Adaptions

One thing (of many) that can be really frustrating when you first rely on a wheelchair full time (I can walk a couple of steps on crutches) – your home not being accessible.

I was pretty lucky, when we moved due to kiddos need for a garden, they have us a ground floor flat with a wet room. So, when I became a wheelchair user, this was handy. Except the toilet was separate and just in a small cupboard type room by itself. The door went into the ‘room’ just clearing the toilet, that was how tight it was. The door frame itself was not wide enough, there was absolutely no way my bulky NHS style wheelchair was getting in there. Even when I got my first active user chair, it was still too small. Back then I had to sort of throw myself at the toilet in the evenings as going in on crutches was hard work and I couldn’t do it all day.

I was referred to OT and and they came out and they knocked the wall out between the bathroom and the toilet making it one large room. They closed off the old toilet door and made my bathroom door wider. I ended up losing one of my 2 and a half storage cupboards – which isn’t good because I’ve turned into a hoarder of sentimental things plus things that are ‘handy’. So it is a challenge for space. Which was also frustrating.

Taking the wall down
Getting the cupboard out for the space and to put the door in
New floor in
Finished article over a year later (I had a bit of a mishap with the drop down rail a couple of weeks after it went in, they put it back on the wall but never ‘made good’ the repair, should be done soon as it was put in to do with my next works)

So, the bathroom was done and it made things easier, I could wheel into the toilet and the wet room easier.

what now?

Well, the kitchen is a bit of a nightmare for me.

I struggle to wash the dishes in my sink, we don’t have a dishwasher, and I probably never will as my kitchen is tiny. The main problem is that it hurts my hips. I have to sit on the very front of my wheelchair and turn to the side. It isn’t ideal. Especially long term

I also struggle with the oven. The hob is too high for me to see what I’m cooking properly and the oven itself is too low for me to get food out. My core isn’t great, and I don’t always have the strength to pull myself upright with a hot dish in my hands. I would normally use my hands or elbows to help me up.

I’ve been getting on ok using a microwave, slow cooker and now an air-fryer, but I need a proper oven.

I want to learn how to cook properly. I had some dishes I could cook pre autistic burnout but I struggle with them now, my PA is there to help me with this stuff, but I need an oven I can use

I was due to have the kitchen installed in March, it was December when I had Magnet kitchens and the OT out to look at how to make it accessible. I wasn’t here when the original plans were made and apparently the council said no to the most accessible plan, which left me with a plan which reduces my storage, which I already struggle with in my small kitchen. I wasn’t happy about this, but was told it was my only option.

So I paid the £900 for the induction hob and the oven and was waiting for the go ahead- cue Covid – 19… there goes the kitchen being fitted!

Several months later, and it is being looked at again – I posted about the conflict autism vs physical need with the kitchen in my last post.

2 days ago I had the surveyor for the contractor come out and look at the kitchen and the plans – he isn’t happy with the plan at the moment. He believes the plan that was dismissed is the best kitchen for me and he isn’t happy with the fact I am not happy. He was confused as to where I was supposed to store everything. Which was my argument before!

With both of us not happy, he refuses to sign it off, and he needs me to talk to my OT to get them to agree that the current plan doesn’t met my needs and that the other plan would.

Typically she is on holiday. Not back until next Monday, but I’ve waited so long, doesn’t matter if it takes a little longer to get what I need. As this will be a bit of a fight, but I’m ready for it!

The disabilities balancing act

The disabilities balancing act

Most people would see my upcoming situation and say that it is brilliant news. It is. But there is a whole layer to it that people don’t know about and don’t see.

That is what this page is about. Explaining that hidden aspect that some people will not know about and others will understand completely.

So, Friday, I have the surveyor out to do final checks and to talk to me about how the accessible kitchen will be fitted.

Part of me is excited. I can’t wait to be able to learn to cook more things in an oven that is easier for me (and the kiddo) to reach.
The only lower surfaces will be the sink and the hob.
The high cupboards will have drop down shelves so that I can store things and get them down by myself.

For being a wheelie, this is AMAZING 🤗

Part of me is really struggling and will continue to struggle until the kitchen is finished.

Being autistic makes this so much harder.

Sure, everyone would not be happy with the noise of destroying the old kitchen and putting a new one in. Being autistic, noise, both loud and complex (because there is also the complexity, too many different noises, even if not loud, can be very very difficult) can be very difficult.

