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Am I treated differently since becoming a wheelchair user?

Unbelievably it is already coming up to a year ago when I qualified as a pilot but of course when you are newly qualified you are still very inexperienced. It is just the beginning of a new exciting journey. It was a time when I would need to practice all I had learnt and build up my confidence but instead I received the news that my adapted microlight needed a new wing and that wasn’t going to be a quick process.



Anyway, after a long break I have now been back up in the sky again. You would have expected me to be so keen to get stuck in after a long break, except for some reason I wasn’t. Something was stopping that excitement- it was me. I will explain why.


Even though I have lived a life where my mindset has been instrumental in getting me to the other side of the darkest cloud, I still have times when I have to remind myself that we are in control of our own thoughts, this is especially important to remember when those thoughts are running away with you and they are becoming unhelpful.


I was feeling concerned about flying again. What if I couldn’t remember how to do it? It would be pretty frustrating to be back to square one. It is very cold and at 2000 feet and travelling at 70mph it is freezing, and my circulation is poor at the best of times. I was filling my head with all the reasons I didn’t want to start again.


The trouble is these thoughts affect your feelings and ultimately your behaviour/decisions. The negative thoughts were making me feel like I didn’t want to fly and it could affect my performance, or even worse, I could have kept putting it off.


The good news is that we can control our thoughts. So I worked on doing that, and my feelings soon started to change.

I thought back to my last blog where I mentioned how eager I am to get out my comfort zone and I know each time I fly or do something like this- I always feel great after. I switched my negative thoughts to positives one; the outcome of this final part of my training will be that I can fly with my family, friends and some of my clients, so all the hard work to gain my pilot’s licence will mean I can start planning adventures soon and I remembered Ranulph Fiennes quote, ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’. I decided to focus on these instead and it wasn't long before my enthusiasm was picking up.


That lesson was cancelled- it was too breezy. Learning to fly is one of times you become an expert at dealing with change. Plan B was to cycle but the sun was so bright and dazzling meaning I couldn’t so I opted for plan C, which was a three mile push in my wheelchair!


However, since then it has been brilliant flying weather (albeit have to wear five layers and heated gear too) and I have managed to fit in three amazing lessons. As usual, the negative thoughts were a waste of precious time and energy, I did remember what to do even if I was slightly rusty for a short time and I am now on a mission to complete my two cross country solo flights (navigation exercises) so I can take passengers. Poor passengers- I bet they will have to sort their negative thoughts out!




Thoughts We have thoughts about a certain situation. Thoughts are the running commentary we hear in our minds throughout our lives and can impact the situation, either positively or negatively.

Feelings

Our thoughts make us then feel a certain way. For example, my negative thoughts about flying again after a break made me feel like I didn’t want to do it and I was worried (until I changed my thoughts) .

Behaviours

Behaviours are simply the things we do. Behaviours are also the things we don’t do. For instance, if we feel overwhelming anxiety, we might bow out of a that activity/job. On the other hand, if instead we feel positive, we will embrace these challenges.


There is nothing wrong with needing to remind ourselves that we are in control of our thoughts and we sometimes need to rein those negative ones back in especially when they start impacting and influencing our goals.


Something I find fascinating is how this pattern of thinking also affects those around us.


Many people have asked me, ‘have you been treated differently since being disabled and needing to use a wheelchair?’


In the first year post injury, I did experience this but as I started to alter the way I thought and I began to feel much better about my situation which resulted in my behaviours (actions or the way we present ourselves to others) also changing - so did the people around me, even strangers.

As a consequence of my mindset becoming more positive (and the way I acted), other people’s thoughts, feelings and then behaviours about me seemed to have adjusted too.


How we think does not only have an impact on our own life but it affects how people see us, which is another reason a positive mindset can bring both success and opportunities.

For example, let’s think about a job interview; people can form a strong opinion about us in a matter of seconds- our expression, body language and those first few words. This is where our thoughts can make a huge difference.


Now I rarely feel I am treated differently to when I was able-bodied, I am not saying that there isn't unconscious bias towards people with disabilities (and this can keep improving) but I certainly noticed a big difference in how people interact with me when I started to not only accept my disability but became happy in my own skin.


If I continued thinking ‘my life is over’ ‘I hate being paralysed’ ‘I can’t do much like this’ I certainly wouldn’t be living the life I am. It all started by changing my thoughts about the situation I was in which has led me to embrace all the opportunities I can.


Don’t let your thoughts have control over you- you can gain control over your thoughts. You will find that you can influence and to an extent dictate the route you want your life to take by developing a better mindset.












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