I had foot surgery in January. I was “grounded” for six weeks. I had to be extra careful about infection until the pins were removed. Needless to say, it was a challenge for this active person to temporarily view the world as a person with a physical handicap. Most of my time was spent in my office at home (the couch) with my foot elevated. As a caregiver by nature, the most difficult thing for me was asking for help.
When I first got out of the house, I needed a wheelchair. I never did get my driver’s license for the wheelchair…and neither did my husband! I kept a sense of humor by rating the electric carts at various stores for comfort, turning radius, size of basket and ease of operation.
It was a new experience to view the world as a person with a visible disability. Most people were very accommodating and helpful. Some were not. Daily tasks I take for granted took more time and effort. The painful throbbing in my foot would let me know if I tried to do too much.
I have a handicap placard for a few months while I heal. Because I need it, I feel no stigma or shame. I couldn’t help but reflect on how very different it is for those of us living with an “invisible” mental illness. There is no placard or other designation that we may need some extra help and support. We often go to the other extreme of hiding our mental health challenges because we are afraid of being judged by others or we judge ourselves for not being “normal.”
I come away from this experience with a renewed passion for working with others to erase the stigma of mental illness in our society…and in our places of worship.