For me personally, when overwhelmed by loud or complex noise, I can feel it all up my neck, sometimes into my jaw. The sensation isn’t painful like my legs are painful, it is more an extreme discomfort. It is overwhelming, I don’t have the brain space for anything. I sometimes stim using my hands to help, the repetitive movements give me something to focus on. I don’t know how it works, just that it does. I sometimes click my fingers near my ears or flick the outside of my ears because it is familiar and familiar is soothing when overwhelmed.

It’s not just the obvious noise and disruption.

I have 2, possibly 3 ‘conditions’ that affect executive functioning
Autism and complex PTSD are the confirmed, but I’ve been recently referred for an appointment with the psychiatrist to discuss ADHD.

Executive functioning is really important for organizing all the things needed before and during the works.

It is my brain’s ability to plan, initiate and carry out things, like a commander on a space shuttle, except mine is pretty useless and needs ground control (PA, my dad – although he is a ‘desperate times call for desperate measures kind of ground control 😂, my autism support worker, and intermittent mental health support depending on the whims of my local nhs trust) to come up with the plans and go through it step by step.
Don’t get me wrong, mine tries sometimes and succeeds occasionally, but this is harder than it should be.
My ground control at the moment is not great. My PA has been off for 6 weeks and could end up going off again, which would be a disaster. My dad has been trying to help, but it has been hard, his heart is in the right place, but both myself and the kiddo are properly drained when he has been ‘helping’. My autism support worker used to have more appointments with me, but now they are less. The mental health team have let me down massively at the moment. My second PA lied to me today, saying that he checked and the waste and recycling centre isn’t open today, but I know it is, I double checked and it is open. I don’t like being lied to.
I don’t have anyone else in my ground control so, it might get quite stressful and I might mess up and cause both the kiddo and me lots of problems. 🤦‍♀️

So, there is way more to it than just, noise and disruption and ‘Hey presto’ sparkly new kitchen. This is what I have to navigate with faulty executive functioning –

I have to work out where my appliances are going – washing machine, tumble dryer and fridge freezer.

I have to pack up ALL the things in the kitchen and store them, except I only have 1 cupboard, possibly 2 if I use the one in the kiddo’s room which she doesn’t really use.
Which means organizing myself to know what I can move now and what needs moving closer to the time.

I need to figure out how we are going to store and make meals for 2 weeks, so I need to set up a kitchen surface somewhere in my 2 bedroom flat.

I probably have enough clothes to go 2 weeks without using a washing machine. However, the kiddo can’t. She only has 4 days maximum uniform. So that means scoping out a launderette.

Washing dishes etc will have to work a way with the bathroom sink filling the washing up bowl. Maybe a second ‘station’ I can put up in the bathroom? 🤷‍♀️

I need to help the kiddo through it too. She hates noise too, and her new PAs can’t have her after school each day like I would have done with her last PA.

We have nowhere to go due to covid 19

So, it isn’t going to be good for either of us during the works.

Neither of us can wait until it is finished.

Have you had to balance the needs of 2 or more disabilities? How did you do?

Catch up 2 – PTSD, or should I say C-PTSD

Last I wrote on here I was having EMDR with the clinical psychologist over Christmas 2018.

EMDR was a bust. It caused lots of PTSD symptoms to increase while doing nothing for the trauma I was trying to process

According to the clinical Psychologist, I was dissociating too much to get the processing done. So we switched to doing some CBT stuff.

We got on ok. I was constantly trying to teach her about autism as we went and she said she had learnt more about autism working with me than she ever learnt before. Which I only ever considered a good thing, as it was obvious that she knew very little apart from the ‘little professor’ Asperger label (which is no longer used and for good reason!) and ‘classic autism’ (which is also no longer used).

It was the clinical psychologist who sort of pushed me toward wheelchair sports. Well, sort of, my local football team have an outreach programme for mental health called ‘moving the goal posts’ and as I liked football, she thought I might enjoy it. I laughing as some of it was playing football as exercise to help with mental health. I looked at her, and then gestured to my wheelchair and said I don’t think that is for me!

It did get me thinking about exercise for mental health, and I had put on some weight so it was a good idea to find something!

Long story short, I found wheelchair rugby and then wheelchair basketball.

