Excitement for the little things…

Never in all my life did I think I would get excited about obtaining gadgets to help in the kitchen! We’re not talking fancy mixers or coffee machines or the newest thing to talk back at you, reminding you of the things you should be doing. We’re talking about the gadgets that make life just a little bit easier when the condition you have effects your hands and wrists. If you have no strength, constant pain or deformities that mean you just can’t make that shape with your hand, life in the kitchen can literally be a nightmare. As someone who always enjoyed cooking, this part of the RA is hard…really hard.
When you can no longer peel a carrot, use a can opener, or slice cheese trying to prepare a decent meal for yourself feels like you’re about to climb a mountain; it’s exhausting…and don’t get me started on feeding the family!! One of the assessments for PIP asks if you can prepare a meal for yourself. Well, firstly, what is meant by a meal? Just about managing to splodge some butter on bread and putting on pre-sliced cheese constitutes a meal apparently…but what if you can’t get the bloody lid off the butter or open the re-sealable, nigh on impossible packaging for the cheese? What if all packaging for food is an impossible task? If you have someone at home to help, that’s great but what if you’re alone…or a little bit too stubborn to ask for help?

Even though my diagnosis was 13 years ago, the reluctance to have aids and adaptations has lingered throughout. Don’t get me wrong, there are things we have done to the house that helps but they are the non-obvious things and just a bit of clever designing. Part of the journey of having any condition is the acceptance that things must change and learning that if you are not prepared to change, life can pretty much suck! Losing independence is tough. It’s probably the hardest thing because there’s very little you can do about it. You can take medication for the pain and swelling, rest when the fatigue kicks in and choke down those thoughts that swim in your mind on a daily basis. Losing your independence however is hard to bare; having to consistently rely on others for the simple things is demoralising to say the least.

Swirling into unbearable depths of self-pity and being in full swing of your own pity party is pretty shit to be fair and you have to kick-start your way out of it, otherwise it brings on a whole heap of other stuff that complicates life even further. As I said, acceptance is the key to giving yourself a light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, being acknowledged through winning my PIP Tribunal has definitely enabled me to allow myself to accept my condition, yet I still won’t allow it to define me. Instead, I have taken solace in stocking up on the wonderful world of gadgets!!!

It is incredible what aids and gadgets are out there…who knew???? As soon as you make the decision to embrace the technology and genius out there it quickly becomes apparent that the stubbornness you’ve held onto has done you more harm than good. You waste time and energy wanting to do the things you now can’t, but in actual fact you still can; just in a different way. The first thing you have to do is identify what you are struggling with. In my case, slicing/chopping and opening cans, jars and bottles have become impossible without pain and usually resulting in throwing things around the kitchen with the air turning blue!

I spent a couple of hours browsing the internet and scrolled through a huge amount of aids available, some better than others and let’s face it some things are just ridiculously expensive. When the package arrived this week, the excitement was obvious! I have a gadget for opening cans, another one that will do various sized bottles and a kitchen knife with a different angled handle so it can be used like a saw rather than pushing on a knife handle. Honestly, I can’t wait to use them…to regain some independence and not have to yell for the husband or the kid to help! I also gave in and got some compression gloves for my hands and although my wonderfully supportive colleagues have thought it hysterical to call me Fagan and asked who I’m going to fight, they are great to support my knuckles. I really couldn’t ask for better people to work with!

So, the pity party is thrown out the window…by accepting what I can do with or without gadgets and aids feels like I’ve given myself a new chance to be independent. I know I’m always going to need some support and help but those bottles and cans are going to beat me no more!!!



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