I bought my first (and currently, only) walking stick a month or two before I turned 30. It was amid the first relapse since my diagnosis – one I’d been waiting for and when it arrived, scared the shit out of me.
Half of my body suddenly felt numb, like it had disappeared. At my insistence, as a terrified novice, I was prescribed a dose of steroids (not a course of action I’d necessarily push for in future unless absolutely necessary) which left me weak as a kitten and unable to walk far without getting tired and floppy, taking the arm of whoever I was with.
My dad suggested buying a stick. My parents are wonderful, supportive humans, and both being from a medical background, they lean toward practical ‘solutions’. I was pretty resistant. A lot of wailing ‘but I’m not even 30 how can I need a walking stick?!’. Dad argued that it was temporary, like using crutches when you have a broken leg, and that if I needed to hang off an arm, a stick would probably be sensible.
So we bought a folding stick. There were a range of colours and styles available at the chemist shop we bought it from but I opted for the basic, black and chrome. The one that looks temporary, or NHS issue. I chose it because I didn’t want it. I didn’t want it to advertise that I am ill.
I don’t use it all the time – thankfully my legs recovered fully from the relapse and worked normally again after a month or so. I use it from time to time when I feel wobbly – my balance is very hit and miss and I often experience ‘jelly legs’ where I feel like my knees might buckle and my calves give way. Mostly though, I keep it in my bag for confidence. To know it’s there when I need it makes me a bit less afraid of a repeat episode; a crutch and a signal.
As the year following my relapse has progressed, I have become quite fond of my stick. Where I’ve used it, I’ve been strengthened by the response from the people around me. The more space, patience and consideration I have received from others, the more I have been able to buy into the idea that I deserve it and that it’s ok to need it. Testing out my stick, which I initially hated using, has turned out to be a massive catalyst for accepting my disease and being proactive with self care.
And so, I’ve been looking into buying a new stick. One which I can be proud of, to signal my acceptance and to make it mine.
EDIT Jan 2016: Here she is! http://www.topandderby.com/collections/the-chatfield