress; essentially the therapy is helping me live an independent life.


It hasn’t all been positive, as I’m sure you’d expect. When I see you all I may smile and laugh; all positivity and light, but as my family will tell you I still struggle. There have been some set-backs. More catheter trouble, a tumble out the back of my car, some interesting problem solving, a rather embarrassing paramedic visit, wheel malfunctions, another operation, (it went well), and now fucking snow - which I am about to bitch about in more detail! – but I’m still learning, and more importantly, I am still fighting!... most days.


It’s coming up to 2 years in a matter of weeks, (I know! Where does time even go these days), and while I can’t really believe it’s been that long, in comparison to 26years as a (somewhat) ‘normal’ walking person that’s nothing. This time of year is always a time for reflection but I am finally starting to appreciate how well I am doing, and just how far I’ve come. Still... there’s much further to go.


This last month has been so long. I’ve been recovering from my op and honestly time has dragged. Just to be more of a dickhead, January has decided to go out with inconvenient weather to boot. If you live in the Uk, and haven’t been hiding under a rock, you’ll be aware we currently have been having bursts of snow. For my US and Canadian friends our ‘snow’ is pretty limp in comparison, but unlike you we don’t seem to function very well when it happens. Given, on the whole here it’s rare as hen’s teeth, but in my dearest Wales, (especially up in the rafters i.e. the top of a valley), we get dusted at least 2-3 times in the winter – and sometimes in spring, (April last year it came outta’ nowhere), but in the conversations of the stereotypical ‘old boys’ drinking pubs, it is a common point of amusement, (and slight distain towards government and councils), that we as a country go into meltdown if we receive but a flake! We poke fun at those panic buying milk and bread, comments like ‘in my day we just got out there with a shovel and got on with life’ can be heard… School’s close, people call in sick, and we are warned to stay off the roads unless necessary. Before my accident I was one of those people too… It’s powdery water! Less than an inch deep! Drive slow, avoid hills and country roads, (difficult in Wales I grant thee), and there no need to lose ones head!


Well!


This year marks my second ‘snowy season’, (if you can call it that), in the wheelchair. The last one I had someone living with me, someone who could bring me news from the outside world, make the trek for bread/milk/whatever, and be with me just in case my chair gave up - we found out it isn’t snow’s number 1 fan. I’ve lived on my own some time now and I’ve managed. I love being independent. I love having my own space. I love my little bungalow that gives me solace from the outside world when I need it. However, I am a control freak and being stranded by a pissy bit of snow that before hand I would have tackled, (all be it tentatively because I would usually end up on my ass several times), is maddening. It’s not that I’ve even WANTED to go anywhere specific - although, it has prevented me from resuming work and for that alone has provoked my ire – but being truly stranded by such a pathetic attempt at snowfall makes me feel weak and powerless; something I am constantly striving to avoid, because the fact is on a regular day I am not either of those things, disability be damned!


Now look, I know it’s not the end of the world. I know I am doing – as one of my friends pointed out – the ‘sensible’ thing. I also know there are plenty of people making the same decision to stay put, who don’t have my ‘difficulties’… but it’s pissed me off to feel so isolated, and to be completely honest scared. In some sense I now appreciate the difficulties that our elderly, without close family go through. Please if you know someone with mobility difficulties who lives alone, (whose residence you could easily and safely get to), reach out and make sure they are okay. I am okay, but I am also lonely, and annoyed and frustrated. There was some last week on what was supposed to be my first day back at work since my op. I was up and dressed, psyching myself up while doing my make up, looking through the gap in my curtains at the grass bank opposite. It was completely white but I was telling myself to calm down, it would be fine. I got in my chair and got to the front door only to find my ramp was about an inch deep. It was such an insignificant amount but my anxiety paralysed me.


What if my wheels skid?


What if I come out my chair?


How long before someone comes along, let alone someone strong enough to help me back into the chair?


If I managed the ramp could I get into my car?


If I couldn’t could I get back in the house?


Then I looked up the road… I haven’t driven in the snow since my accident what if I skid? What if I panic? What if I hit one of the thousands of parked cars on my estate? And then… omg both exits are hills, (of course they’re hills, it’s the Welsh Valleys!)

Nope. Nope. Nope. To big a risk. Call work. Admit defeat. Stay safe.


So I did; only to wake up this Tuesday and see that white bank again. My heart sank. This time I didn’t even try and work myself up to do it. I fell back asleep, feeling heavy and pathetic and sad because again I’d be trapped, if not by the snow then by my fears. Wednesday I tried. I got as far as getting in my car, only to then realise I had 4 inches of snow on my windscreen, which I had no strategy to combat from already inside the vehicle other than crank the heat and sit. As I sat I looked at the ice rink before me and the hill to the main road. Once again I began to panic. I started crying angry tears as I saw cars tentatively drive it and thought ‘see they’re fucking brave enough!’. As I called into work for the third time, (to let them know just how much I was trying), I strived to rationalise with my wounded pride. I have always been, for the most part, fearless. That’s one of the hardest things to reconcile post-accident sometimes, because I still am – for the most part – fearless, but this body comes with a new set of constraints, and more considerations and implications in just about every situation. Sometimes it hurts to have lost the spontaneity and sometimes I even feel I’ve lost my spark. It’s hard to feel you’ve got a fire inside you, when it feels a bit of icy slush reduces them to embers. Yet I guess this is part of the acceptance of my limitations. Although I would like to believe I am wonder woman, even she’s got weaknesses. I guess for now mine is snow. This is the first time I’ve been facing it without help though; so it’s time to get a thinking cap on and make sure I’m prepared next time. More than that maybe, (just maybe), it’s not being quite so damn hard on myself. Those people I saw driving in the snow and ice, maybe they’re confident in it… oh yeah and maybe they didn’t have a life altering traumatic car accident on an icy day George!


Deep Breath.


So yes I’ve got a bit of cabin fever, but I’m safe, I’m warm and I have food. I have nothing to complain about other than frustration. So I will hole up and wait for it to pass, concede that maybe being sensible isn’t that bad after all. I also want to spare a thought for those less fortunate souls who don’t have those simple luxuries, and appreciate that I am lucky really. I sincerely hope all the homeless out there have found somewhere safe and warm to sleep.


And finally…

If like me you are anxious driving in the snow, please DON’T

If unlike me you are confident driving in the snow, still DON’T BE AN OVERCONFIDENT ASSHAT

Stay safe.


Right, who’s taking me sledding??

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