For a while at least it was good to be playing sports. Being autistic makes team sports harder. Especially indoor noisy sports like basketball and rugby.

As I said in the neuro post, the relationship between myself and the clinical psychologist went sort of ‘downhill’ after she said she thought I was asking too much, when I said I didn’t think it was too much to ask for a diagnosis for my physical health issues. She said that I can’t keep asking for more tests – but they hadn’t actually done many tests. I also got frustrated having to keep teaching her about autism and then she also tried to say my physical health issues were down to my autism – or actually EDS, which I don’t have.

It was getting harder to believe that I would get over my trauma history. I really struggled with that, and mentioned it during our sessions. I started feeling as if life wasn’t worth living if I was going to continue to struggle with PTSD for the rest of my life. Not to mention being in a wheelchair and having a neurologist say that was also down to my PTSD. Plus being autistic struggling with interacting with other people and being tube fed. Life just didn’t feel appealing, everything was a struggle and it looked like it wouldn’t be something I would overcome.

It was a dire time mentally.

I think that is why when I talked to my dad he was talking about them taking responsibility and they couldn’t blame my mental health for everything. This is when the idea formed between the both of us to find a way to make someone accountable for my situation.

Either

I don’t have a functional disorder and they need to look into why my legs don’t work properly. The doctor shouldn’t be able to say that it might be funtional without properly checking that first, and definitely shouldn’t be discharging without a firm answer either way! (Also that if it is functional there are places where neurology would be responsible for my treatment)

Or

I do, and then the trust responsible for my local mental health service is partially responsible for me being in a wheelchair because they should have diagnosed my PTSD in 2007 and here we are in 2019 *at the time I wrote the complaint- had I had proper psychological intervention and treatment from 2007, then maybe I wouldn’t be in a wheelchair today

So they became the 2 complaints I wrote. My dad says it is ‘playing one off against the other’, and he thinks it is brilliant that we got to that idea. I don’t agree that it is that, I believe that it is making them take responsibility. The first one is more about the doctor that wrote me off just because I have a PTSD diagnosis. His attitude and the way his letter was worded. The second one is more about the late diagnosis and the impact it has had, especially if it is why I am in a wheelchair.

The first complaint is at ombudsman stage because the consultant lied in his response, rather than saying he doesn’t know or is unsure, he made stuff up to suit himself, except I have proof that he is making it up!

The second complaint, well, that actually got me somewhere!

I was referred to the complex trauma service. There they have people with more expertise dealing with dissociation and also they were asked to do an assessment of whether I might be converting my psychological distress into physical symptoms.

I met with a second clinical psychologist. We had some appointments before covid 19, and initially she said from reading all the information about me from stuff I had written and from years of reports about me from mental health professionals, she didn’t think it was likely that I had somatic symptoms- which is their word for functional. Although she would do a screening of that later on.

We chatted in those few sessions before covid and we planned to do the EMDR again and see if they could help. Once covid hit we went about 6 weeks without talking and then we chatted and we decided to give emdr a try over video using tapping. Before we got into that we did the somatic screening, I only ‘endorsed’ 2 questions, both of which weren’t actually scored because they weren’t somatic symptoms. I only have numbness in my feet but only specific areas of them not the whole feet which is under investigation, and the question really meant like whole limbs. The other was speaking and that is an autism thing which she agreed with.

So I DON’T have a functional condition! I can’t wait to send that in to the ombudsman re my complaint about the neurologist! That neurologist is going to wish he never met me!

So that made me happy, but what didn’t ake me happy was starting EMDR again.

Just to make matters worse, the EMDR would only run for 10 sessions, it wpud be to see if it worked. I then found out that the first clinical psychologist from my local team wanted to pass me on to someone else within the team, but not someone who was able to support me like I was meant to be supported during the EMDR, no, by the social worker who doesn’t actually work for the mental health team and who doesn’t take on people in that role. 🤦‍♀️

It was a shit show!

Apparently she had forgotten about autism when it came to getting rid of me! There was no hand over, no transition – nothing. I said I was worried that the EMDR would end and I would be left on my own, especially if it didn’t work. That I was in no better position then we started, actually worse because I had lost the belief that my life would get better once I was ‘over’ the PTSD.

