I got a cane today! I’m pretty excited about it because it’s already making walking a whole lot easier for me. My chronic pain condition has been progressing, and I knew this was inevitable, but I kept putting off buying a cane for all kinds of reasons. Despite having days where I literally cannot walk, I still thought maybe it’d fade and I’d go back to regular old wrist pain, instead of this spine-neck-hips-knees-tailbone mess, thought I’d just keep taking my painkillers and blot it out. But last night, coming home from the Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow Toronto tour stop, I had to use my umbrella as a cane, and I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten home without it. It was extremely difficult to walk from the nearest bus stop to my front door, and I kinda wished I had a friend with a wagon to pull me home. As I walked along the edge of Trinity Bellwoods, a racoon walked alongside me, and another racoon greeted me at my door. They’re good luck for broke fuck-ups, right? (They are to me.)
I’ve been hiding my limps from my friends, and nobody but my sweetheart has seen my crooked hobble-crawl I use at home, or all the dirty dishes stacked up in my sink because I can’t stand pain-free, or at least pain-lower, long enough to do the dishes. One of the reasons I don’t go to shows anymore is because I can’t stand or dance, and seats are often not provided. Chronic pain affects every moment of my life, every decision, every mood. Sometimes my legs give out beneath me. Sometimes I can’t afford transit and I can’t walk so I stay home. As I write this, my spine has tingling needles & pins, and a soreness beats through the right side of my tailbone, hip, knee, and shin.
I also worried (and still worry) about how folks on the street’ll treat me, or at events, or whatever. I’ve identified as disabled for a few years, and I’ve written extensively about my mental illnesses and chronic pain. And I still feel like I’m annoying buzzkill when I make accessibility requests. In fact, I’ve tabled at zinefests where I made an accessibility request due to my chronic pain condition, and arrived just to find that my requests hadn’t been fulfilled after all. I don’t go to those zinefests anymore.
Now that I use a cane, and sometimes use knee braces and wrist braces as well, I’ll be among the visibly disabled, and that’ll be a new experience for me. I’ve often felt like conversations about invisible illnesses have shuffled conversations about visible disabilities under the rug. Sometimes it feels like one group is given “visibility” over another. I want both of these conversations to continue, and I’m grateful to be a part of them. (Grateful for pain and illnesses? Yep!) It took me a long time to decide to identify as disabled, but now I do.
As my condition worsens, I’m becoming aware that some of the spaces that are physically accessible to me today aren’t going to be in the future. I’ve been mentally preparing for this, but haven’t talked to anybody about it much because I thought somehow I could sneak away from that part. But I can’t. It’s already happening.
I want my cane to be my magical wand that grants me the ability to walk when I want to. I hope it’ll feel good by my side. My cane is foldable, so I can carry it in my backpack, and of course I’ve already got Hello Kitty and Lisa Frank stickers on it. I created a ritual to welcome my cane into my life, and to welcome myself into this part of my life.