Life in a Wheelchair, Freedom on Two Wheels

“We are all different – but we share the same human spirit. Perhaps it’s human nature that we adapt – and survive.” - Stephen Hawking

Wheelchair. Change. Fear. If you have multiple sclerosis, the word might feel like a near-verb to you, and mean a lot more than just a few letters mangled together. It’s not a fiery term of abuse towards anybody because you’re not programmed that way. It’s a possibility that suddenly takes you to a new level of having to adapt to life with MS.

Now I’m not really a numbers kind of girl, so statistics are only good to me in tiny amounts. Globally speaking, 85% of people diagnosed with MS are in the relapsing/remitting stage of MS, where unpredictability leads an impulsive life.

If MS were a predictable illness, we would know when or if we needed to buy a wheelchair. We might find the house padded in time for you to take lessons in how to avoid doorposts, furniture, pets and household. But this isn’t the case.

Another study into mobility shows that only 21% of patients with all forms of MS needed a cane 15 years after disease onset, and by age 50, 28% required a cane.

There is a good chance that you will never be in a wheelchair, and it’s good to keep reminding yourself of this. Positive thinking and keeping active are key to warding off nasty, negative thoughts. Going for a walk, however slow or short it may be, meet friends, learn a new language and/or lead a social life outside the house, can only benefit your state of mind.

Everybody goes through short dips of course, and everyone deals with it in a different way, but a change of scenery or a new hobby can do wonders for your mind.

My way of getting myself out of the house on purpose, is to “forget” a few items from my grocery list, meaning I have no other choice than to leave my house for a while the following day. Try it out! I’m called Silly Billie for a reason!

The most important thing, however, is to keep reminding yourself of your self-worth, your importance to friends, family and colleagues. Weakening your mind by thinking a wheelchair took or will take your whole life away, will do you no good.

I find a lot of inspiration in seeing some of my friends in their wheelchairs. I can only applaud their commitment for wanting the same lifestyle everyone else wants. Seeing them whizz through the mall, playing soccer, dancing and enjoying life in their electric wheelchair simply gives hope and strength. When I see myself tag behind with only a quarter of a tank of energy left in my body… it truly shows me the benefits of a wheelchair! I hate to admit it, but wheelchair users have a great advantage in having electricity drive them!

So yes, wheelchairs are definitely an eye-opener. In fact, it’s a new beginning for people who’ve been trapped without one for far too long. Like everything else you had to get used to after your diagnosis, a wheelchair will prove to you that being in one is not the end, but the start of a new life.

There are many activities you can do around the house, your job and in your social life. Consider it triumph over adversity when you realize that the energy and new life you so craved before a wheelchair entered your life, is now taken care of. And you can start again.

Share your thoughts on Willeke’s blog on Facebook.

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