Then as it turned out the very basics of supporting me through the EMDR was lost on the social worker because instead of having appointments to ‘debrief’ etc, she would just message every so often asking if I wanted to talk over the phone. The complex trauma service clinical psychologist was also getting rather frustrated by the complete ‘balls up’ of my support surrounding the sessions.

To make matters worse, the EMDR with her didn’t work either, despite both of us doing everything we could, it just doesn’t work for me. But neither would trauma focused CBT. So it turns out what I was worried about came true

The EMDR didnt work and now I am alone having failed again at EMDR, knowing there isn’t anything really that can be done for my PTSD and I have no support in the mental health team because they didn’t set me up with a proper lead professional!

Apparently I am supposed to use the ‘duty’ system, yet both clinical psychologists agreed that it doesn’t work for me due to my autism! 🤦‍♀️

Honestly you can’t make this up!

I got a draft of my letter and she is changing my diagnosis from PTSD to C-PTSD, and has said I also have a dissociative disorder. I know I wanted proper diagnosis, but was hoping for my physical problems not mental health, especially seeing as they wont do anything to help me with any of it 🤦‍♀️

Apparently I’m on the list of people to be assigned a lead practitioner.

So again waiting. Probably just to be let down again

Catch up 1 – medical/neuro

It’s been a while since I wrote on here. Last I wrote, I was waiting for the MRI and nerve conduction study in, although thar one may have already been done.

I had them both done. The nerve conduction study wasn’t done properly, I know this because my letter said 20-60 minutes and I was out in 10, and that includes transferring to the table, whipping my trousers off and giving a brief history. They put one sensor on 2 places on my lower right leg and put one needle in my right thigh, and that was it. That was the extent of my nerve and muscular testing.

I got a letter saying that the MRI showed that I have a T7 compression fracture and wedging of T8.

I had to keep on at neuro to give me an appointment to discuss the MRI. I eventually got an appointment in May 2019.

Well, that seemed to go ok (ish). I had written a long letter with my autism support worker. I wrote down all my symptoms and explained my Autism etc.

The consultant was quite open in saying he was having to take the patients from the doctor I first saw because he left. Meaning he was under pressure from all of the new patients. He said he didn’t think the compression fracture was causing my issues walking. He didn’t do any sort of examination. He said that he would refer me to someone he knows in rheumatology. He said some people never find answers but he was sure that this person could help.

When I got his clinic letter I was fuming. I lost it and threw stuff! I had a full on autistic meltdown due to the crap he wrote in his letter!

Apparently he noted that I have PTSD and so it is likely that I have a functional disorder, that I am possibly converting psychological distress into physical symptoms. He wrote that there is nothing more that can be done from neurology and so was discharging me from his service!

So yes, I was absolutely fuming!

He also wrote things on there that never happened and I took credit for things my GP has done in the absence of neurology making appointments!

After speaking to my dad, I wrote a long complaint about his letter as, on doing some research, I found that a functional diagnosis is basically a bin to put the cases they don’t want to deal with and anything can be considered ‘functional’. I found there were functional disorder clinics run by neurology at London and Edinburgh hospitals as well as one in the west of England somewhere (I think Bristol but I am not sure). So he was also wrong that if it was functional, there is nothing to be done, otherwise there wouldn’t be these clinics!

He had no idea about my PTSD or treatment. He had no proof it was functional and an MRI which showed a spinal fracture and an incomplete or ‘limited’ NCS (nerve conduction study) was not enough to dismiss a physical cause!

I asked my GP for a second opinion. They wanted to send me to St George’s as that is where my gastro consultant is. Which I agreed was a good plan, and so that was done.

I then received a letter from St George’s saying I was to be seen in the functional clinic 😳

I again lost my temper at home! I asked for a second opinion not a continuation of the neuro opinion I saw before! my GP agreed that it wasn’t what was asked for and they referred me to UCLH instead, without sending any of the stuff I had done at my local hospital, so that they weren’t swayed by his opinion.

I finally saw a consultant at UCLH in January 2020.

She did examine me and found that I had reduced sensation from T-10 down. This was news to me as the first neuro at my local hospital only asked if I could feel the needle prick, not if it felt the same everywhere. Usually I am very sensitive on my feet which is why I wear socks all the time, even in bed. I hadn’t noticed the lower sensation until she ran the needle across the bottom of my feet which would normally tickle and I would react because I hate having my feet tickled, but I barely felt it and didn’t have the usual reaction. At the time I felt a little sad. I think it was because it was another symptom, something missed due to the poor nature of my local hospital.

