ju90 makes the V sign

I saw a physiotherapist last year, because following the conference I’d been seriously ill for a couple of years by then. She said to me: “What are your goals?” “I’m getting a new high-tech manual wheelchair”, I said, “and I want to get well enough to use it.”

“Oh no,” she said. “Once you get into that chair, you’ll never get out of it.” Funny, you’d think she’d know better . . .

Her goal was to make me normal. But I already am normal.

Wake up and smell the coffee. Nature doesn’t make mistakes, she creates human beings in all our rich varieties. Accidents happen. Illnesses occur. We’re all going to die.

Live with it! I’d like to add: “life is what you make it”, but the fact is, life is what we all make it.

Is it normal to struggle down the street on a stick, or stay at home, rather than rolling free? Is it normal to be in pain, rather than sitting comfortably? The next time you see some poor old soul struggling up the street hanging on to the railings, ask yourself why they’re not using a wheelchair?

It’s always slightly surreal going to a hospital. The receptionists invariably tell me to “take a seat over there”. I always point out that I do already have a seat, just for the hell of it, but they still look puzzled.

Then it’s always a bit of a gamble whether or not the doctor can see through the Invisibility Cloak. Some doctors have special powers too, and have no difficulty whatsoever in seeing me. But others can only see the wheelchair, and can’t see me at all.

Then they can only see the mental health problems that they consider to be an inevitable result of my personal tragedy, telling me my life “must be a great disappointment to me”. Or they consider that wheelchair use is in itself a sign of madness, because they wouldn’t be seen dead in one. It makes diagnosis of the real problem very slow, and it’s not exactly scientific, is it?

I saw a consultant recently who asked me how long I’d been in a wheelchair. I explained patiently how long I’d been a wheelchair user - remember that - and even thought to remind her that 95% of wheelchair users can walk a little, if not all the time. She wrote down: “The patient is wheelchair bound.”

Next time, I’m taking the handcuffs. [pulls out and holds up pair]

Two views of an iron and wooden wheelchair

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Dr Ju Gosling aka ju90's ABNORMAL: How Britain became body dysphoric and the key to a cure is available now for just 3.09 for the Kindle or in a limited-edition hardback with full-colour art plates for 20 inc UK postage and packing. Book cover