Being disabled

April 12, 2014 Travel

This is what it feels like to have a disability.

It is frustrating.

I used to be a weekday workaholic and weekend warrior, eagerly anticipating the start of a new year and expecting great things.

Everything changed on December 22 last year when I broke my left leg at the foot of Mt. Tabayoc in Kabayan, Benguet.

I spent my Christmas at The Medical City and had surgery the following day. A metal rod, held by four screws, was placed in my left leg. There used to be four screws until one got dislodged and was removed last March 4.

Being confined in a wheelchair or always depending on crutches makes me feel truly disabled. That feeling is more difficult to deal with than the pain and the inability to walk.

I got so frustrated that I couldn't sleep at night. It made me even more frustrated that I was not productive during the hours I was awake. It even got to a point where I was shaking, forcing myself to cry to release the emotions, but no tears came out.

It also bothers me that I cannot walk.

I genuinely appreciate people who advise me to take it easy. I get annoyed with people who constantly ask when I can walk or why my recovery is taking so slow.

Hey, more than anyone, it is me who wants to walk. I appreciate that people notice, but please do not rush me. It adds to the frustrations.

There are things I cannot do.

I surprised some people when I started showing up for event coverage and meetings days after the operation. I actually needed that to ease the frustrations. It helped.

It doesn't mean that I am 100% ready. There are things I cannot or don't want to do. I want my healing to be complete, and I also need this time for myself. I don't want to explain anymore why.

I hate how my leg looks and how my body bloats.

I have keloids on my left leg. It is still more reddish than my right. Parts of my left leg are still black and blue.

There was a time when my body was very cooperative. I ate three full meals, and it didn't feel like I gained weight.

Now, it is different. Apart from worrying about my recovery, I have to think about weight gain. It doesn't help that people still taunt me for my body weight.

Yes, I also try to exercise while lying down on my bed. Happy? But, can't it be okay for me to eat more? Food can make me happy.

I know I have mood swings, and I also try to deal with them.

It is easy for me to get annoyed and angry. It is not just pain and discomfort I deal with; it is also the constant outbursts of my emotions.

I am glad it is my mom and sisters who are taking care of me. Others would have strangled me already.

Again, it is frustrating to be disabled.

I don't like wheelchairs. I don't like crutches.

It feels like somebody else is controlling me. I used to have two functional feet, enabling me to go anywhere I wanted. Now, I have to ask people to take me. I cannot control the pace and sometimes the direction. I also get motion sickness.

Crutches are painful on my armpits and hands. Being on crutches for so long makes my left foot swell. It is also tiring.

I do not like able people who fill the elevators or block the ramps.

Hello! We need these things. Please do not make life more difficult for us.

If you can walk, please take the escalators. If you are beside me in an elevator, please do not rush or constantly move. I am tempted to trip you.

If you see a sign on a parking lot, please consider other people who need the slot more than you do. You make me sin. I secretly wish you also got fractured.

I need attention too.

I may look big and strong, but aren't the crutches enough for people to notice I need help opening the doors.

I wanted to hit a restaurant crew of Calea in Bacolod who just watched me try to open the door by myself. Does it have to be in your job description? The guy on the street was kinder than you.

I do not feel the same. I do not act the same.

I had friends who noticed I was not my usual self. I am going through difficult times, so if I am not always bursting in laughter or a little bit emo. I know you miss my old self. I miss her too.

Of course, there are pains and a lot of discomfort.

My left leg has to be constantly elevated, but not any pillow will do. It has to be the right amount of softness. It has to be consistent. If there are lumps, my leg feels it, and it is so uncomfortable.

Sleeping is very difficult. There are a lot of positions I cannot do. If I want to sleep on the side, I have to sync my movements.

It is also very painful if anyone or anything bumps my left leg. I wanted to strangle that girl employee of Lancaster Hotel in Mandaluyong who accidentally hit me while rushing to the elevators. More so when she said sorry in that trying-to-be-cute ala Got to Believe Chichay mode. You are not pretty! My operation scar is prettier than your face!

It is not that bad, though. Actually, the good greatly outweighs the bad.

I feel loved.

Ever since the accident, not once did my mom or any of my family and friends blame me or my mountaineering for the accident. They had every reason to. It was not only my life that got affected. They also had to make a lot of adjustments.

