Being a wheelchair user can have its ups and downs. One of the ups is playing games in a wheelchair. For some events (like last weeks Pickleball) I can use either my power wheelchair or my power. There is an event called the Slolam, and basically it’s an obstacle course, both for manual chairs and power chairs.
My first Slalom was done in a hospital-issue wheelchair. I had to open, go through, and close doors, without knocking any little plastic pylons, and the course is done following a path from one obstacle to the next. It took me more than 10 minutes to get through that challenge. The second, and last time through a manual course, I was using a sports chair that was designed to fit me. I got through the course in just over 3 minutes.
I have done a lot of sports in a wheelchair but this one is the most challenging, I think. I have played slow-pitch softball, 9-ball (billiards with only balls 1-9, shooting at the balls in order), shot an air gun at targets, archery, bowling, track & field, and other things which I can’t think of now.
This autumn, I decided I would do the power course, laid out for differently, according to the athlete’s ability. There are three quad courses, and I’ve done several of them. This year, I was reclassified, and thus compete with people in a class that’s more competitive than the one that I did before.
The time was finally right, I put on my helmet (required), and I went through that course. It may be a little different from the obstacle course most people think of when they hear, “obstacle course.”
While at the Valor Games Midwest, in Chicago, I saw pickleball played for the first time, at Soldier Field. I did not know that we were being taped while we played, and did some drills. I did not know I was in this video, but stumbled across it when looking up wheelchair pickleball.
I am the Caucasian woman with dark and grey hair, in a blue shirt. It shows me doing drills, and actually on the court, playing.
Why did you start blogging?
Why did I start blogging? I really can’t remember how I even stumbled across WordPress. I have since taken two classes, Building Better Webpages I & II. It started out as a sounding board for my little pet peeves, like when someone who doesn’t need it, parks in a handicap zone, forcing my driver to spend a lot more time, looking for another place where we can park. But it evolved into a place where I could explore, express, and pass on my feelings about my childhood sexual/physical/emotional abuse.
A piece of clothing you still remember? I remember a pair of overalls that my mother made for me. This was in the 70’s, mind you. The basic color was sort of beige, with vertical, red and orange stripes. My mother had us wear our school clothes, the first set, Mon-Wed, and the second set, Thurs&Fri. Since this item of clothing really stood out among other people, someone was always making fun of me about how many days in a row, that I wore those. I was already being picked on, and this just made my time at school even worse. It didn’t matter that I got real good grades.
Who are you trying to reach with your blog? I write about child abuse, specifically my own. My writing has evolved into a great place where I can explore my own feelings, and hopefully reach others who have survived child abuse of any kind. I want to give them a place to vent their own feelings, and hopefully they can feel free to explore their own abuse, their feelings, PTSD, and other mental illnesses that can result from childhood abuse.
Is there a stuffed animal in your bedroom? I used to have a lot of stuffed animals, especially large ones. I now have only one, a small stuffed bear, that was given to me by one of my aides for Valentines Day, and now sits proudly in my recliner with me. His name is Jasper.
The best birthday present ever?Having to share birthdays with Halloween makes it a little difficult to remember birthday gifts, but I would have to go with my very first guitar, when I turned 21. It was an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, and I had never even played one before. My ability has become much more proficient and I bought myself a good acoustic guitar, with steel strings. That’s not as bad as having to share it with Christmas, but parties were always rushed, so that we could go trick-or-treating.
What would surprise me about you?I think what might surprise you, is that I spent two months in one of our state mental houses, and it was not by choice. The county I now live in, had me hospitalized, due to extreme, chronic depression, accompanied by three suicide attempts. Obviously, I survived and am here to tell you about it today. I have come a long way, from that dark period of my life. But I am a survivor, and while I still have mental health issues, you wouldn’t be able to tell if you met me, or came to know me. I am stable on the medications I take, and have not been hospitalized for that since 2006 or 2007.
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? I am grateful that I had the opportunity to fly to San Antonio, take part in adaptive sports for disabled veterans. I did not win any medals – the MS is progressing and I have less stability with my hands and arms. Also that despite complications, landing at O’Hare, and first having to wait for a gate to open up, and then waiting about an hour for them to get my chair to me. They had trouble getting it off the plane, then the elevator they were going to use to bring it up was under construction, so they had to go the long way around. I’m also grateful for the passengers and driver got me on/off the bus, and the shuttle van was waiting for me, despite the fact that I was almost 15 minutes. The driver knew who I was and didn’t want to leave me stranded out there, in the rain, with no other means available to get me and my chair home. (It probably weighs close to 400 pounds) There was no other way to get me and my chair home. All other forms of public transport don’t come out as far as that bus stop.
