I feel like this is a taboo subject still, although I do admire New Zealand for doing so much work to help bring this very important subject out into the open. However, it is still not something that people readily talk about.
Daily stresses associated with being an amputee.
These are things that you probably don’t even think about but let me take you through the thought processes alone associated with being an amputee.
Morning – wake up. Stump skin routine. Put leg on before I can do anything else. Walking around the house in just socks is a slip hazard. So I always have to have either bare feet or slippers on.
Shower – assess whether I will take leg to shower, or use crutches. In my bathroom I have two chairs. One to put the leg and my stuff on, one to sit on to shower. I use the chair as a crutch to get from shower to a dry area. Put leg back on.
Getting dressed: is hard. I have limited knee bend with the prosthetic and have to wear all day every day compression for my lymphoedema. So the only way I can have found that getting dressed works, is lying down.
Breakfast. If I am on two feet this is relatively easy. If not, mobility and transporting things around the kitchen becomes an issue.
Remember, I am still waiting, 2 years on, for my house to be modified so I cannot access it using my wheelchair, which stays parked in the garage or in my car.
Planning to go out. Is a mental mission. Where will I be going? What are the distances between? Will I need to walk more than a couple of hundred metres? Will it be raining? What will the wheelchair access be like? All of this determines what mobility aids I have to take with me.
Then we step outside the door. What are the floor surfaces? Is it wet? Are there any slip or trip hazards?
You can see already how mentally draining this is becoming, and I have not even left the house yet.
Shops: is there wheelchair access? Are the isles wide enough? Is the counter low enough? Do they have seats in the changing rooms? The answer is often no to most of these things.
Travel: I don’t even go near busses. I can’t access them. Taxis: Even though I book a wheelchair one, they don’t always send me what I booked. I actually had to call and cancel a flight once because I physically couldn’t get to the airport in a wheelchair taxi before 9am.
I have not even begun to talk about the physical appearance associated with being an amputee. The looks from the general public, the random strangers thinking they have the right to ask you personal questions about your injury. The patronising people telling you how amazing you are doing when all you are trying to do is get through today. The fights I have every day just to do life the same as you.
The PTSD / depression
It doesn’t take much to derail me. When you consider everything I have mentioned is already in my ‘waste paper basket’ every single day, you can see why I genuinely feel like I am living life constantly on a knife edge. My brain is just about full to overflowing as it is, just trying to get through the day. That’s before you add anything else into the mix.
PTSD is an unusual beast. It sits there dormant in the background and springs out to surprise you often at the most unexpected moment. Sometimes I can predict it, often I cannot.
This morning I arrived at the airport to catch a flight. I am in a wheelchair and have hand luggage. I checked in online, it told me I just needed to pick up a boarding card when I arrived and go to the gate.
WHen I arrived, I was told I was too late, baggage had closed. I was confused. I had no hold luggage. Oh wait, because I am a wheelchair user you class that as hold luggage and seem to need tons of extra time to sort that out. Despite the fact that you take the chair from me at the plane and bring it back to me at the plane.
So, I was told I had to wait for the next flight and was charged $50 for the privilege. This sent me spiralling into a spin of uncontrolled emotion.
In that moment, everything’s that had happened to me to lead me to this point raced through my mind. This is their fault. I am disabled because of that asshole who didn’t listen, I went through all this trauma because of them, I am in this position because of them. I cannot wander onto a plane like a normal person because of them.
It was all I could do to not absolutely lose it and cry hysterically.
But, if you don’t know I have PTSD.. I just look like an irrational individual.
So, before you judge someone, stop and think for a moment.
We are not all sailing the same ships in the storm of life. Some have cruise liners, some have small dinghy’s. Just stop, think, and be kind. You don’t know what is going on behind that smile.