Learning how to ask for help
|Shamini served as a news journalist for some years and now works as a media and communications manager at a private university. When she's not stabbing furiously at her computer, she's in a bar somewhere drinking in great music or at home devouring her favourite authors. She can be reached at [email protected]|
MARCH 25 — After a week and a half of being held prisoner, I was desperate for a night out. So desperate, I was even looking forward to dressing up for the evening.
I knew that stepping out of the apartment would be a challenge, but I didn’t realise just how much. With the left leg in a cast post ankle surgery, life had forced me to slow down.
A friend brought her grandmother’s old wheelchair, and away we went. Leaving the apartment was an adventure: there were bumps to cross before I could crutch myself to the car.
We complained about how disabled-unfriendly the car park was, but this was only the beginning.
When we got to the “live” music joint, getting in was a challenge. From getting on to the sidewalk and into the bar, there were more bumps to cross. And as my friend wheeled me around, I kept apologising for getting in people’s way.
Some people helped, others offered, and others stared. Hey, wheelchair or not, I still had a right to go out and enjoy myself.
The biggest challenge was using the restroom. She had to line the toilet seat, and I had to fight tears.
I came back that night feeling incredibly grateful that my condition is temporary. I thought about the really cool professor at work who has a limp, and felt renewed respect. I thought about former colleagues who are permanently in wheelchairs, and cried. I don’t know how they do it, day in and day out, for the rest of their lives.
The worst, is the feeling of helplessness. I could not go back to my apartment because it would have been impossible to manage alone. How to drive the manual and “tapau” food with one working leg?
I have been independent for a long time and realised I did not know how to rely on people doing things for me - from buying my essentials to moving furniture around so we could get on to the balcony of the friend’s apartment I am currently staying in.
I learned who my friends were. The people closest to me have moved me deeply with their kindness, bending over backwards to make sure I’m comfortable. Those whom I thought were good friends turned out not to be, while others of whom there were no expectations were the ones asking me if I was okay. I even have a self-appointed jester who makes it his business to make me laugh.
Mostly, I am gaining insight into the lives of people living with disabilities. How difficult it is to get around; what a challenge it is to use the facilities; how tempting it is to tell people to stop staring; how the littlest kindness a stranger shows makes your day and how a friend who wipes away your tears is a friend for life.
As I now worry about clumping around in a walking boot for six weeks, worry about how to afford the automatic car I want, worry about how to manage moving into the new apartment, I am grateful for the most valuable of treasures -- people who care.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist