Are we living or existing? A thought-provoking letter by JR Mitchell of The Accessible Group.

Are we living or existing? Much is said about the rights of people with disabilities and much has changed in recent decades, but are we making the most of our lives? Are we living or existing? Are we our own worst enemy?

We all only have one short life, sure it may last 50, 60, 70, 80 years but in reality, it’s a short time. One day you wake up and realise a big percentage of your life has already passed and there’s still things you want to do and places to see.

I know, I can talk from experience. At 63 I’m in a situation where my days are numbered due to health issues, the biggest part of my life is over and only a short time remains. So it raises questions like:

Have I made the most of my life?

How much time did I waste?

What have I achieved in my life?

JR Mitchell- Image courtesy of ABC News

And of course, there are many more questions you ask yourself. But I have come to realise one very poignant fact, and that is we as humans, disabled or not we put things off, find excuses and reasons why we can’t do things or why we delay things.

Now I’m being brutally honest here and I expect you to be the same. How many times have you said no to going somewhere, doing something or going away because a doctor or specialist appointment falls on those dates? Now be honest, the answer is plenty of times and you damn well know it.

So to me, it raised the question of why we said no to going, why didn’t we just change the doctors or specialists appointment date and time? No doubt many will say, well you can’t that’s when your appointment is, you just can’t ring up and change it. Well, you’re wrong !!!!!!!!

And I’m happy to tell you why ! Doctors and Specialists aren’t Gods, they don’t rule, and they don’t decide things in your life unless you’re silly enough to allow them.

So let’s look at the facts, the reality, what’s really happening. Somewhere in the 90% range of appointments made are follow-up or review appointments. The actual timing of the appointment isn’t a big deal. A 3-month follow-up appointment doesn’t mean 3 months to that day or that week, it could be 3 months and 3 weeks or 3 months and one day.

The reality is the receptionist books the appointment time and we as patients just say “thank you” and walk out the door and write off that date on the calendar. So what if the chance to go away, go out or go do something comes up, we seem to feel we can’t because we have a doctors appointment, but the reality is we use the appointment as the reason or excuse why we can’t go.

Now if you are honest with yourself, you know damn well you have done that on more than one occasion. Having a medical background I can tell you that a 3 or 6 month follow up or review appointment is quite usual but it’s not inflexible, it’s simply a standard time frame used.

If the doctor says see you in 3 months, then the receptionist says we are booked out and gives you a date that’s 4 months away, you accept it because it is convenient for the Doctor and receptionist. So 3 months can actually become 4 months, 6 months can become 7 months. Think about it, you have all had this happen.

Now why can’t you change an appointment time? The answer is simple, you damn well can and those with more confidence or determination don’t think twice about picking up the phone and ringing up to change an appointment day and time. It happens every single day! A follow-up appointment or review appointment is just that, it’s a follow-up or review it’s NOT a date and time set in concrete. You can ring up and change an appointment!

Remember the reality of the situation is you are the customer paying for the service of the doctor or specialist, they aren’t God they are just Doctors or Specialists. Just like there are shop assistants, electricians, plumbers, beauticians, or a hairdresser.

They are no more important than you are.

Remember this:

They breathe the same as you do.

They poop the same as you do.

Their grave will be the same size as yours.

They are just mere mortals the same as you. Don’t let them rule your life and don’t put them on a pedestal. They are paid to give professional advice, the same as every other trade or qualified person. It’s in our minds that we put them up on pedestals.

We do it.

So, the next time you have the chance to go away, do something special or go somewhere you really want and a doctors appointment falls I the way, don’t hesitate, pick up the bloody phone and change the appointment! We all need to live, everyone exists, doing what we want, doing things we like, going where we want is all part of living.

It’s your choice whether you live or exist !

Another example used a lot is your pain level, “oh when it’s under control or gone then we can do it”.

The reality is you live with pain whether you are at home or sitting in an apartment overlooking the beach having a holiday. The pain is still there. If we wait for no pain periods, we may never have a holiday or go away. As people with disabilities, we live with pain, it’s there every day no matter whether we are at home, in Coles, the chemist, doctors surgery or sitting in a caravan park or motel or apartment.

But in most cases, we cope with that pain much better when we are doing something we really want to do, or are away, where we really want to go.

The change of environment, outlook, the scenery makes a huge difference! So if my pain level is 5/10 sitting in my loungeroom, will it be higher sitting in a lounge chair looking out at new scenery? I very very much doubt it.

The old sayings about putting off. How many times have you heard about people looking forward to retiring to do all these wonderful things, when retirement comes, they have a heart attack and drop dead.

Instead of saying, oh isn’t that terrible, say I’m not going to make the same mistake, I’m not going to put it off, I’m alive and can do it now, there’s really no need to put it off.

Make sure you live, not exist.

Life can be short.

Everything can change so quickly.

Grab every opportunity, make the most of every day. Live life every day! Sorry, I’m long-winded, but I hope this makes you sit and think no matter whether you are 25 years old or 65 years old. Your life can change dramatically in a very short space of time. Live it today so you can remember it tomorrow!

Written by J R Mitchell Canberra.

JR Mitchell – ride with the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club.

Footnote: with limited time and considerable pain, JR set out to fulfil a dream of his. To ride a motorcycle. JR Mitchell says, ” My bucket list wish was a ride on Harley with a bikie but what eventuated was a ride with the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club, all serving or ex Federal Police or Military and the White Knights all medicos. I kind of feel that’s it’s rather fitting after having spent most of my life in medicine and Emergency Services in some form. But what I didn’t expect was 17 motorbikes, a drone and 2 cars and 21 people for the ride.” I couldn’t think of a better example of “Live it today so you can remember it tomorrow!

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