I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I spent all yesterday asleep, and it still feels like a gorilla is holding my head in his fist.

I used to think it was the walking from place to place that exhausted me so: the standing, waiting for buses and trains (standing because it’s easier than having to sit down and then get up again): the quick hops from one place to another that seemed so close together on the map: the mile long detour round a building to get to the one disabled loo.

Now, I’ve realised it’s the actual sitting in the theatre itself. Because sitting for me isn’t like sitting for most people. Firstly I have to plop myself into the chair. This is no mean feat when it’s a pop up one where I have to get someone else to hold down the seat first, then try not to sit on their hand (especially worrisome with strangers). Then I have to get myself comfortable.

Because of my posture I have problems simply sitting upright. I have to prop myself up with my crutch. This does have one advantage: I’m never accused of hogging the seat arm as both my hands are on the crutch instead, in a desperate bid to keep me upright for an hour, sometimes a lot more.

My fingers soon go numb from hanging on to the arm supporting ring of my crutch. I rest my chin on it to try to get some relief. This is OK if I’ve brought a spare jumper or some gloves with me as I can use them as padding. If not, it gets a bit ‘diggy’ in the old chin!

Then there are the legs. Oh, the legs. The damned bloody legs. What to do with the legs?

crutching at straws

crutching at straws

If I’m lucky, and have got a sympathetic front of house person, I have a front row seat with no leg constriction at all. This is my DREAM every time I go to the theatre, not, as a lot of front of house peeps imagine, because I’m desperate to sit at the front (although I am an ‘up close and personal’ sort of theatre-goer), but because it means I don’t have to sit through the performance wanting to writhe around like a Fury but having to discreetly stretch my aching and yes, HURTING, legs when there’s a loud bit.

My ideal would be a bed in the theatre. But I’m not that silly. My legs are sometimes so painful that I think I’m going to have to walk out. But to do that would mean such a huge kerfuffle that it makes me blanch even to think about it.

And it’s not even that easy when I have quite a bit of legroom if I’m jammed in between two people. I can’t stretch my legs out into ‘their’ space. Sometimes, if they seem nice, I tell them of my problem before the show but do you know how bloody difficult it is to ask someone who’s paid good money for a seat to then give even a little bit of it up for some random idiot sitting next to them? (This only tends to happen if I’ve won tickets to a sold out show and they can’t dump me anywhere other than the original place the tickets were for).

I request an aisle seat. ‘Which side?’ I’m asked. ‘BOTH’, I want to scream! ‘So sit me at the bloody front!’

So, you see, it’s the sitting in the theatre (or on the bus or train, but that’s another blog post) that does me in, makes me so exhausted.

When most people sit, I presume they have a sense of relaxation. Their body goes ‘ahhhhhhhh’ as they take their seat. Mine doesn’t. It’s happy to be off the legs that don’t work properly, but it’s still tense as hell as it knows it’s going to go through more agony.

Because my body doesn’t relax when sitting in a (usually small) seat in the theatre. It cries out in pain. It drains itself of energy trying to shuffle about getting comfy which it should know by now is a lost bloody cause. It gets itself in knots of tension. It uses JUST AS MUCH energy as when it’s crutching it for the bus.

I came out of the National the other day after three and a half hours of Othello. Now, the play seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. The seats were relatively comfortable in that I did have an aisle seat and I was looking down onto the stage. But walking back to Waterloo for the bus I honestly thought I was having a stroke. Something had happened to my neck. I couldn’t move it around. It was stuck and hurting and I was scared.

This has happened since and I realise it’s something I’m just going to have to live with. I can only imagine it’s due to me having to sort of prop my head and shoulders up with my crutch and my neck not taking kindly to this interference.

I’m over 50 now. My body is not catching up with my mind. My mind is getting younger: my body is getting older. My mind is singing ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’: my body is singing ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.

I can’t deal with this. I’m in denial. I can do this. I can’t do this. I can sometimes do this. You’re not really disabled. You’re faking it. You have a life-changing disablility. You need help. You should count yourself lucky. You should see SOME people. You can do that, so you should be able to do this. You’re not in a wheelchair so you’re not disabled. You can manage steps. You can’t manage steps. You can use a bus. You can feed your cats. You faker. You failure. You YOU!



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