I am looking forward to a quiet, relaxing, week, without all the stress I had before and during my trip to San Antonio. I am also looking forward to doing a little shopping, if my budget allows it this month. And I am also looking forward to going to church again this weekend. I went last week. That was probably the first time I went since Easter.
There were three of us in this race. The other two were men. One of them was using a racing chair, which has another wheel out in front of the chair. The race was 100 meters, the gun fired and we were off. I crossed the finish line – FIRST.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you how my therapy visit was somewhat unsettling. What am I saying here? She made me angry. She made me feel as though I were under attack. She stressed for about ten minutes, how she spent more time with me than with any other client that she saw. Was that a complaint? Does that mean I’m a problem? Should I be seeing her less often than twice a month? I should hope not. She has been my lifeline to my sanity for the past year and a half or more. I was nearly devastated when she changed my appointments from once a week to twice a month. And now I have to show up with a notebook, prepared with exactly what I should be talking about that day. If she hadn’t done so much to bring me so far . . .
If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that this weekend has been one filled with anxiety, last-minute trips to the dollar store for mini versions of toiletries, so that I can travel this week, with only one carry-on bag, my laptop (no matter how hard I try, the decision to leave it at home never lasts) and my CPAP machine. I don’t want to be tired all day long, because I had a poor nights sleep due to sleep apnea. I’m trying to avoid 1) Trying to push around my big suitcase, while toting a carry-on, laptop and CPAP machine, 2) Having to wait in baggage claim until my bag finally appears and possibly missing my bus home from the airport on the return trip, and 3) Loading up with all this extra stuff I can do without. All of this from a wheelchair. True, it is a power chair, but that in itself is trouble as it causes me to be the last one off the plane, then often having to wait for my chair to appear, which could be a bit of a lengthy time coming home, at O’Hare. And there is always the risk of damage to my chair, as it is a 400 pound power chair and the baggage handlers in Chicago just never seem to get it right, even though I’ve traveled to and from there for a few years. I could not possibly tote around all that baggage while trying to push myself around in a manual wheelchair.
If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about all the exciting things I’ll be doing this week (not including the airports). I will be checking into the hotel in the evening, and then checking in for the Valor Games Southwest, in San Antonio, TX. I’d tell you how the elevator has a glass wall which looks out on the inner square garden. There is also a hot tub, which I cannot go into due to heat sensitivity from MS, and a wonderful pool, lit up at night from under the water. It is such a wonderful feeling to immerse myself into that cool water, after a hot day waiting to get on and off buses, which are transporting us back and forth from the game venues and the hotel. I believe my first event will be with the air rifle. I have rifled through my closets, looking for the eye patch needed to cover my dominant eye, so I am not struggling to keep my non-dominant eye open while aiming at a target which is 10 miles meters away. And I also have to be wearing my glasses to do this. I would tell you that another event I’ll be taking part in, is table tennis, a sport which I have played just about every year for the past 8 years. My last event is Boccia Ball, which I first tried in San Antonio, on my first trip there two years ago. It has since become an event in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The Valor Games do not require that you be in a wheelchair, but just that you have a VA-certified qualifying disability. I guess mine qualifies, as this is the third year I’ve been accepted to these games. I’d tell you that just last month I competed in the Valor Games Midwest, in Chicago, where I earned a gold medal in the discus, and a silver medal in hand-cycling. This is a sport that I’m looking into pursuing on a full-time basis. And I’d tell you I’ll spend every evening (if I have any energy left) in the pool, and then trying to find a couple of people to drag me out of the pool, as I can’t get myself out with my legs. I would tell you that I’ll be getting little sleep for the next 5 days, and that’s okay. I’ll fill you all in with my results, next weekend.
This YouTube video is of the 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, in Salt Lake City, in which I took part. I thought I would share it so you all can see a bit of the types of events I, as well as all the friends I have made over the last 9 years, take part in the course of a week. Enjoy!
What is your favorite part of the town/city you live in. And what Country do you live in?
I live in a mid-sized city, which is a change from ‘Hicksville, upstate NY’, where I grew up. From the first city on to the present, I have always liked the bustle of being in the middle of a city. But I would have to say that my favorite part is where the city lies along the coast of Lake Michigan, especially when there is no one nearby.
I live in the United States.
Would you rather wear clown shoes every day or a clown wig every day? I would have to say the shoes. I always kick them off as soon as possible anyway.
Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under? Over. If it’s under, I never seem to be able to find the end of the roll.
