It’s one of the most annoying questions a person with a chronic and invisible illness gets asked. A bit like “how long’s a piece of string”.
But how do you explain to people, complete strangers how far you CANT walk. How do you explain the pain to someone that actually doesn’t have a clue what it feels like?
I was asked this question when I applied to renew my blue badge (obviously other questions were asked too). “How far, in yards or meters, can you walk before pain starts”. And my answer – “Zero”. To which i received a deadly tone of silence. He then repeated the question, to which my answer was the same “Zero”. I wasn’t lying. So he asked me to explain why I said Zero. Responding to this question was going to mean explaining in detail and I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about it. So in simple terms, I said “I can’t walk any distance without pain, I have constant pain, every second of every day. The pain doesn’t start after a certain period, it’s with me constantly. So in answer to your question, my answer is Zero”.
I wasn’t being a smart ass or trying to be sarcastic towards him, I was being honest and truthful. But after my explanation, he understood what i meant, and was actually really sympathetic towards me, not in a patronising way, but genuinely understanding of my conditions.
Sure, I may walk my dogs half a mile down the road. But what you’ve not seen is me psyching myself up and planning which route I’ll take. If its raining, I can’t go a certain way because it’s slippy. If it’s dark, I can’t go a certain way because the surface is uneven. All due to my stupid numb leg and not being able to feel the ground beneath me. And all this before I’ve even opened the door!
Imagine that with every step you take, you feel like you are dragging 10 tonne of weight on each leg, through quick sand, and just lifting your leg to take that next step is a mammoth challenge.
Imagine someone either punching you in the back or giving you an electric shock, and with every step it’s gets more intense, tonthe point you almost want to throw up at the side of the road.
I might look like I’m ok, but inside I’m screaming. I’m in agony. Every step is agony. I’ve had to learn how to walk properly again, and having a numb leg and foot has made it challenging. I went from walking to shuffling. My brain couldn’t communicate with my legs to take separate steps, I shuffled and I dragged my feet.
But I have come along way, and most days I can put one foot in front of the other, other days I can’t. It’s not easy, and it’s something I have to keep focusing on, but it’s my challenge and my never ending goal to be able to keep walking, and maybe one day the pain might go too.
So, ask me again “how far can I walk…….”