Depersonalization and Derealization

Depersonalization and Derealization

My mental health has taken a hit recently. Unfortunately, I am person who will struggle with my mental health all my life. In the beginning, it was difficult to accept that I would never be ‘cured’ but, now I have, I am able to work on levelling out my peaks and troughs, while taking comfort in the knowledge that when I am down, I will come back up. In a way, this acceptance has helped me manage my chronic illness too, but that’s not the point of this post.

Today I want to talk about, not what caused this bought of depression, not how I’m managing it, but how I experience it. Today, I want to talk to you about dissociation.

When a brain is exposed to prolonged, sustained trauma, it will often learn to dissociate as a coping mechanism. That is, it will remove your consciousness from your body, from the time and place where you are, and give you an alternate reality to focus on so that you don’t have to endure what is happening to you.

For those of us with CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), even after the trauma has passed, the brain can continue to employ this technique to every day stressors. This can be a blessing and a curse. It means that when traumatic events do occur, we are better equipped to deal with them than the average person. We are often calm in high-stress situations because we are able to emotionally and mentally remove ourselves from it. But it can also caused severe mental illnesses such as DID, OSDD, sociopathy, psychopathy, psychosis and others. In me, it has distorted my sense of reality. The more stressed or anxious I am, the more I dissociate, so I struggle to remember some of the biggest moments in my life, like my wedding and my graduation.

Before I was able to name my problems, I always knew that I had difficulty distinguishing the difference between truth and lies. And not just the lies that others told me, but the ones I told myself too.

When I was a child I had imaginary friends who I sometimes forgot weren’t real people. Sometimes I even heard them speak to me. It didn’t help that my real friends and I would talk about them as if they existed in the world, but nobody else ever got confused like I did.

When I was a teenager I was a pathological liar (I’m sure I’ll get into the reasons for that in another post some day). In order to make my lies believable, I would envision the made-up scenario in my head. I would submerge myself in every detail so that if I was ever quizzed or questioned about it I would be able to give accurate, consistent information. However, the more I told a lie the more I began to believe that it was real. There were a couple of times when I was presented with witnesses and hard evidence that a thing had not in fact occurred, and I flat-out could not believe it.

As a young adult I became fascinated by conspiracy theories and repeated to myself the mantra “question everything”. I became paranoid about everyone and everything I thought I knew. During this time I was also romantically involved with an abusive narcissist, and by the end of the relationship I genuinely believed that he could read my mind.

When that relationship ended I tried to commit suicide by overdose. The drugs made me dizzy, hazy, and sleepy. For about year after that, I was convinced I had actually died from the overdose and that everything I was experiencing from that point onward, was some form of afterlife.

There was a time where I hadn’t slept in several days and my skin was itchy. I thought that if I cut my skin open then the itch would be able to escape and I would feel better.

Often I recall things, and I’m not sure if they actually happened or if I dreamed it. I have been wrong in both directions too (thinking something did happen but it turned out to be a dream, and thinking I dreamed something that turned out to have actually happened).

The pandemic has been the definition of a stressful/traumatic experience for everyone. When it first began, I basically ignored it, thinking of it like another swine flu that is blown up by the media but will ultimately not effect my life in any real way. When lockdown began, that was when I realised my own vulnerability and the immensity of the destruction this virus could cause. That was when I started to flip-flop between “this can’t be real. It’s not really happening” to “this is the most important event of my lifetime and everything that happens now will effect our lives and the lives of generations to come.”

I need to explain though, the “this can’t be real. It’s not really happening” thoughts are not the general disbelief that everyone feels in these kinds of situations. The kind where they don’t want it to be real but ultimately they know it is. This is the kind of disbelief where I am questioning my own existence and the existence of the world around me.

The first time I saw people wearing masks out in public, I thought that it was a simulation. I thought they were holographic projections of what a futuristic world could look like. When I went outside during the first lockdown, the streets were abandoned. There was no traffic and no people walking around. I thought I was in a post-apocalyptic film or game, I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing did.