I think part of that was frustration too, that again, I was being failed and not listened to and not given the care I needed. It is, according to my local CMHT clinical psychologist, a trigger for me due to my PTSD.

She said she would get the test results from my local hospital and do a repeat MRI, and do full electrical studies etc and she would see me within 3 months.

Well, before Covid -19 hit, I got a letter stating my next appointment would be November 2020. I was extremely frustrated, at this rate I wouldn’t get a diagnosis for a long time and during all this mess I had found wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball. Without a diagnosis, I have to fight for my place in the basketball team against able bodied players. I also can’t play in wheelchair rugby 5’s without a diagnosis. So this was even more important to me than just finding answers.

I was starting to get really fed up with my clinical psychologist, when I said that getting a diagnosis isn’t asking too much, she said it was asking too much. She said it isn’t good to have lots of tests. Lots of tests?! I had an MRI which showed a compression fracture and a limited nerve conduction study – I haven’t had hardly any tests!

Then she decided my autism must have something to do with it after the local neuro 🤦‍♀️

She thought I might have EDS, which I don’t meet the criteria for.

I don’t want just any diagnosis, I want the right one with proof that it is what they say it is.

So when I wrote the complaint about the local neurologist, I also wrote one to my local mental health service’s trust, basically saying that if it is functional and I am converting psychological distress into physical symptoms, then when they could and should have diagnosed PTSD in 2007 and didn’t, I might have resolved some of this distress and so wouldn’t be in a wheelchair. I was hinting that their failure to diagnose was the reason I was in a wheelchair.

This was interesting as they then got me into the complex trauma service. More about that in the next catch up, which is PTSD or C-PTSD

Clinical psychologist, Nativity, social workers and recruiting a PA- 4 busy days

The last few days have been pretty busy.

Monday I went to what was supposed to be my last EMDR session before christmas, but as I struggle a lot with processing between sessions, the CPsych decided to let me choose between carrying on the EMDR from the previous session, or using the time to discuss something different.

I chose to tell her about how angry I have been and how it is hard for me to try and be happy and calm during the christmas period. I am not a massive fan of christmas thanks to my parents who made sure that the 3 of us were never going to enjoy christmas as teens and adults. However, I have to try and make it special for the kiddo. She never really got christmas until a couple of years ago, and me spending last christmas in hospital wasnt exactly the type of christmas I wanted to give her.

I was kind of hoping for some advice or some encouragement from the Cpsych, but nope, I ended up leaving more angry than I was before I had even got there, which in all fairness I didnt think was possible, so it turns out I wasnt as angry before the session as I thought I was.
First off, she tried to say that my legs are weak BECAUSE of using the wheelchair, which is not true, my legs are weak and painful and spasm… and so I need to use the wheelchair. I had a test done in November and it showed no muscle wastage, I do try and move around the house on crutches, so she is wrong. People dont like hearing they are wrong.
Then she kept saying ‘your Ass-burgers’ blah blah. Actually my dx was changed to Autism because of my speech delay- so it isnt ‘ass-burgers’ thanks.
To finish off the shit show, she said that when I am angry I criticise others which comes off as attacking. I said ‘no, I state facts as to why I am angry, if someone takes that as criticism or attacking, that is their problem, I am just stating facts’. She said it was a problem for everyone around me. Well, considering I dont really have friends and the only people she has heard me ‘criticise’ are my awful family members and the social worker who has taken 6 months to do a copy and pasted assessment with out of date and incorrect information on, and had to be constantly chased to send off all the right paperwork off, yet still managed to not send off the request for my direct payment to be paid… I dont think she can really say any of those people dont deserve a little criticism!

