I feel better these days. I’ve done and am doing a lot of things for myself: I’ve moved to a position with less stress and fewer hours at work; I’m seeing a lot of doctors; I’m finally on the right meds after years of trial and error; and, I’m eating better. My good mental health days are far more frequent than they were just a few short months ago, and this makes it easier to deal with my physical pain. The vertigo and migraines, both linked to stress, are also far less frequent than they used to be.
This makes any difficult days so much harder to bear, because if I’m better now, that means I’m better. That means I’m done feeling pain or having depressive and dissociative episodes, and that my balance is back. At least, that’s what people tell me.
I work in the public service sector, and I have a fair bit of frequent customers—people I actually genuinely like, with whom I have conversations about all sorts of things. And they genuinely like me, too, because they always inquire about my health. When I started using a cane at work, then a walker, they were very concerned because I’m “too young” to use a mobility device. Most of them even asked the exact same question while pointing at the walker: “What’d you do to yourself?” Surely, a man in his mid-thirties shouldn’t be using a mobility device, and the fact that he is must have been the result of some youthful, extravagant tomfoolery. I get it, though—I still feel like I’m too young to use a mobility device.
And these days, I don’t. After all, I’m better now, right? I’ve had a good couple of days: I left Skywalker (my walker) behind and went only with a cane, then I left the cane behind and walked like it was nothing. A few of my regulars at work came up to me, delighted to see me walking like that. “Look at you!” they said. “You look like you’re feeling much better!”
“I’m feeling great!” I said. Because I was feeling great that day.
“You don’t need the walker anymore?” they asked.
“I don’t need it, I feel great!” I emphasized this with a twirl because I felt great! Their delight was rapidly becoming my delight. And I wanted it to be true.
So the next day, I didn’t use the cane or the walker. And the day after that. And the day after that day. It’s a miracle! But that time when the vertigo spell hit me like a wall and I almost fell over? Just a glitch. It won’t happen again. Also, when my knee—my good knee—decided to buckle in the middle of going down the stairs, and I managed to hold on for dear life on the handrail? Well, that was just a fluke. Everything’s fine.
Before I knew it, I was calculating the walking distance to places I can get to easily with my walker, wondering if I’ll make it on my own power, if it’s worth trying. I made sure to walk close to walls in case I fell over. I reconsidered social engagements out of fear I wouldn’t have a place to sit, or ones where people might decide to walk somewhere afterwards.
When I had to call in sick one time because I could barely walk without leaving the wall because of the vertigo, it finally hit me: I don’t have to limit myself.
Don’t worry, Skywalker. We’re together for the long haul.
Nathan Caro Fréchette is originally from Montreal, but has been living in the Ottawa/Gatineau region since 2004. He is a sequential artist and author, and the director of Renaissance press. Nathan has published several short stories, both sequential and traditional, as well as two graphic novels, five novels, and one non-fiction book on writing. He was the editor and director for the French Canadian literary magazine Histoires à boire debout, and works at the Ottawa Public Library. Nathan has been teaching creative writing since 2005.