I’m not completely detached from reality though. If I was, I wouldn’t be able to communicate these things to you. It’s like I have a split brain and while one part believes that nothing is real, the other part is well aware of what is actually happening. It’s difficult to explain the disjointed feeling of unreal and real at the same time.

Here’s an example from the other day: I saw an electric scooter abandoned in the middle of a green area between roads. I saw it there a few days in a row and it became part of the scenery, so I stopped noticing it. The next time I saw it, it was laying on its side, on the verge of the green rather than in the centre. The most obvious explanation for this is that somebody moved it. Maybe they used it and returned it to a slightly different place. Maybe it was in their way so they pushed it to one side. Maybe some kids were messing about and it got shoved a little way away. However the exact movement came about, it was most likely a person that caused it to move. But I didn’t see that happen. From my perspective, it was in one place, then it was in a different place. So what if it disappeared for a day or two, then on its reappearance, it misjudged the time and speed of its arrival and ended up in the wrong place? What if it teleported to somewhere else entirely and when it tried to come back it got it’s co-ordinates wrong and missed it’s spot by a few feet? You see, even though it’s highly unlikely that this is what happened, I didn’t see it, so I don’t know for sure. I can’t know for sure, so in my mind any of these scenarios are equally possible.

It’s like man landing on the moon. We know that’s probably what happened, but we didn’t see it happen ourselves, so how can we know for sure that it actually did?

My most recent dissociative thought was that I was a game character that was stuck in first-person mode. I found it irritating and wanted to switch to third-person so I could see where I was going better. I know I’m not a character in a game, but if I was, would I know?

For a long time I thought (because my psychiatrist told me) that it was caused by my having an “overactive imagination”. But I’ve been thinking about this recently, and I believe it’s actually because people close to me have been fucking with my sense of reality all my life.

It started with my Mother. With things as small as “you did ask for a cup of tea, I wouldn’t have made you one if you hadn’t”, all the way to keeping the details of my Father’s illness a secret. I knew they were going to hospitals a lot and I knew he was in pain all the time, but they never told us what was going on. Maybe they were trying to protect us, or maybe they are terrified of being vulnerable in front of us. Either way, the outcome was the same. I have many memories of my childhood that my Mother completely denies happened, but I know that they did because my brothers can confirm them.

Then came a whole series of people who would tell me one thing, then do something else. My first boyfriend who said he loved me, then hit me. My school friends who said that we would all go to Sixth Form together, then left me on my own and went off to college together instead. The narssacist who lied about pretty much everything and made everything my fault some how. My best friend in the whole world, who I’d known and loved for 10 years who told me that no matter what his new girlfriend did or said, he would never lose me from his life because I was too important to him, who then ghosted me at the worst time in my life (I only knew he wasn’t dead because his Mum would have told me if he was). The girlfriend who played the domestic abuse victim who was actually an abuser herself. The boyfriend who told me he loved me, then took it back the next day. Everybody I ever trusted, lied to me. Is it really any wonder that I don’t know what’s real and what’s not?

My husband knows how important open honesty is to me. In our marriage hard truths are a sign of love and respect, even if they hurt us both, because it’s a demonstration of trust. Promises are a rare thing between us, because we won’t make one that we can’t be certain we’ll keep. All too often people will say things like “I promise I will always love you/will always be here/will never hurt you/will keep you safe” but people change and no-one has that much control over life.

I am a scientist and I believe that empirical evidence can prove or disprove the existence of something. I am religious and spiritual, and I know that there are some things in this world that we cannot explain, but that doesn’t make them any less real. I am a fiction writer and I spend a lot of time “off with the fairies” imagining made up people and places and events. I am a philosopher and continue to “question everything” in order to find deeper meaning. I am a survivor of trauma and abuse, I know that sometimes things that you didn’t believe would ever happen, do happen. I am neurodivergent and the world is not how I was taught it should be. I also have minor prosopagnosia (face blindness) so strangers all look like generic NPCs to me. All of these things effect how I experience the world around me, and inside of me. Sometimes I wonder how many other people experience the world like I do.