I had to shut myself down, which isnt exactly easy or nice, in order to try and be ready for the kiddo’s nativity that evening!
I got to the school and while they had the keys to get me through to the hall, they forgot that I was going to be there and so I struggled to get into the hall as they had blocked off the only wheelchair accessible door, and then they had forgotten to save me a space and most of the seating was already taken so I was kind of in the way a bit off to one side of the stage.
Didnt matter once it had started. My kiddo was just brilliant! She was an angel and stood at the back of the stage signing all the songs in makaton. She was amazing. Even more amazing was that she managed to carry on through laughing at my dad who was sat behind me and was copying her signing – even though he doesnt know makaton, and she was only put off a little. I have no idea why he kept doing it. Cant take him anywhere.
I maanged to give the teachers and the family link worker their gifts. Well deserved gifts. They have helped my kiddo get through a lot of changes this year and I cant thank them enough for all they do.

Tuesday I had a meeting with my volunteering role. It was boring but managed to get through it.
Met my social worker after. Trying not to be to critical of her… well, that is hard after finding out that she hasnt updated my care plan with the CMHT since she took over as my social worker. It had been untouched since my last CMHT social worker left when I was in hospital. If she actually did her job properly, it would be harder to find things to be critcising! However, she gives me all the ammunition!
I hope she is on holiday already, because I do not want a repeat of the assessment where she just left it, leaving out lots of highly relevent information, like the fact I am now a wheelchair user and have a feeding tube and that I struggle to keep on top of my feeds and fluids due to my poor mental health recently and my executive functioning diffiulties which makes initiating the task difficult… not to mention
-I cant reach the sides in the kitchen from my wheelchair and I cant stand up long enough without causing painful muscle spasms to set it all up
– it is a royal pain to have the feed bag on as it isnt big enough to hold anything else but is too bulky to have another bag on the wheelchair, it also makes walking with the crutches even more of an effort in the flat.
-the only way to stop the tube catching on the wheels of my chair is to have the tube coming out of the top of my jumper and that is really irritating and not exactly discrete.
-I need to go to the toilet more, which means more walking, which means more spasms which means less sleep.
So yeah, sometimes I dont want to put the feed/fluids on because it sucks. Although having done it for the past 4 days in a row, I do feel a bit better in myself when properly hydrated.

After seeing my social worker, I came home and got an email from the kiddo’s disabilty social worker as we had an appointment that afternoon when the kiddo got home from school. We had arranged to meet at shakeaway at 4. She had sent me the kiddos support plan. I was so jelous! Having just seen my bog standard boring support plan, I was in awe of the kiddos! It was pokemon themed and really captured all the things that needed to be on there in a fun way.
The kiddo was late and it was pouring with rain. I usually avoid parking in the shopping centre but it was the only way to stay dry. So when there was only one lift working and lots of able bodied people who didnt want to have to go further to take the stairs or escalators.. I was starting to get stressed. I was already stressed because we were late, but this was heading to overload stressed. The lift was packed as I got in and we went to the upper floor of the shopping centre and there were loads of people behind me as I tried to back out. The kiddo was stressed and had her headphones on. I asked her to move and looked over the other shoulder so i didnt bump into other people coming out of the lift. My kiddo must not have heard me and my wheel hit her foot and the momentum I had took me over and my chair tipped and I smashed my head on the floor. It wasnt fun. The impatient people who wer in my way now were surrounding me asking to help. I managed to get myself back in my chair and we met the social worker.
The kiddo was not interested in talking to the social worker, and it tends to be a bit awkward as then she talks to me, small talk stuff, and I feel a bit of a muppet trying to answer her questions.
It seemed to go ok though as the social worker wished us a merry christmas and said that she was happy things are going well for the kiddo. Which they are. Thankfully. I can just about cope with all the crap I have going on, I dont think I could cope with seeing her as sad and defeated as she was when things werent going right.

Wednesday. Finally I had answers to how many hours my direct payment was going to be for a PA for me. I also had some advice about doing the advert and my advocate was coming out thursday to help with that.
Me and the kiddo watched christmas films snuggled up on the sofa.

Thursday- today, I had to do some house work and was the 4th day in a row that I actually had the pump for my tube feeds and fluids on. By the time the kiddo went out with her PA and my advocate came to help with my PA advert, I was in a lot of pain from the spasms in my legs.
We discussed the other issues to do with the social worker and the Cpsych, but we are going to tackle those after christmas. Although she could tell how much pain I was in and asked if I ever went to my therapy appointments or social worker appointments when in pain like today. I said no, because they tend to be in the morning and she added that I probably rest gearing up to the appointments which is true for the most part. I had a meeting before the social work appointment but I dont tend to have done housework and had the kiddo home in the morning before the appointments. So she suggested not resting before the appointments next time and dont take the chair in and let them see how much I struggle because they dotn see it they dont understand.
I agree to a point but I also am not sure that will change anything. The Cpsych still thinks my PTSD is what is causing the medical issues.

