Power chair use can feel like a burden. Most people I hang around don’t use a wheelchair so it makes me feel out of place. I also have to find alternate routes to get into places like restaurants and offices, which is inconvenient for all who accompany me. However, having to use a powered mobility device most of my life has helped me realize much of comfort has to do with attitude. The more you get out in the world and experience life in a power chair, the more secure you’ll be.
The level of my self-consciousness goes up and down — as do most emotions in my life — but managing it with intentionality is extremely important. If thoughts of alienation get too out of hand, you are hamstrung in your attempts to enjoy life with others.
Action and attitude go hand in hand, so you’ll need to work on both if you want to be less self-conscious in public or with friends. The words of Shia LaBeouf in his viral meme ring true here: “Just do it!” The best way to overcome these feelings is to go out into the world and experience life.
The more you can normalize being in a wheelchair, the easier it gets. However, the more you don’t interact in public, the harder it gets to overcome feelings of self-consciousness. In my case, journalism has helped me to overcome those feelings. I’m forced to interact with able-bodied individuals on a regular basis. I become so focused on my work that I forget why going out in public often stresses me out so much.
When I am not out in the field for a while and I stay home for too long, it’s harder to manage those feelings of self-consciousness. My tip is to try and get out in public or with friends at least couple of times a month to prevent feeling alienated from everyone.
In discussions with my friends, it’s become clear they couldn’t care less that I use a wheelchair and that they embrace the way I’m made. That just goes to show most people don’t think as much as you do about who you are or what you look like. And who cares if they do? Trying to worry about what everyone thinks is draining and it doesn’t help with achieving dreams.
I understand it’s easier said than done and, believe me, I’ve been in a place of insecurity many times. Even so, you cannot let your disease dictate the way you interact outside your home. It’s hard to feel and look different than everyone around you, but if you don’t face your self-consciousness, it will keep you from doing what you are capable of accomplishing.
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.