From time to time this dissociation can cause an existential crisis in me, but I am aware when that is occurring and can take the time and space to reconcile this. For the rest of the time, as long as I’m rational and not a danger to myself or others, does any of it really matter?

Gender and Sexuality Update

Gender and Sexuality Update

I wasn’t going to make this into a blog post because I thought this was something I talked about only recently. Then when I looked back, I found that my previous gender and sexuality post was back in August 2020, so yeah, update time! 🙌🙌

If you haven’t read my last post, you don’t need to but it goes into more detail about my self identity. Essentially, I decided that I was gender fluid and bisexual. Since then, I’ve done more soul searching, more research (do you even know how many different genders and sexualities there are out there?) and, SURPRISE! I am officially coming out as a bi-gendered omnisexual who goes by the pronouns she/her, he/him, or they/them.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, you can find definition of terms here. Honestly, I am not familiar with all of the labels myself, because there are so many and some of them are really specific, but I feel like bi-gendered omnisexual describes me perfectly, so I’m sticking with that.

I have identified as bisexual since I first discovered it was a thing. Back in the day, the only commonly known sexualities were; straight, gay, or bi, but these terms assume there are only two genders. In todays world of “your gender is more than what your genitals look like”, I’ve discovered that sexual attraction is also far more than just what genitals a person has. When transsexuals started becoming more commonplace, I realised that I could be attracted to them too, but still considered myself bi because I figured they were either male to female, or female to male, remaining in the binary. Now, of course, I’m far more aware of the spectrum of genders out there and it feels ridiculous to restrict your attraction to binary people only. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would reject a sexual partner because their gender was “wrong”, that just seems arbitrary and weird. I am physically attracted to humans. So I’m pansexual, right? Not quite. Pansexual people are typically ‘gender-blind’. They either don’t see gender or gender has no influence over their attraction to a person. My attraction feels different to me depending on an individual’s gender or, more specifically, their presentation of their gender (masculinity vs femininity). I’m going to oversimplify things now to help readers understand, but obviously it’s far more complicated than this: Essentially, I prefer feminine women and masculine men. Again, this is a massive oversimplification, but this is the thing that makes me omnisexual rather than pan.

I have identified as non-binary for a while, simply because I knew I didn’t fully identify with the female gender I was assigned at birth, but I also wasn’t trans. Non-binary is a nice umbrella term for “I’m not a man, and I’m not a woman either.” However, this never really sat right with me because it sounds a lot like agender. I definitely have gender, and binary gender at that, my problem was that it was always switching. I took a couple of online quizzes and spoke to a few trans and non binary people online and, more often than not, was given the label “gender fluid”. This is closer, but still makes it sound as if I’m in between male and female, like my gender is on a sliding scale and I could be 65% female and 35% male (for example) at any given point. Again, this is inaccurate, I am 100% male or 100% female depending on my state of mind. My dysphoria goes along with that, I either love my body or totally hate it, I never like some parts but would change others. So I had a little read of some gender terms and found bi-gendered. Perfect. I have two binary genders. Some bi-gendered people can be both genders at the same time, but that’s not true for all. Maybe one day I’ll discover a gender term that exactly describes me, but this one is pretty damn close.

And on that note, let me tell you about Kai. Kai is my male counterpart. That’s right, my male gender is so different and separate from my female gender that he gave himself his own name. He’s not only different from me in terms of gender and sexual preferences, but in personality too. We have similarities but he’s more like a twin brother than my own self. Maybe one day I’ll do a full post about him, or by him, but for now I would briefly describe him as outgoing, cheeky, charming (or at least he likes to think so), and carefree. He’s much more “do now and think later” whereas I’m all “think so much that you never get around to the doing part”, and together we form a functioning human being.

So there you have it, the latest epiphany in the never ending search for labels that can accurately describe my personality so that I feel less weird about how unique I am. Any questions, feel free to ask, I am an open book.