We got the advert done and hopefully I will be able to employ someone who can help me. My advocate knows me more than most people, so she was able to do a lot of the work as I couldnt concentrate. She also gets how much I struggle with communication and I dont have to try and be fluently verbal with her, she doesnt expect it and doesnt make me feel like an idiot when I cant get the words out, which means I have time to find the right words not just say what the first close thing that comes to mind.

So that was a packed 4 days.

Tomorrow I am off to my Brother’s ex’s house to see my wonderful niece and nephews. The kiddo is all excited. I am too, but it is always a little hard for me to have to walk past my mothers house to get from where the car is parked to the house. A lot of bad memories and I dont want to see my mother.




The reality of being Autistic and a new wheelchair user going shopping

Becoming a wheelchair user is a massive change, a lot of people do not seem to realise that there is a lot more to it than just sitting down in a wheelchair and getting on with your day to day life.

As much as any person who becomes a wheelchair user states that they will be independent and rely on no one, that just isnt possible all the time. As someone who is not only ridiculously stubborn, but also autistic and so finds communication difficult especially with strangers, this is a massive problem for me.

Since a massive autistic burnout a couple of years ago I struggle a lot with the things I struggled with as a child- word finding difficulties and just not being able to connect thoughts to verbal words.

why is this relevent… well, one thing I still have to do weekly or even a couple of times a week is the food shopping.
(I have tried having home deliveries but none of the supermarkets seem to be able to manage getting an order right. Apparently Tesco cant seven substitute water for another ‘brand’ of water! Which, as someone who is tube fed, is pretty much the only thing that comes in the shopping for me. Also, I need to get out of the house, and shopping does that.)

Shopping has lots of parts to it.
I drive, although I really thought my GP was going to contact the DVLA after an incident with my legs shaking while driving, but kept my licence as I got my car adapted so it has hand controls. Actually using the hand controls takes the strain off my leg (I drive an automatic because of my sequencing issues I was having problems with the right order for gear changes at roundabouts for manual. Although, as I didnt have my diagnosis when I was doing my lessons, I told people another truth, that due to a knee condition I have had since childhood, I found the clutch to be too much… both were true reasons to switch to automatic but the idea that I was incapable of doing gear changes properly at roundabouts, would have led to my brother and others laughing at me, although I got to be the one laughing as I passed my auto test first time! Not even my mother passed her auto test first time!). The hand controls are also very simple and easy to use. So I push myself to my car, and, because I live on a public footpath, tend to have an audience as I sit on the boot of my Mini Clubman, fold my wheelchair and put it in the boot and struggle to co-ordinate my legs to walk to the drivers door and get in. I tend to not take my feed bag with me as I need to be able to hang shopping on the back of my wheelchair, so that makes the process a little easier. I drive to the supermarket and here is the first hurdle.

parking!

Generally, there are very few spaces available for blue badge holders to begin with.
Occasionally I will find there are no bays left. So I either have to go home, wait, or park in the parent and baby/toddler bays. I can NOT park in a normal bay at all because

a) I can’t get out of the car, I need to have my door fully open to get both legs out and to get myself up out of my chair. Which is why I need wider bay.
b) There is no hatching at the back and I need to be able to open my boot and unfold the wheelchair and put the cushion on.
c) I need the path to go down as cars reversing can not see a wheelchair behind them and I think I have enough problems without adding extra!

That being said, usually I manage to get about half way to 3/4 of the way up the one strip of bays. Here is where it gets interesting. As I pull up, I tend to get people staring at me. I dont normally pay much attention to what is going on outside the car but it is hard not to notice that someone is pretty much stood at the front of the car and isnt moving on. My Blue Badge is always on display as I had a habit of forgetting to put it up. So it is on a non slip mat on my dash- therefore, the person can clearly see I have a blue badge. Here one of two things happen.

