Rainy Day Reflections on One Leg and Disability…

Today is a bit of a free style post day I’m afraid…

It’s cold, wet, and rainy outside, and Berlin has assumed that grey tone that’s finally declaring that winter is coming ...

Strangely enough whilst I was running on the treadmill this morning, I found myself reflecting on my able -bodiedness… or rather on the fact that despite it being grey and gloomy, I can run and my body allows me a certain sort of freedom.

Three months ago, this wasn’t the case. At the beginning of the summer I fell from my bicycle and fractured a bone in my leg, at ankle height.  Now, I am one of those lucky people, whose bone repaired itself without an operation. Three months after my fracture, literally, I was back on the treadmill. Of course my leg isn’t as good as new, but overall I consider myself pretty damn grateful.

Over the summer I had to wear a giant walking boot for 6 weeks and couldn’t put any weight on my left leg. I travelled to Israel, to a good friend of mine’s wedding, in a wheelchair. I walked the Masada on crutches and bathed in the Dead Sea whilst chatting to a one-legged man called Mike, who alas, was on crutches for life. Eventually I was allowed to bear weight on my foot, and I literally had to teach myself to walk again.

Probably the 2 most stylish pictures I managed to take on my holiday ... and I will still probably look a little too vulnerable for your liking ... because we are so conditioned to receive images of disease or disability negatively...

I didn’t let the fact that I was in effect disabled get to me, but nonetheless my experience this summer taught me several very important things:

1)   Being without a leg is worse than being without an arm. You can’t balance very well, which makes you rather dependent on other people for well, almost everything.

2)   Generally other people won’t help you unless you are direct and ask them. At all costs, don’t be polite, be direct. I was polite with the people that surrounded me when I had my accident and told them they could leave. They left and I was not fine, I couldn’t move :-(

3)   People are mostly unhelpful, not because they are a bunch of evil trolls, but because they simply can’t relate. They have never thought about what it feels like, when your body is not functioning. The most understanding people, will be the ones who have been through an experience similar to yours.

3)   You will have to revise and optimise your communication skills so that you get what you need. Otherwise it will be hard.

4)   Airport staff will mostly be insensitive to your needs (toilet, drinks) and laze out taking advantage of the fact that you are stuck in a wheelchair and dependent on them. (Particularly unhelpful staff at Berlin Schönefeld Airport).

5)   Men and women similarly don’t like the sight of someone with a visible weakness or injury. Our society doesn’t consider it attractive! At the sight of my leg, a lot of men became embarrassed and made deriding jokes. I was called ‘robot woman’ by someone, which although hilarious, wasn’t exactly helpful in any way ;-)

6)   Our society seriously needs to develop more empathy towards so-called disability. We will all be disabled to an extent when we are old, so we better start preparing.

7)   My admiration towards people that have physical disabilities grew exponentially. The sheer determination it takes to complete what we take for granted as day-to day actions for a disabled person, will make you respect them like no other.

8)   Luckily our society’s perception of disability is changing but we still have a long way to go!

The road to recovery.. you can still see my blue left foot.. ;-)