Gender Identity

Gender Identity

How I Identify

Last night I dreamt I had a penis. This isn’t an unusual occurrence, I often dream that I have a penis. When I wake up, I have a few moments of phantom limb sensations, then as my full consciousness returns, reality takes hold and I’m left with feelings of loss and emptiness.

I also dream that I have a vagina. I dream that I have a slender body with perfect breasts and smooth hips. I dream about being an icon of femininity, a perfect 10 that draws eyes from across the room. When I wake from these dreams, I am disappointed with the lumpy, bumpy shape that I am and vow (yet again) to do something to change it.

I was born into a female body and, as most females do, I have a number of general insecurities about my body, but I don’t hate my female sex organs.

I have always had a significant amount of “penis envy”. Back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, before gender identity was a common topic of discussion, I thought my feelings came from growing up with two brothers, being a “tom boy”, and the fact that I generally got on better with boys than girls. Learning a little bit about feminism made me think “Well, of course I want to be a man, life is so much easier for them,” but even now, when I believe this is a woman’s world, I still miss my penis.

The language used to describe the way that people identify, and which pronouns they like to be addressed with, is always changing and adapting and means different things to different people. I often use the term “non-binary” to describe my gender, as that’s generally accepted to mean neither male nor female. However, the term that more truly represents myself is “gender fluid” since I don’t reject being in the binary, I just switch from one to the other. Allow me to explain:

I was born with “normal” female attributes. In fact, as a mature female I have predominant female features. I have an hourglass figure, large breasts and hips, delicate wrists and ankles, an upturned nose and a dimple in my cheek when I smile. I also have long hair and don’t bite my nails which contribute to the female identity, though these are choices and not genetics.

Sometimes I love being female. I will wear makeup, do my hair, put on a well fitting bra and tight top to show off my curves. I enjoy feeling sexy and desirable as a woman. On a deeper level, I love and respect what my female anatomy was designed for. I love that I am able to carry a foetus through development then birth the child through my vagina and feed them from my breasts. That is miraculous to me and I am so grateful to have that capability (even though it means that I have 7/8 day-long, heavy periods).

Sometimes I hate being female. I see my body and cringe before looking away with disgust. I wear sports bras that hold my breasts as flat as possible against my chest. I wear loose, baggy t-shirts and hoodies to disguise any shape that I have. I put on boxers and baggy trousers and sigh deeply for my missing appendage. I do own a “packer” (a synthetic, flaccid penis that can be placed in underwear to simulate the “lump” that men have in their trousers) and I do wear it on the occasions that the loss is particularly painful, just feeling the weight and presence of it between my legs can bring me a little relief, but I’ve not had the nerve to wear it publically yet.

I don’t know how to describe to you the feeling of loss for something that you’ve never possessed. Especially when the thing you’re missing is integral to your understanding of who you are as a person. Call to mind something that is a part of your personality and identity, something that is you, that you could never be without. Now imagine you don’t have that thing, and you can’t even openly express the fact that you miss it because you were never supposed to have it in the first place. Imagine how it would feel to not have the thing that makes you who you are, how lost and unfamiliar you would be.

Operations exist to alter the bodies of males who wish to be females or vice versa, but no doctor would be willing to give a person two sets of genitalia. But I do still suffer with body dysmorphia, so I have to choose whether to remain female and live with the grief of not having a penis, or transition fully to a male and grieve the loss of my female anatomy. I am living in the lose-lose purgatory of gender identity. It is common nowadays to encounter transgender people, and their needs are becoming more openly discussed and met, but there are a plethora of other genders out there who are going underrepresented and who need guidance and assistance to make their bodies more comfortable to live in.


Gender and Sexuality

I don’t know how common this is, as I feel that it is impolite to ask people about their sexuality, but my gender identity and sexuality are intrinsically linked.

I am bisexual and have known so since I was very young. When I first started exploring my sexuality, I thought I was a lesbian since I found that I was only sexually attracted to women. My attraction to men came later and remained at a lesser level, but I am nevertheless, bisexual. However, the link that this has with my gender is something that I’ve only recently begun to understand.