What do you do to make a living or during the day? If you are retired what mostly occupies your day? Or if you are a student what are you studying? I do not work due to disability, yet I do have a set schedule, for most days. The alarm goes off. The cat gets up, I get up. I take my first round of meds and feed the cat. An hour later, the second alarm goes off, and I take the rest of my morning meds, make the coffee and have breakfast. Then I move from my power chair to my recliner, after I’ve gotten dressed, turn on the computer, and spend most all day and evening, first going through all the email, reading my batch of blogs that I follow, and then I turn to my favorite Sudoku website, and that’s pretty much all I do for the rest of the day and the evening. Though lately, I’ve become inspired to get out of the recliner and go to the gym, and try to strengthen my upper body, so that I can take part in some adaptive sports for wheelchair users, which would be more of a challenge (Haven’t made it to the gym yet, and I got back from a week of games in Salt Lake City a month ago today.) My next round of events is in three weeks, in Chicago, and I need to build up my strength and endurance for the coming events there. Then my life goes back to recliner mode until near the end of September, when I go to San Antonio, TX for three days of events there, but nothing strenuous due to the heat and humidity there.
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? I think this may sound a little strange, but I’m grateful for Mother Nature last week, when she put on some mighty fine fireworks (thunder and lightning), which I love dearly, as long as it’s not one of those where the wind is bending the trees over, and the rain is moving sideways rather than down. Those are a little scary. But I’m grateful to be here, able to watch, and listen and listen to a heavy downpour of water.
In the week coming up, I’m looking forward to an entire week with absolutely, not one single appointment for the entire week. When this happens, I can vegetate relax in the shade, without any pressures to go somewhere except for the grocery store.
The pictures above show the many ways that I get involved in adaptive sports. Three weeks ago, I was in Salt Lake City, putting forth all the effort I could, doing my best at my selected events, and awakening a desire in myself to do more.
More means starting up again at the gym. I need to work to build my upper body up so I have the strength to excel at future attempts at adaptive sports. I am looking at rock climbing, bowling, wheelchair basketball, bocce ball, and anything else I might like to get into.
I need to build strength and endurance. An initial session with a personal trainer, will give me the knowledge for the machines that I can use to achieve this objective. I also need to take my sports chair to the mall, and build my endurance in that way.
But this ambition doesn’t stop there. I was invited once to take part in a week of training and a go at the Nationals. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go, but I wish to continue.
For the last few years I have just spent all my time in my recliner, playing games on my computer, and losing the muscle mass that I used to have. I want to get out of this chair, be active, and do the best I can do.
I have been here in Salt Lake City, Utah, since Sunday afternoon. When you are in the sun during the day, it is like sitting in an oven (not that I’ve ever actually sat in an oven). But yesterday morning was cloudy, and there was a little breeze. I wasn’t doing anything until 1pm, so I went sight-seeing (and looking for a drug store). It was really nice and I took a lot of pictures. You can check some of them out on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/vanbenschotenk. Here is a good sample of what I’ve seen and done since Monday morning.
Salt Lake City
During the past four days, I have pushed myself to compete in four events during the National Veterans Wheelchair Games here. I have bowled Silver medal), ran the motorized slalom (an obstacle course for power chairs – gold medal), played 9-ball with two other women, both of whom I already knew (bronze medal), and played Boccia Ball (no medals, just had fun… I was winning until the last round, when my opponent pulled ahead with a final score of 4-3).
But it’s not about those medals! It’s about grit and determination, friends and fun, and great competition. Having MS, I suffer from fatigue most of the time and it’s with a lot of effort that I go out and compete like this. And I don’t only do it here. I also take part in the Valor Games (for veterans with all disabilities), in Chicago and San Antonio, where I push myself a lot more to succeed.
Now I am looking at participating in new events through other types of games all over the country. I also have set a goal to go back to the gym on a regular basis, participate in adaptive sporting clinics, and get myself out of that recliner, where I normally spend most of my time.
I want to get stronger, and more active, pushing through the pain and fatigue and succeeding in doing the most I can do and not give in to this disease (MS).
That will take pushing myself to do more, all that I can do, with determination and grit. I will not give up!
First of all, and most importantly, I am a survivor of incest – father. My first blog post started out in limbo, but gravitated to poetry, written to express feelings as they arose.
But I also had an ongoing fear relationship with my mother, whose moods were unpredictable, often changing at the drop of a hat. These moods were almost always negative, and I lived my life in fear of her. She was also a mean person, to us kids (3), towards my dad, grandmother, and even to her boyfriend, whom she lived with after my dad died.
I have MS and sometimes write about struggles that I sometimes experience. I also do adaptive sports from my wheelchair. I’ve played table tennis, 9-ball, archery, air rifles, bowling, softball, kayaking, basketball, Pickle ball, and more things that don’t come to mind now.
My goal is to stay active, continue to travel, and take pictures along the way, as I carry my camera everywhere I go.
