When going through 6 months residential rehab in 2002 my counsellor told me it would be the small things that would get to me in life as I would have to come to terms with not being able to walk quite quickly and he was right it is often the little things that happen every day that niggle, frustrate and exhaust. Although it is equally fair to say that the kindness of others, the assistance offered by strangers and the often natural taking over of things by my family and friends often makes me smile and realise just how supportive people can be.
So what about an ordinary week?
On Monday I arrived for a day in the office to find the picnic table had been put out on the lawn directly behind the accessible parking, could not move it or squeeze past it meaning that I could not get into my boot. In the evening I went to the Young Britain Awards fabulous evening but what struck me was that as soon as I stopped and looked around me in the dining room several people came up and asked me if I was alright? and you may say that’s because they care but it does get tiring to keep responding ‘yes fine just looking around’ all the time.
On Wednesday I visited a business colleague so that we could plan a training session for next week; she works in an office that has not really stopped to fully understand the logistics of a person with a disability visiting the building and it is fair to say this is a situation I come across this often; The accessible parking is around the rear of the building as from the parking space it is then level access to the building – but when you get to the door because it’s the back door there is no way of getting in you are faced by a locked door as the reception desk is at the front of the building, the front door is impossible to get to as there are four steps. With no doorbell I am left stranded but wisely I carry my colleague’s mobile and ring her to say ‘I am here at the back door, come let me in’. Such situations amaze me.
A weekly visit to the supermarket requires me to take my daughter so that I can buy things on high shelves, can fill a trolley and have someone lift the shopping into the car. I know the supermarket offer you a personal shopper for such a visit but how uncomfortable that would feel just having someone you don’t know just following you around.
So you learn to be wise to situations, plan for the, anticipate challenges and in many cases get used to asking for assistance: A meeting with a friend for coffee on Wednesday where I insisted that I bought the coffee meant a smile at the counter and politely asking a member of staff if she could bring the coffees across to our table. Asking someone at Young Britain dinner to carry my wine into the dining area from the patio as it is virtually impossible to physically move and carry something at the same time and when driving to pick up an item I had purchased on ebay asking the person for a mobile phone number so I could tell them when I was outside their house and for them to carry the item to my car.
Another memorable comment from my counsellor when one distraught day in rehab I said ‘I would never be physically strong enough to be a wheelchair user’ he smiled and said ‘being strong means that you are able to get over an obstacle having a logical mind like you have Ann means you will simply work out how to get round it’ and he was right. An ordinary week comes about because I have learnt from 12 years plus experience to make difficult and challenging things become normalised and learnt to simply get on with it.