When I am attracted to a man, I feel like a straight woman. When I am attracted to a woman, I feel like a straight man. During sex, I wouldn’t want a man to treat my body as masculine, and I wouldn’t want a woman to treat my body as feminine, both of those scenarios make me feel uncomfortable. In past situations when I have been with both men and women simultaneously, I assumed the gender that was opposite to the person I found most attractive, and I gave my attention solely to them. I could not, and can not, change my gender identity at will or switch from one to the other at a moments notice.

So that then begs the question, am I actually bisexual? Or am I straight and gender fluid?


What is Gender/ Coming Out

If you are transgender, coming out is an important part of the transition process. You are announcing to the world (or at least, your loved ones) who you are and how you wish to live. It is your declaration that you intend to shrug off the old you that never really fit, and begin your journey into the you that you know yourself to be. It is also an opportunity for you to inform others of your preferred pronouns and new name. It is the beginning of your rebirth.

If you are non-binary or gender fluid, your identity is not so clear cut and it can be difficult for others to understand. Some non-binary people may choose to adopt the pronouns they/them or ze/zir (or something else) and this is something that they can request of people, but other than that, what parts of their lifestyle will be different? They may cut their hair differently or wear new clothes, but they’re not adopting a whole new persona that people will need to adjust to. In todays world where gender stereotypes are no longer expected, what difference does it make if you are male, female, both, or neither?

I’ve gone back and forth on this idea of whether it’s necessary for me to come out. I don’t know until I wake up in the morning which gender I will identify more with, and therefore I am happy for people to choose whichever pronouns they think best represent me at the time. Nothing about my lifestyle or the way others treat me will change if I announce that I am gender fluid, but I also feel like, by not telling others, I’m keeping it a secret, and I don’t want to do that either.

Well, I guess you can consider this my public coming out. My name is Belle and I identify and gender fluid. Nice to meet you.

The Loss of the Familiar

The Loss of the Familiar

B.L (Before Lockdown) I was taking one of my many busses to one of my destinations. There was an elderly man sitting at the front with a walking stick. During the journey, the bus hit a bump, or halted suddenly, and he dropped his stick. Someone sat nearby immediately jumped to his assistance and returned the cane to its rightful owner.

It made me think of all of the times (and there were very many of them) when I dropped my cane. Sometimes people would help and sometimes they wouldn’t. Usually someone nearby would ask “Should I get that?” or “Do you need help with that?”. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I would probably prefer that they ask that just presume, that’s not the point of the story.

The point is that I saw something mundane, even inconvenient, and reflected on it with nostalgia. In that moment, I missed my cane. It had been a part of me for such a long time that, even though I was glad for the freedom, I missed having it with me. I talked about it before as being like an extra leg, a part of my being, my body, my person, so even though I was whole and didn’t need it anymore, it still felt like a part of me was missing.

It was a strange sensation and difficult to explain, I guess I’m just saying that we become comfortable with the familiar and whether that thing is a positive or negative part of us is irrelevant, we still miss it when it’s gone.

Do What You Love Without Judgement

Do What You Love Without Judgement

We are our own toughest critics (unless we are narcissists) and this often prevents us from doing our best work. This is something I have noticed in my writing. I’m always conscious that someone will be reading it, so I end up trying to write for my audience rather than for myself. This usually ends up with me getting annoyed and frustrated, and barely getting anything done because I keep deleting and rewriting my work until I decide enough is enough and give up for the day.

Writing is my creative outlet of choice. I’ve always been a writer since I first learned how, and have had fantasies about becoming a famous author. I have a hard-drive full of poems, short stories, and novels that have been started but will never be finished. I’m always thinking about them and things that I want to add. I always imagine the feeling I get when I write and how happy I will be when I finish one. But whenever I open up one of my books, I spend so much time reading and rewriting that I never make any progress.

