I Have a Love-hate Relationship With My Mobility Aid

Kendall Harvey avatar

by Kendall Harvey |

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Have you heard the expression that “There’s a fine line between love and hate”? The idea is that there’s so much passion required for every all-consuming emotion that things could easily tip from love to hate, and vice versa, when all of those wild emotions are running free.

If this is true, then I think it could almost be said that there is a fine line between friend and enemy.

When I started my journey with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA), one of my primary personal goals was to walk independently for as long as possible. I loathed the idea of being forced to sacrifice my independence for safety in the name of FA. The focus of this fear-driven loathing was a mobility aid.

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I viewed a mobility aid — in my case, a walker — as the physical embodiment of my disability and everything I hated about it. I was so focused on my negative feelings about needing a walker that I was ignoring the benefit it would provide.

When I acquired my first walker and brought it into my house, I glared at my new enemy with so much hate. I resented needing a mobility aid and refused to view it as anything but a new unfairness FA had forced upon my life. I was content harboring hatred for this enemy.

After some time, I realized how unhealthy that attitude was. Being bitter and angry wasn’t making my FA go away. It didn’t make me need a walker any less. It didn’t help me accept the walker and go about my life with any additional ease. In fact, I think it accomplished the opposite.

I tried to remain neutral when it came to my thoughts about my mobility aid. I couldn’t control how it made me feel to see it beside my bed, next to me at dinner, or in the trunk of my car, but I could control how I let those feelings affect my day.

I adopted the Serenity Prayer that is used by Alcoholics Anonymous: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I can’t change the reality that I have FA. I can’t change the fact that I need the walker and, occasionally, a scooter or wheelchair to function. I can’t change the daunting realization that even with mobility aids, daily activities will be hard and my symptoms will continue to progress. But I can change my attitude about all of this.

I’ve been dependent on a mobility aid for over three years. While there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t wrestled with how that makes me feel, I have developed strategies for coping with it.

I’ll allow myself to really feel my feelings when I have the time. I’ll give myself a moment to curse the walker, yell in frustration, or cry. On the occasions that my walker isn’t enough to meet my needs, I’ll take a deep breath before admitting it and then asking for assistance. When my balance waivers and my walker catches me and prevents a fall, I’ll allow myself a moment to compose myself and feel gratitude.

After I accepted the fact that a mobility aid would always be a part of my life and I would continue to have conflicting feelings about it every day, I found the wisdom to navigate the things I can and cannot change.

I switch multiple times a day between loving and hating my walker and thinking of it as both a helpful friend and a cruel, nagging enemy. And that is OK.

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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