Chronic illness: Using a cane

I am used to invisible disabilities. People do not see them and they frankly do not care much to hear about them. And I can choose to talk about them… or not.

But add in a mobility device, such as my cane, and you’re VISIBLE. Flashing neon sign above your head ‘This person has some sort of disability’.

And you would think you’d get the same sort of treatment; disinterest, disbelief, suggestions to rub essential oil all over your body… whatnot.

But it is different because they can See something is Wrong. And therefore it clicks in their brain more and it ousts thoughts of doubt or rudeness.

Chronic illness: using a cane

And so it is a different sort of experience for me walking about with a cane:

  1. People will hold the door open for you, as is common, but Miles before you get there and not like you can get there Faster.
  2. If there are two doors people will almost tackle you to get to that second door before you so they can Also open that door for you.
  3. People will look at the cane, then you, then the cane, then you. Like in their brains they are analyzing my age and the cane and wondering what the hell is wrong with me.
  4. People will feel free to just straight up ask you why you need a cane. Perfect strangers. And I feel like lying in insane ways but me being me I just tell them straight up.
  5. People will see you and jump out of your way like you will need miles of space to get to where you are going… which, granted, with balance issues and disequilbrium I do have a tendency to suddenly bump into the nearest object and then the next nearest object.
  6. They will let you in front of them in line because… I don’t know, you are disabled and it seems like the right thing to do? I don’t really know but I let them because I’m not going to say no and it clearly makes them feel better.
  7. People are exceptionally polite. Like more so than usual.

It is a weird reality. Because with an invisible illness like chronic pain you see No Patience at all and Stares and Rudeness.

-I once had extreme pain I could barely walk. I had to get across the street so I started when it wasn’t busy at the walk light… but I was so slow. And some douchenozzle shows up and starts honking because I wasn’t fast enough. Thanks, dick.

-I was on a vacation and my spouse and I decided to do this walk to this bridge in Ireland that went from the mainland to an island. This was back when I could walk farther than now. But not that far. So on the way back excruciating pain and walking so slow and a lot of resting. And people stared at me like I had two heads. I get I was young and I ‘looked fine’ but I was in serious pain.

-The same goes from the time we went to watch the fireworks fifteen minutes from my house. It was fine getting there but then standing all that time… well the walk back hurt like crazy so I was shuffling, and staggering and moving at a snail’s pace and I got those LOOKS again.

-When you have vestibular symptoms but do not need a cane yet people look at you like you are a day drunk. And that is not effing cool.

-I would never use a seat offered for disabled people due to the excessive judgment of other people. Not ever. No matter how much pain I was in no matter how much vertigo I had. I would suffer through it rather than face all that judgement.

I have literally way too many examples of this happening. Judgemental looks or comments. At my workplace, I asked for accommodation for pain and they said ‘that isn’t a real disability’ so you know you get a lot of crap for an invisible disability. A whole lot of crap.

Add a cane and presto spamo people become super duper nice and polite. Seeing is actually believing. If I am walking really slow… well it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

It shows the stigma we all face with invisible disabilities quite distinctly. I was weirded out by it at first. It was such a contrast that it was bizarre to me. Not at all what I was used to. Fact is people, do want to accommodate me in any way because they feel I deserve it because they can see I have a disability. And the fact is, they do not think that when they cannot see my disability even though chronic pain is a severe one to have and limits me in many, many ways. But at the same time, people cannot see an invisible disability so unless you tell them… they simply will make assumptions and judgements based on what they think your behaviour means (you’re out of shape or something).

I didn’t want to use a cane at first. I didn’t want to be Visible. I didn’t want people to See something was wrong with me. But it was inevitable. Or let them assume I was drunk which just pissed me the hell off. Anyway, I am used to it now. But now that I know it is an accessory I am going to be rocking for a while… I sort of want a nice one. This one is just a pharmacy one that fits my shortness. I want like a nice simple wooden one with some simple, maybe Celtic, carvings on it. Maybe I will treat myself or look one up and ask for it for Christmas since I am sub-zero broke. Then I can have something that at least suits me a bit more.

Read more related

Invisible disabilities: the comorbids

Invisible illness: hiding in plain sight

Invisible disability: good employers and bad employers
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Check out my humour chronic pain book!

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16 comments

  1. This is the best blog ever! I have had the same experience with a cane. I now need a cane whenever I go out or suffer the consequences. Mind you I suffer the same pain nonetheless but the cane keeps me from falling down. That would hurt more.

    Like

  2. I have a friend in her early 30s that sometimes uses a cane. The doctors debate on what’s wrong with her, but she has balance issues they think are neurological in nature. She probably should use the cane more, but doesn’t.

    Having personal experience with an invisible disability, I never assume a person isn’t disability just because they don’t have a noticeable disability.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I got a collapsible cane on Amazon recently, since there’s good days and bad days, and good hours even. Figure I can just whip it out by the end of the day. Hope you find a nice one. You think the politeness comes from people thinking we would never choose a mobility device if we weren’t forced to need it. Like there’s an agreed upon embarrassment about the device? Ugh, more embarrassing to fall tho, and painful. I’ve fallen twice in stores. How many people walk away just thinking we’re drunk. Smh

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this post. I recently started using a cane, not all the tike but when i really need it. People do act differently but I have not experienced the door holding at all. They stare as if they can’t image why such a young person (34) would have use of a cane. When I would limp, no one thought it was strange. Didn’t hold the door but didn’t think it strange either. People are something else.
    I love your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What you say is so true. I don’t always use my cane, but when my balance is shot or I am super dizzy it comes with me. People are nicer when I have it. Ironically it’s my SIL who is still judgmental and thinks I am faking or seeking attention. Ironically she is the only one I have ever wish this on. I normally wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah people in our lives that see us use a cane and then not well that just fuels their doubt fire. Never mind that we do not need it all the time. Nope they have to see that as further evidence we are faking.

      Like

  6. Well said. It is amazing the difference it makes in public perception. Before my cane, a shuffling, off-balance walk would earn me countless dirty looks as I got in and out of my car – I’m surprised no one ever called the police on me. I look too young and too healthy (and tattooed) so obviously, it must be alcohol or drugs.

    I was hesitant to get a cane at first, almost as if getting one was accepting this was my reality. But as soon as I got a cane – I jokingly call it my politeness wand – humanity was transformed. People weren’t staring and glaring. They were being NICE!. It was enough to make me invest in something more ‘me’ than the pharmacy model. The way I saw it, if I was going to carry a cane, it ought to be one I liked. I found a beautiful wood cane with a carved perched raven as the handle on Amazon (the Ren-Faire, where I planned to look was months away and way too much walking) and made that my birthday present to myself. ‘Edgar’ was under $40, has held up beautifully to years of daily use, and receives many compliments. I’ve since seen some beautifully crafted older canes showing up in thrift shops for under $5 – have you checked around any of those? Another plus to wooden canes – us less tall individuals can cut them down to our size!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a great idea! I haven’t checked out thrift stores! I did find one for 40 bucks I like… very simple in design which is my style and wooden. I posted it to my facebook and said ‘this would make a great Christmas gift hint hint’ lol I hope I do get it. It would be nice to have something that suits me more.

      Like

  7. I’m starting to seriously debate getting a cane despite being only 25. My legs get super painful and I force myself to speed walk despite it. I feel like a cane would slow me down (can only be a good thing) and take my time and also allow me to take pressure off parts of my body when I need to, balancing me out and something to lean against. I sometimes use a litterpick at work (I work in a theme park) like a cane and it does help but they aren’t made for that purpose!
    It’s great to hear how helpful it is to other people. Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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