  1. They stare at me, making me severely uncomfortable while I struggle to the boot and then as soon as they see the wheelchair come out they hurry off.
  2. Before I even have a chance to try and get one foot out of the car door I get abuse. I get told I am too young to park there – which is ridiculous as disability is not an age thing. The elderly are not the only ones with mobility issues! Or I get told that it is a disabled bay- which is obvious as the massive white wheelchair sign is painted on the floor and a blue sign with a white wheelchair logo is directly in front of me, plus I do actually have a blue badge. Generally, I dont have the words to argue, I get angry and flustered and ignore them, which only makes them worse, until I get my wheelchair out and get in it and then they seem to shut up and walk off.

I go down the path to the crossing and of course there are cars with No blue badge being parked in the bays between the shop and where I parked. Which given the abuse or the passive aggressive staring, is very frustrating, as people tend to ignore the fact I have a badge and still have a go!

The supermarkets have wheelchair trolleys.. these are horrible. I had a white wheelchair as my first chair and the wheelchair trolleys scratched the paintwork as the bits that hold the trolley on are plastic. Currently I am using a loan chair, which is a brand new chair which is used as a demo for people thinking of buying that particular chair. So I cant scratch it. I have 3 choices.

  1. Use a basket and only get essentials
  2. Try and use a regular trolley – except the trolleys are very hard to control while pushing yourself in a wheelchair.
  3. Ask if they can have someone push the trolley for me

I usually go for 1. I often get asked why I dont just use the wheelchairs in store. Firstly, I dont want to leave the loan chair. It isnt mine. Secondly, the wheelchairs they have mean you cant turn with the wheelchair trolley on properly because the caster wheels are huge compared to an active chair. The electric scooter things… if there is ever one available, I would feel embarrassed, which is totally a me issue, but they are also loud, and shopping is overloading enough without driving one of those things around.

So, back to shopping, I grab a basket and put it on my lap. I manage most things without help, but certain things I cant use the grabber for are out of my reach and too difficult to try and get up to get them… So I have to try and ask for help. Which not only sucks because I want to be independent, but it also means either trying to find a member of staff or asking another shopper for help. Which means despite being overloaded from the shop, I also now have to try and ask for what I need. So I rehearse in my head what I am going to say, and when it comes to it, it never really comes out right. Supermarket staff, I’ve never had anyone be anything other than super helpful, sometimes bordering on a little patronising. General public, always happy to help. I’ve never had anyone refuse to help.

People do not look where they are going, or worse stop right in front of me. So I either end up getting hit with a trolley, people almost falling over me and then giving me a tut! Or I have to stop suddenly while trying to keep the basket on my lap! People do not seem to understand how mush more difficult it is to have to stop dead and change direction in a wheelchair!

Get to the till. Self service is good, but I stopped using it because the queues are actually longer and the constant noise is just too much, plus I tend to take up more room and so people are always knocking into the chair or worse, move me without warning, nope… so I go to the normal tills. The till makes me feel like a child. I can just about reach to put my stuff on the conveyor belt, around 50% of the time I am asked if I want help by another shopper which is nice. I get to the packing bit and I sometimes struggle due to the height of the packing area. 90% of the time the cashier will ask if I need help packing.
Paying- I tend to use both Sainsburys and Tesco, because my kiddo likes food that you can only get in one or the other. Tesco have their card machines too far away, and they tend to disconnect if they are taken off their holder and that delays the whole thing. Sainsburys have theirs closer so there isnt that issue.

I then put my shopping on my chair and generally on my lap too, and make my way to the car. People do not tend to pay attention or see me as they move away from the till and again, get bashed by trolleys or have people almost sit on me as they fall over. Trying to get out with everyone trying to get in is another stopping and then struggling with change of direction to get through. I then have to balance the shopping on my lap while getting to my car. I put the shopping in the passenger side and put my wheelchair away. I get in my car and leave. Then I have to get the shopping into my house… luckily when we moved over 3 years ago it was on medical grounds due to the kiddo’s autism and ADHD and the flat we were in, wasnt suitable. The only thing they had available was a ground floor flat, which had a ramp, and a wet room. Now those things are absolutely vital and I am glad they were here before I needed them, as fighting to get them would be a nightmare.

The rest of the house isnt adapted. The doorways I can just about get through, and the cupboards are high up and there isnt much room for me to manoeuvre. So despite the pain and the effort of coordinating my legs, I put the shopping away using the crutches.

So shopping has taken on new challenges, that can be hard for some, but have an added layer as an autistic person.