Life is hard enough for me, just existing takes a great deal of mental strength, so if something happens to knock me back in some way it's a big deal. It can be the smallest thing, no doubt trivial to many, but it can throw me spiralling downwards mentally. It is really hard to fight my way back to equilibrium, whatever that means when you live with constant pain with the associated stress, frustration and exhaustion that comes with it. My quality of living is rubbish. I can't exercise because all four limbs are affected, so I do the best I can to starve myself so that I don't put on weight. I deny myself anything like chocolate. There is really only one thing I do other than sit in my chair 24/7 and that thing is archery. I have come to depend on it to retain my sanity, I look forward to the next time I get to shoot almost as soon as we've packed my bow away.
When you're disabled people treat you differently. It's more than likely that many don't even realise they're doing it. They can't see beyond the wheelchair or condition, only seeing the perceived problems it, and by definition, I pose. Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful people out there who go out of their way to help, make life easier or help me access activities I wouldn't otherwise be able to. Thank goodness!!
As many who read my blog or who are lovely enough to follow me on Facebook will know, doing archery has come with its own battles. And I don't mean the problems my condition throw at me. I mean the ridiculous rules, barriers and sheer lack of understanding that I simply can't do anything about. Let me explain...
I'm disabled and need a wheelchair to get about. I can't walk in any real sense of the word, I can only shuffle a few yards wrapped in the arms of my husband. Standing without supporting myself (or being supported) is impossible and even then only for more a few minutes. It is blindingly obvious that I need to shoot in a wheelchair. It is also common sense that if the pain is minimised when my legs are elevated then I shoot with them up just as I spend the rest of my life doing. My arms simply aren't capable of pushing a manual wheelchair, the pain becomes unbearable in minutes. It doesn't take a massive leap of faith to see therefore that an electric wheelchair is essential. So why then do I not qualify as disabled in the archery world? I actually received the following in response to an enquiry about joining a disabled body you'd have thought would be ideal for someone in my position.
"As you have already mentioned your condition is not one that will classify & I am sure you will have problems with competitions as you will take up a large amount of space on the line.
This to organisers has a cost implication as they cannot accept entries for that space.
You could become an Associate Member of ******* [ full membership would not be an option as your condition is pain related] but again space on the line is limited & we have to limit the numbers who come to each weekend."
In other words, sod off! It beggars belief to be honest. Thank goodness so many able bodied clubs don't have this attitude and I have been able to take part in a wide range of indoor and outdoor shoots this season. The only ones I've not been able to enter are those with no disabled toilets or I couldn't access the field. I've even managed to shoot for my club! But those who should embrace me as a fellow disabled archer shun me. It seems I have the wrong type of disability and the wrong type of wheelchair. Or am I too disabled? Perhaps someone like me shouldn't try to take part? I don't easily fit into their definition of disability and am therefore too much trouble? Who knows?
Of course this won't stop me doing archery or taking part in competitions. You have to rise above these things and just get on with it. Life as they say, is too short...