But yesterday, I did something different. Yesterday, I had an idea in my head of where I wanted a story to go. I had seen it play out in my head and I wanted to get it down, so I started writing. The difference this time was that I was so excited about my plot development, that I forgot to worry about what other people would think about my writing. I didn’t stop to reread what I’d done, I made no edits, no changes, I just let the ideas flow out of me. I’d written three full pages before I stopped and was surprised to see so much production.

I still didn’t reread it, I didn’t want to ruin the feeling I was having. I had fun and was able to fully immerse myself in the story and interact with my characters fully. I have decided that this is the way I should have been writing all along. After all, there’s no point in writing for an imaginary audience if I’m never able to finish a book to be read. So from now on, I’m going to write without judgement and criticism from beginning to end. Once the story is complete, then I can put on my editors hat and start making it suitable for publication.

For now, it’s enough for me to enjoy the process and find out how some of my characters end up.
I am not my body, I have a body.

I am not my body, I have a body.

Listening to “Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender” by David R. Hawkins (M.D, Ph.D) on audiobook often has me thinking. It is a book I’m sure I’ll listen to several times. Yesterday it triggered thoughts that clarified themselves this morning. The thought was this:

I no longer identify with my body as being who I am. How I perceive myself is a topic for another post, for now I want to focus on my body. I used to hate it and abused it as a form of self punishment. Currently, I relate to it more as a vessel that keeps me grounded and allows me to experience the world through it. It’s not perfect but I love and respect it for what it allows me to do, especially after I have treated it so badly in the past. I also have a kind of nostalgic familiarity with it that brings me comfort.

It’s like your old car. The doors squeak and the windows rattle, sometimes the key sticks and lights flicker but it gets you to work in the morning, helps you carry your shopping home, let’s you visit your family whenever you want and takes you on holiday. It has that scratch from the time you threw your keys down without thinking, and the permanent marker that your baby cousin got hold of. Remember the time your friend was running late so thought she’d do her nails in the car and spilled the polish everywhere? You take care of it to keep repair costs down but also because you don’t want to lose it after all this time and all the memories you have in it.

This is how I feel about my body. It doesn’t work all that well and I don’t really like the way it looks, but we’ve been through a lot together and I have much love and respect for it. I take care of it and it takes care of me.

This was the thought that I had this morning but I have felt this way for some time, I just hadn’t realised it. It had an oil change recently and has been running a lot smoother and that caused appreciation and gratitude for this old hunk of junk.

Although this thought only presented itself concisely to me this morning, I felt it a few days ago during my zen mediation meeting. As part of our practice we do a few minutes of walking meditation. While I was walking I noted that I was enjoying it, that it was easy and fun. I found that I was feeling the ground beneath my feet in a way I never had before. I didn’t feel my toe joints moving or the impact of my weight on my ankles or knees, I was feeling the flat, solid, warm floor pushing up against the soles of my feet. It almost felt like it was carrying me, like every time my foot came down through the air, the floor caught it and supported it while I swung my over foot about. It was both bizarre and marvelous seeing something so mundane from this new perspective. I look forward to more experiences like this.

Cane and Able(ility)

Cane and Able(ility)

Before I get started on this month’s post, I first wanted to mention, for those of you who can’t be bothered to read to the end, that I have started up a new Instagram account (@m.e_and_me_experience) to supplement this blog. I use it to recored my day to day experiences in picture and video form. Small, bitesized snippets can be easier to digest, especially if you suffer with brain fog, as I do. So please go and check that out.

