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My First Shopping Experience In My Wheelchair

Confidence is the most beautiful aura one can wear in public. The feeling of wearing an invisible security blanket around yourself and loving every part of your being is priceless. That is how I felt before neuromyelitis optica (NMO) came to show up and show out.

NMO came into my life like Hurricane Katrina, and its effects are still rendering. The perfect storm formed in my spinal cord and created a massive lesion that would later affect me tremendously.

Baclofen pump surgery

Outings with different devices would soon be my new normal and I soon had to build a different type of confidence. Not the confidence that was built in 26 years of living, but the confidence that I would need to learn with the changes brought by NMO.

After getting surgery for a baclofen pump installed in me to ease my spasticity, I was very dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. I wasn’t used to a wheelchair, let alone used to being seen in one. When it came time to get back to regular life after recovery from the surgery, it wasn’t easy.

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Shopping in a wheelchair

I remember my very first shopping experience in a wheelchair. I felt uncomfortable getting pushed around in a clothing store. I wanted to stop and look around at items in privacy without being judged by the person that was pushing me around (in this case my husband).

I felt uncomfortable not being at eye level to people. I felt uncomfortable not being able to take clothes off the rack by myself. I hated that people looked at me and impolitely stared. I hated the staring!

When it came time to get into the check-out line, I felt my throat choking up. I just kept looking at the person’s butt in front of me because it was at my eye level, and I hated that.

Feeling unequal

As soon as I got in the car I started screaming and crying because I felt so belittled in all types of ways. My shopping experience wasn’t pleasant for many reasons. I felt like I wasn’t equal to others. I couldn’t shop independently because I couldn’t take clothes off the rack. I didn’t fit in some aisles. For the first time ever, I truly felt discriminated against.

All I could think about was how unfair life felt at this precise moment. My husband did not have the slightest clue as to what I was feeling in the moment. To be fair, he did understand that it was my first wheelchair outing after surgery.

Honestly, one must be the one sitting in the wheelchair in public for the very first time to truly experience the overwhelming feelings of the moment. It was not usual for me to have such difficulty when presented with a challenge. The lack of confidence I had to navigate this situation really shocked me.

I wasn’t expecting this emotional experience at all. It made me realize that I had work on myself. I had to build a confidence in me that I never knew existed. Thinking back to that day, I wonder if the wheelchair secretly empowered me for future outings.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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