All I felt was their love, care, and compassion. They didn't see it as a task to make my milk every day or push my wheelchair or charge my cell phone for me.

As a result, not for a single moment did I blame myself or anyone for the accident.

I feel missed.

A week ago, friends picked me up to attend the regular meeting of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines. It was late already. My mom was not so happy about me going out at night, but I insisted. The moment I stepped out of the car, there were cheers. It was overwhelming, and it feels good knowing people missed me.

I feel cared for.

If you look at my Instagram, about 75% of my posts from the past 3 1/2 months showcase the food brought to me by friends. My intention is not to brag; I just want to show the world I have great friends, and I want to remember them every time I browse back to my posts.

Honestly, I didn't have much time to wallow in my predicament. Friends were always there to visit, call, and chat.

It is true what they say about friends— that they are the ones there when you need them the most. I am glad I found out who they are.

I feel like a baby again.

In one of my Facebook posts, I mentioned that I am back to being my mom's baby. One of my friends suggested that I should enjoy it.

That is not hard to do. There was a time when I got breakfast in bed. My fruits were cut and peeled. My bath and clothes were prepared for me.

Since I am a lot better now, I need less care, but I am still the family's baby, even my little sister's baby. She prepared my milk for me last night.

Actually, I think everyone in the family likes that I am spending more time with them, and we have a lot of bonding moments.

I feel special.

Up to now, I am still afraid of stairs. So, when I booked a flight for me and my mom, I chose Philippine Airlines because, based on experience, there are bigger chances there will be a tube access.

I didn't bring my wheelchair anymore because my grandmother in San Carlos City has her own wheelchair, which I can borrow. To be sure, I also called the airline to confirm the availability of a wheelchair.

From check-in to departure, even after landing up to the time I left the airport, an attendant was with me, assisting me, and of course, pushing my wheelchair.

It was the same during my return flight to Manila, except when we landed at the Manila airport where passengers had to take the stairs. I was actually contemplating already asking the flight crew if they have a slide. I didn't know that on the right side of the plane (stairs were on the left), they would attach an elevator that has ramps. Even the bus I used has its ramp.

Even when I watched Wicked at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I had an usher assisting me. I could get used to the VIP treatment.

Disabled people, like senior citizens, are prioritized in queues, including cinemas. I might miss this when I am already up and about.

I feel the goodness of people.

Strangers assisted me when climbing the stairs, removed obstructions from my path, and offered chairs.

When I watched Wicked, the family seated beside me asked if I needed anything or if I needed to go to the comfort room.

People are generally kind to the disabled.

I feel wiser.

Life events like this come with a lot of learning. It made me appreciate my life more, the people around me, and of course, God. I feel more in love with Mama Mary, her angels, and Sto. Nino.

Having also this much time to think and contemplate made me realize a lot of things. There is a lot to gain from being quiet, being aware of everything, and slowly taking them all in.

I feel fortunate.

I am really lucky my work doesn't require me to go to the office every day. It is also good that my office is in the same building so our workflow is not disrupted.

I am also happy my business partner and all the people I work with, including my clients, are very understanding.

Despite my lack of productivity, the blessings do not cease. That is very fortunate.

I feel blessed.

Honestly, despite the trauma of the accident and the pain after, I feel blessed. Why? I know this is God's way of letting me experience His love and the affection of the people around me.

I feel ready for my new chapter.

This experience made me realize that life is too short to be living just one life. During my 20s, I was so focused on my career. In my 30s, I got a good balance of career and my hobby, which is mountaineering. I was also able to start on my lifelong goal of being of service to others. Now that I am nearing my 40s, I feel like a new life is about to unfold, and this period prepares myself for it.

I am not saying, though, that I am abandoning mountaineering and Trails to Empower Kids, the group I co-founded that helps kids who live in far-flung areas. I just have space now for more.

I got myself armed. I bought a positivity necklace from Alex and Ani. I also have a Pandora bracelet ready to be filled with new charms that will tell my life story from here onwards. I also got my crystals and charms bracelet yesterday that helps me attract happiness, love, and wealth.

In a few months, I will be able to walk. What's good about this, I will forget the frustrations and just remember the love.

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