I remember, even as a small child, being told constantly what she wanted me to do, and what she didn’t want me to do. It never seemed that I could do anything right, and I couldn’t seem to please them. This carried on into elementary school, junior high, and high school. I was constantly causing trouble while I was in school, since I couldn’t do anything fun at home. I got myself a reputation for being a brat, sassy, and refusing to behave. This behavior was the result of physical, mental and sexual abuse at home.
I started learning to play the clarinet, when I was ten. I kept this up. I got involved with the Music programs at school, and I finally found a direction. I thought. I stopped causing trouble and concentrated on my music, teaching myself some piano, learning how to play both the alto, and tenor saxophones, and this filled up all my free time. My plans were to major in Music at a college, and become a music teacher. Good intentions. I applied at schools and was accepted at a 2-year school two hours away from home. I was on my way. I thought.
I moved away home and found a new freedom that I’d never experienced before. I became a full-time cigarette smoker, and started drinking mixed drinks. After about a year, alcohol became more important than school, and by my fourth semester, I dropped out. I soon ran out of money and had to move back home.
After all that freedom, I was right back where I started from. To me this was intolerable. I applied to join the US Navy, and within two weeks, found myself on an airplane, headed for Boot Camp in Orlando, FL.
I do not remember much of that night before I raised my right hand and committed myself to serving my country. I was back to having someone telling me what to do, what to wear, when to wear it, when to eat, when to sleep, and pretty much everything else they wanted me to do.
Somehow, I made it through Boot Camp and was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Station, in Great Lakes, IL. Once again, I found that freedom, just not as much of it, and I was on my way. I thought. After 9 months of Naval service, I was discharged for unsuitability due to alcohol abuse, and not recommended for re-enlistment. I had failed again.
After my discharge, I wandered aimlessly from one abusive relationship to another, seeking out those who would be abusive, because that was all I knew. I eventually stopped drinking enough to get myself through a 4-year school, and graduate with honors. I started working almost immediately, in a position that suited what I had just finished school for. This was it! I was on the right track. I thought. Trouble was, that track was going in more than one direction. I left that job that I was very good at, to start work at a new company. This was it. They sent me to another company to learn a new software program, that was to be used to keep track of inventory. I learned it well, and I came back to my job, armed with a purpose, a task, and a direction. I thought.
Unfortunately, due to stress from this job, which I was not performing in the way I should have been, and a family history of mental illness, I caved in to my own mental illness. I lost that job, and spent the next couple years, jumping from job to job, and psych unit to psych unit. I was lost and I feared I was never coming back from that abyss. I spent a lot of time in therapy sessions, both group and individually, went through several medications, therapists, and even doctors, before they seemed to find the proper mix of all the above, and I started to find myself.
I learned that if I kept my mouth shut, I would stay out of trouble, just like in Boot Camp. This time I was not going to give up. About three years later, I was diagnosed with MS, and that brought me to a halt. I had a disease, though not terminal, would eventually wear me down to become bed-ridden, and then die. This time, though, I was not going to give up. I decided I was not going to give up on me.
I had learned that I needed to find a direction to go, and to go there. I needed to diligently follow this direction, and stay active in the process. While I was still in the hospital, I learned about their adaptive sports wheelchair team. This simply amazed me.
Every year, I would prepare for the upcoming trip to a new city, honing my skills in one sport or another. I found I liked being in competition with other veterans who were in wheelchairs, in a multitude of sporting events. I was also in competition with myself, to do the best I possibly could.
Something else happened after I got out of the hospital. I needed an aide three times a week to help me with the household chores and such. My second aide was a Pastor’s wife. She liked to ask me a lot of questions about my past experiences with religion, until I told her that I didn’t want her asking me these things, as this made me uncomfortable.
But something changed, and I started asking her questions about her church, which was a biker church! I asked her if she would pick me up for church. She did, and continued to do so. I had found God, and I found my direction.
I made it my goal to become a better person all together. I started being nice to people, and was treated so in return. I learned what was expected of me due to my religious beliefs, and I started living my life this way.
Day by day, I roll on, doing the things I need to do, to please God and live the life He wants for me. Now, when I get up in the morning, I know what the day is going to be like, even if I don’t know what is actually going to happen.
Today, I don’t walk with intention, but I roll with intention, with goals and a new-found reason for living. Now, I live that life as best I can. I sometimes fall, but I just pick myself back up, and keep on going. People who know me have seen the change in me that has occurred during the past few years, and they like what they see. I like what I see in others, and want others to have the life like the one I was living.
I strive for improvement, and knowledge, and a life filled with opportunities for so much more than I never dreamed of. Now I roll with intention. I have found out who I am, and who I can be. And I never thought that was going to happen.