Story from the Chronic Pain Chronicles (Vol. 3)

It has been six or seven days since I sprained my ankle.

I wish I knew when it happened, or how, but this seems to be a thing I do: when I broke my wrist in 2010, for example, I thought it was a sprain. That time I know what I did (I tripped over a curb in the Square One parking lot), and even had a witness (Courtney T.), but I’ve had a lot of injuries over the years that a) I’m not sure how I got, and b) I didn’t recognize the severity of.

My being stubborn and wanting to explore the UBC campus while I was at NAISA, I definitely did not adhere to the RICE method very well. I taped it and hobbled along, but I definitely did not ice my ankle (where do I get ice and something to put it in on a campus I’m unfamiliar with?), rest enough, or elevate it as much as I should have. I also didn’t go to a doctor.

Part of the reason I didn’t seek out a doctor is that other than confirming an injury that I’ve already had on this ankle a few times (thanks, soccer) there aren’t many options for mobility aids for me.

  • I can’t use axillary (underarm) crutches because a) I can’t properly grasp the hand hold, and b) the hand hold puts pressure on my wrist.
  • I can’t use forearm (Lofstrand) crutches because the hand hold puts pressure on my wrist.
  • I can’t use a wheelchair because one of my wrists are fused and as a result I can’t make the wheels turn.

Those are some of the more common, and thus readily available, options.

Knowing those are my choices, I decided I did not want to go to the doctor. Simply put, I didn’t want to have to explain the entirety of my medical history to a doctor treating my foot/ankle, especially since I have had many healthcare practitioners treat me as a curiosity rather than a person.

There are three other alternatives available to my knowledge: knee scooters, the iwalk 2.0, and platform crutches.

  • Knee scooters are great for being outdoors, but would not be helpful at all for stairs – and I live in a three-story walkup. I don’t think they would be terribly good for moving around in my apartment either. They cost $110 to rent for a few weeks or $500 to buy according to a local store.
  • The iwalk 2.0 makes you look like a steampunk pirate of sorts. They seem to be great for getting around most places. I do wonder how uncomfortable it would be to have your leg bent out all the time, and how that would impact sitting.  I’ve only found American websites that allow you to buy them; they cost about $170USD.
  • Platform crutches appear to be similar to other types of crutches in terms of mobility.  I’m not sure if they would end up fitting my arms as my left arm is a) smaller than my right, and b) shorter. It looks as though you can buy platform attachments to fit on axillary crutches, but I’m not sure how widespread that option is. Platform crutches cost about $160USD from what I’ve been able to find.

The first concern here is the cost: I don’t have $100-200 to spare these days, and I don’t want to buy or rent something that may not work. I would feel silly using any of these three items because of my internalized ableism. These apparatuses signify difference in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Normally, I hide the fact I’m physically different wherever possible since so many of my experiences have been negative. Using any one of these (if I could even find them where I live; the internet has yielded no results) would illustrate to me, yet again, that I am different and that difference is problematic. Specifically, my difference and dis/ability makes something as common as a sprained ankle hard to accommodate.

This also speaks to how normalized certain bodies and types of bodies are in a society. In this case, these types of bodies are able bodies. They are bodies that can walk.* Moreover, it also suggests that if you don’t have a ‘normal body’ that you are trying to navigate in a society that was not built for you.

As much as I am used to existing in a society that does not cater to my female body and my dis/abled body, and have adapted in a number of ways, the lack of accessibility that exists for other dis/abled bodies is affecting me a lot at the moment. I’m even more tired than normal: pain makes you tired and now I have pain in two places instead of one. The medication I need for my chronic pain is no longer enough,** which means more pills, and more sleepiness. It’s harder to get around and do regular, day-to-day things, like washing my dishes or doing my laundry (three flights of stairs…). I can’t reach things that are in high cupboards for fear of falling off the chair or step ladder. I can’t exercise because what doesn’t put pressure on my foot puts pressure on my wrist. And I only have a sprain! It’s not even a serious injury.

If this experience has taught me anything, it has solidified the fact that living with disabilities is hard, and harder still when they are compounded in multiple conditions. Sometimes able-bodied people will have an epiphany of how hard it can be when they face something like an injury or an acute illness – but that empathy is often short-lived. Many of us spoonies have to live as if we aren’t ill – and it feels to me that a lot of people don’t understand how hard that can be on us.

As little of a platform this is, I hope it can inform you, reader, about how hard being chronically ill and dis/abled can be. Though my experiences aren’t necessarily representative of all other spoonies, there are certainly parallels in our experiences. If nothing else, I want you to think about these things, and advocate for us when and where we need it. Our societies need to change. At the micro level, our family groups, social circles, and work cultures need to recognize that sometimes we are fighting our bodies tooth and nail and we really can’t [fill in the blank]. At the macro level, we need better disability-related policies. What exists at the provincial levels is not consistent from province to province, which is probably related to the fact that we do not have a federal disability policy in Canada. Having a dis/ability is hard. Having a chronic illness is hard. Help us make it less hard.

As to where this leaves me for the next few days, I’m not sure. I think I have to go back to taping as the brace I’m wearing (thanks, soccer) doesn’t fit quite right when I’m not wearing heavy socks. In terms of meandering around, I guess that’s going to be limited for the next little while unless I can make up my mind about mobility aids. Unfortunately, I have outgrown my preferred choice, the Power Wheels Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Jeep Wrangler. I’m rather upset about that, to be honest. In terms of being in my apartment, I’m content to hop around like a one-footed kangaroo, but I need to remember to wear a sports bra lest my breasts smack me in the face.

* These bodies are also white, straight, and cismale.
** If you’re in pain in more than one place the medication can’t target the pain as well as the medication is ‘divided’ among two areas.

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