After I lost my legs in a failed suicide attempt, I was presented with new physical challenges on an almost daily basis. In some ways those first few months were easier, because I was so determined to overcome my new limitations and I was certain that life would get better. Learning to use my wheelchair, increasing my upper body strength and figuring out how to beat those odds was invigorating. Now that my life is normalising to the point that I can’t really do things much better, faster or easier than I am currently doing them, I have to get used to the still-unreal fact that I have a disability and I must finally face the depression that got me here in the first place.
During my physical rehabilitation at an amputee centre in London, all the other men in my ward had diabetes. Thinking that my newly incompleted body suddenly put me at risk of developing diabetes myself, I immediately visited the dietician’s office. She explained that it actually worked the other way around – all the men in my ward had lost their limbs because their preexisting diabetes reduced their blood circulation! Although I dodged that particular bullet, I have had to make a concerted effort to keep fit.
Before losing my legs, my fitness regime involved walking through the park or dancing in a club. Now that I spend most day in a wheelchair, I have had to adapt my diet and exercise regularly to prevent putting on weight. Maintaining my upper body strength is essential to my independence, ensuring that I can transfer from my chair to another surface and lift myself from the floor to my chair or bed or car. As long as I can get on and off the bus, I can go almost anywhere (this photo was taken on my first bus ride as a disabled person in South Africa).
I gave up on sports early in my life when I had no aptitude for it and no interest in learning. I took for granted the freedom I had for skipping (which I was prone to spontaneous outbursts of), jumping, walking and pole-dancing (don’t tell). Now that my physicality represents such an obstacle to me, I am determined to show my body who is boss. I have taken up paravolley (volleyball played sitting on the ground) and personal training. Although all my friends have been unfailingly supportive and inclusive of me since I became disabled, it feels wonderful to socialise with other disabled people and not worry that I am inconveniencing anyone or slowing others down.
The stumps remaining of my legs are too short for prosthetics. Perhaps in the future there will be a new solution that will enable me to walk again, but for now I am embracing the Professor X look. Being wheelchair-bound has placed limitations on my life, but it has also opened a world of new opportunities and introduced me to several amazing people that I would not have met otherwise.