Last week my boyfriend and I went on an overnight stay and I wanted to discuss it in the same way as I did with my walk in the last blog post. We went up to Dundee which is a couple hours drive from where I live, and on the way back down we stopped at St Andrews and Anstruther. It's okay if you don't know these places, it's not really relevant to the post. More just the fact I went somewhere.
If you didn't know already I'm a graphic design student, so we went up to see the new V&A - Scotland's first design museum. I get asked sometimes if I would consider writing up reviews of cities I visit in terms of how accessible they are, but to be honest I don't think I can do that. I'm not a mobility-aid user and so I don't always pick up on everything. I do try to be mindful but I'm not perfect and can only speak from my own experience. What I will say, is the V&A seemed pretty accessible to me.
I took the lift up and down as the building is split over 2 floors. The largest exhibit had handheld copies of the information printed in large print booklets, in case you maybe struggle to read the information boards underneath the artefacts. There were also small folding seats you could take with you around the room if you struggle to stand for long periods (note to self - I definitely should have used one. Stubborn bugger). The information boards seemed to be at a good height for wheelchair users, again I can't give you a definitive answer on that as I'm not one myself. However I did see wheelchairs being used while I was there and from an outside perspective it seemed well laid out.
After walking around the exhibits for about an hour my hips were starting to ache. This is where I should have used one of the little stools but we were pretty much finished so it didn't seem worth it at the time. We then went on to a bar for some drinks and snacks, and by the time we reached it I was in desperate need of a seat. I struggled to get up the two stairs at the door, but with some help I managed. By the time we were halfway through our beer my pain levels had decreased back to a bearable level. It felt good to be off my feet. We stayed there for a few hours and it was nice to do something so normal. We ate, we drank, and we chatted away. Such a novel idea.
We then moved on to another restaurant for dinner, and I found the short walk much more bearable. Clearly some time off my feet had done me some good. We had a nice meal and then went to go check in to our hotel, which was about a 15 minute walk away. I don't remember struggling with the walk, and instead just enjoyed being in a new environment. The plan was to check in, chill out for a bit, and then go get another drink somewhere. By the time we got back though I was quite done in so we decided to stay in for the evening instead. We probably got back to the hotel about 8.
If you seen me walking about that day you probably wouldn't know there was anything wrong. But what only one other person sees is that I sat under the shower for half an hour as soon as we got back. I used the heat to relieve the pain in my legs, and took the time for some sensory deprivation. Yes there was the noise and movement of the running water, but there wasn't any sudden movements to catch my eye or conversation to keep up with. I sat with my knees tucked in towards my chest, on the shower floor, until I could feel my heart rate slow. I sat under the shower again later on that evening, and again in the middle of the night. Not exactly normal behaviour but it's fairly normal for me.
I'm not sharing that to make you feel bad for me. I wasn't sad as I sat there at 3am. I don't want you to be sad that I was there either. It was a form of relief and I knew it would help my chronic pain. It allowed me to handle being away at all. I think it's important to share these "hidden" parts because I don't want anyone thinking my night away was easy. Was it enjoyable? Absolutely. Was it easy? Absolutely not.
I don't think I was my best self the following day. I felt like I was flagging a bit. I still really enjoyed my day though, don't get me wrong. But my pain levels were higher and conversation was a bit more difficult. Brain fog problems. It's to be expected obviously that the following day would be more challenging, I knew it would happen.
We drove up to a viewpoint before leaving Dundee (and got absolutely soaked in the few minutes we ventured out the car). We then drove down to St Andrews and visited the beach. I was absolutely freezing so we didn't walk along the water. More walked out to the sand, stood and looked at the waves, and then went back. It was a good 2 minutes though! Another nice little memory to add to the bank. After some lunch we went to the harbour and the cathedral, so I managed a bit more walking. It was a bit painful but bearable, nothing extreme.
We drove further down the coast to the small fishing village of Anstruther, and this is where the pain kicked in some more. I couldn't walk properly and instead hobbled about a bit. Luckily the place is small so after a mosey about the harbour we went back to the car. I had to manually put my legs in the car with my hand, lifting the weight of them with my arms, as my hip pain was intense. That's when we knew we were done with the walking and it was time for home. We'd hit the limit, but I'd managed so much up until that point I didn't mind.
The next few days were quite rough, and I couldn't do anything even semi-productive. No showering, no college work, no watching TV. I literally just lay down on my living room floor. For 2 days. I didn't turn the telly on, I didn't pick up a book, I didn't listen to music. I just lay there. It was what my body needed and so that's what I did. It wasn't exactly thrilling, but I wasn't lying there hating life either. I've had days much worse.
I felt quite out of it and my brain was slow, but my pain levels weren't crazy high. It's now been a week and I'm still recovering. My pain has been bearable and my hip pain has completely gone now. It's been the issues with brain function that's been the real problem. Trying to get college work done is a m-i-s-s-i-o-n, but I'll get there. Everything feels very loud, and everything smells too strong, and my senses feel constantly overwhelmed. I've had a cry, I'll be honest.
There's something I want to quickly mention here, because I think I've been quite balanced in this post with discussing both the positives and negatives. Whenever I do that I get comments from people that are able- bodied along the lines of "I'm sorry you didn't get to fully enjoy the experience". I understand where that comes from, you focus on the negatives because they're new to you. They are the parts that vary from your own experiences and they perhaps make you a bit uncomfortable.
My version of fully enjoying a day probably doesn't look like your version. But that doesn't mean my experience wasn't full. As far as I'm concerned I did fully enjoy it. I don't feel like I missed out, and I was happy. Even sitting under the shower at 3am. I was in a new place with my best friend. He was peacefully sleeping. Everything was good.
Please do not feel bad for me. I spent my days smiling. I've been in pain sure, I've been tired. But I was happy, and that's what I choose to focus on.