I know I’ve mentioned in the past that I use a cane and sometimes a crutch to get around, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked about how I feel about that. So that’s what this post is all about. Some people find it difficult admitting that they need a mobility aid to walk, whereas others may like the attention that having a cane or walking stick gets them. Personally, I didn’t really think about it too much when I first started using it. My father is disabled, which is something else I know I’ve spoken about before, so he uses crutches or a wheelchair to get around, therefore, the idea wasn’t that foreign to me. When I started to realise that walking was difficult it seemed natural to use a stick to help me. At the time, I was going to college and found that, during the walk home from the bus stop after a long day, I would hold onto walls and railings in order to help balance myself and get myself home without collapsing. I felt very unstable on my feet and my legs felt so weak that I thought they would buckle under me with every step. So one day I just asked my dad if I could borrow one of his crutches to make the whole thing easier. It helped and I never questioned it. As my health improved, I decided that the crutch was very encumbersome and that I would probably get by just as well, or better, with a cane or walking stick. I found a cheap one online that I liked the look of and used it when I felt that I needed to. For a while my health was that much better that I didn’t need it at all, but I would always carry it in my bag just in case (it was foldable). It was nice knowing that it was there if I needed it. My illness progressed and I started to use it more, then I began exploring other options and opted for a cane that was sturdier and had a more comfortable hand hold. (I still have my first cane though. It has a different type of rubber foot on it now that is better suited to uneven ground and I’ve dubbed it, my “off-road” cane.) I also considered buying a walking frame with a seat but didn’t have the space for it in my flat and wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. Currently, my health is starting to get that bad that I am considering buying a wheelchair. This is something that I intend to explore during the summer when I have more time to test some out and get used to using it.

Now, I’ve explained how the decision making process came about, but I also want to get more personal about my feelings towards the cane. When I first started using it, I felt a little embarrassed, but only in the same way that one would be self-conscious about a new pair of glasses or heels that are taller than you’re used to. I was very aware of the movements that I was making with the cane and my feet and sometimes wondered how it would look from an outside perspective to see somebody so young using a cane. Sometimes I was concerned that people would think I was making a strange fashion statement. However, I was always grateful for the extra ability and independence that it gave me. I was still able to get out and about and do things, or at least more things then I would be able to do without the cane. I wouldn’t say that I loved it but I definitely had positive feelings for it. As I became more used to it and more confident using it, it became like a third leg. And that’s mostly how I think about it now, I usually forget that it’s there. The motions and movements that I make with it are second nature now so it feels as natural as walking. The only times that I really think about it is on the days when I’m not doing so well and I have to lean more heavily on it, and in those cases I’m only more aware of it because there’s more pressure on my hands and arms, I’m equally aware of the weight of my body on my legs and feet. I’ve never had a prosthetic limb but I imagine it’s a similar feeling. I don’t think of it as being separate from me even though I have no feeling in it and even though it is not physically a part of me. It feels like it’s a part of my character and it is very much a part of my identity. Without it, I feel like I am missing something.

How do I feel about my cane? How do you feel about your leg?

What’s in a Name

What’s in a Name

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be “disabled” and whether I would/should classify myself as being so.

Although I do walk with a cane, I am able to walk without it. With it I can walk safer, faster and longer but I don’t technically need it to walk. There have also been times, when visiting a place that requires lots of standing around and looking at things (museums, art galleries, aquariums etc.), when I have requested the use of a wheelchair. Again, I could stand around and look at things, but using the chair means I have more spoons for later. I also use access lifts when my legs are tired and sit at the front of busses to reduce the chance of falling on my face.

I always defined disabled people as those who were UN-ABLE to do something “normal” without assistance. I don’t feel as though I fit into this category because although I do use assistance, I’m not reliant on it. However, I’m not as able as “normal” people so I feel I need a new definition.

I started to think about real life situations in which I might/have call(ed) myself disabled. With my friends I humourously call myself a “cripple” to excuse all of my shortcomings regardless of whether they are related to my M.E or not. When requesting a wheelchair it’s never said but a disability is implied by the cane and assumed by staff. Recently I have had to ask delivery people to be patient after ringing the doorbell as it takes me some time to get to the door. When I really thought about it, I realised that instead of classifying myself under the umbrella of “disabled”, I tend to refer to a particular aspect of my illness (I can’t walk far/stand long, I have poor balance, I get confused sometimes etc.) or I allow my cane to speak for me.

So why does all this matter? What does it all mean? Nothing really, I’m just musing over the labels that society uses and how I think of my new self.