Going from rarely being a wheelchair user to needing one every time you go out is a very hard thing to adjust to. But that’s something to go into in another post. For now I want to talk about small things that can make a big practical or emotional difference when using a wheelchair. Mostly clothes. And accessories. Don’t forget the handbags…
*You might’ve noticed by now, either from this blog or my Instagram, that I’m pretty fond of bags, shoes and style so I must say that although this is from my point of view and will (of course) include those things, overall these will be practical suggestions that can be adjusted for any taste/character… Hopefully…*
If you are adjusting to using a wheelchair (for the first time or just more regularly) the first thing is to consider the differences between your everyday, standing-on-your-own-two-feet outings and these mind-out-or-I-might-just-‘accidentally’-run-you-over ones. I know it sounds like common sense (because overall it is) but bare with me. It’s easier than you might think to forget the little things.
Clothes look different when you’re sitting down (duh) yes, everyone knows this but it’s hard to realize what an effect it can have on appearances and comfort until you’ve had a few trips out in a wheelchair. As with a few other points I’ll be bringing up shortly I do plan on writing more in depth posts about ‘wheelchair fashion’ and outfit choices but today I want to give an overview of everything that comes to mind when I think of using my chair. You generate less heat when you’re sitting still (kinetic energy; remember those physics lessons?) so making sure you have extra layers is a good idea. At first, I was horrified at the thought of using a blanket whilst I was out. It seemed somehow reminiscent of that stereotypical old-lady-in-a-wheelchair (I know! I’m can’t believe that even crossed my mind…) but it doesn’t have to be like that and I mean; one advantage of having a chair is that you can basically treat it like your own little world. How likely is a healthy person to have the opportunity to curl up in a quilt whilst being pushed around? Admittedly I’d choose being a quiltless healthy person any day but we must appreciate the little things…
A bag on your lap can get annoying. Especially if it’s a giant tote. Try and choose a bag that sits beside you (if you have extra space on the seat of your wheelchair) or one who’s handle(s) hook nicely over the wheelchair’s handles at the back (preferably without swinging around too much or brushing against the wheels…).
Comfort is key:
When you think of your comfort remember this is not just physical. With clothes, for example, it’s important for you to be comfortable but if you’re also reasonably happy with the way you look that is one less thing to have on your mind. Being in a wheelchair is, of course, nothing to be ashamed of. You are simply using something that enables you to be more mobile than you otherwise would be. Sadly though, it is rarely that simple or straight forward and it is easy to become self-conscious. I usually stick to my jeans now because matching up skirts/dresses et cetera takes more out of me than it used to and can be very stressful.
If you have a chronic illness that can cause fatigue among -lots- of other things (like my ME), being well prepared for going out can really help. Having things ready the day before isn’t always possible but it would mean you’d have less energy-consuming decisions to make on a day that could already be stressful. Plus it helps give you time to remember the little things; like how i sometimes take a sleep mask in my bag in case my headache gets worse/I need to rest in the car.
If I could have given myself a list before I went out in my wheelchair for the first time it would probably look like this:
- Wear something that you will feel comfortable in sitting down,
- Pay more attention to the weather- you can’t exactly jog to warm up,
- Don’t wear anything that will make you feel even more self conscious!!!
Something else that helps is simply to relax. Honestly, when I first started using my chair more I was sure everyone was staring, that I needed to look alert in case anyone was judging my facial expressions (long story) and that I was somehow a liar because I can ‘physically’ walk. It is not your ‘fault’ that you are in a wheelchair and no o
ne has the right to make you feel guilty about it. Generally, I’ve never liked sharing everything about myself online but I’ve found that talking about using my chair or posting photos on Instagram has helped me to realise that I’m not alone. I know I have not said anything profound or ingenious here today but even if just one person reads this and thinks ‘Hey! Last time I went out I was freezing and I wished I’d taken a blanket. At least it’s not just me.’ then that’s enough.