Every day I come inside and I hang up my keys, I hang up my backpack, I hang up my coat, I hang up my cane. Those are four things that I hang up each day But I have more hang ups. It actually took me quite a long time to start using a cane in public because I had a hang up about appearing sick, appearing broken, appearing weak.
I bought my cane and had it sitting in my house for several months but I would only use it inside my house when no one was home on the days when my legs were really bad and I could barely move. But then I finally though “well this is stupid.” I wasn’t going out when my legs were bad so I was missing out. My illness was impeding my life and I figured that living with a cane was better than not living. At the beginning I still would only use it when I was going out by myself and when I knew I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. And I was still so self conscious. I felt like I was using it wrong, that people would stare, and that they would judge me and maybe even accuse me of faking because I don’t look like a typical cane user who would be using it for an injury.
But as I kept using it I found that the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks. It helps me keep my balance when I have to climb over precarious snow banks in winter and it helps me dodge puddles in the spring. It helps me propel myself forward when my legs feel as though they weigh a thousand pounds each. It gives my knees some relief when they’re hurting from the side effects of my medications. And it helps with things that are probably not the intended use – when my daughter is about to run away I can stop her with it, I can use it to drag an abandoned tricycle back to the house when a child tires of riding, I can pull a stranded ball out of the splash pad without getting wet while retrieving it.
And through all this what I’ve learned it that nobody cares. Nobody looks, nobody stares, nobody judges and nobody accuses. Once in a while someone will ask and when they do I simply state “I have a neuromuscular condition that affects my legs and it means they’re not always reliable”. That’s it. Easy question, easy answer. And I wonder why did I hold back on this for so long? I could have been accessing these benefits for months if I hadn’t been so self conscious. I think too often we live like that We worry about what other people might think about us instead of what we need.
My goal when I started using it was to only use it when I need it. What I’ve come to realize is that I always need it. It always makes my life better – some days immensely and some days marginally – so it’s worth bringing along. No matter what kind of benefit I’m going to get, it’s a benefit.
So when I come home I still hang up my keys, my bag, my coat, and my cane. But I have one less hang up.