By Anna Ward
CN: Ableism, isolation, depression
When I was young snow was the most exciting thing possible — I would wake up early every morning and listen intently to the local radio, waiting to hear them call out my school’s name in the list of closures.
It was inevitably always still open, but at least I could spend my lunch break wrapped up in as many layers as humanly possible having snowball fights in the playground. I’m from the North so we’d get snow pretty much every year, sometimes a foot deep. I remember my mum going round every shop trying to find somewhere that hadn’t sold out of sledges so we could drive out to the country and find an untouched hilltop and spend hours sliding down it until we couldn’t feel our fingers from the cold.
My childhood memories of snow still seem nostalgic and romantic to me, especially now I’ve reached the age where snow becomes mostly an inconvenience. As adults the snow brings train delays, slippy walks to work and shovelling snow from outside your house. However, there’s still some excitement there as we wake up to perfect white rooftops and trees.
“I just wish that snowmen and sledging were still possible for me”
The snow in Cambridge that I woke up to this morning is so much less than I’m used to, and it’s the first time in 3 years I’ve seen this city in snow. But, when I looked out of my window this morning the joy that I felt was only fleeting, and quickly I became worried. As a wheelchair user, snow is a scary prospect. I just wish that snowmen and sledging were still possible for me.
I’ve been a wheelchair user for around a year now, and today is the first time I’ve seen snow since then. I tried to be optimistic about it and went outside to take some photos, but about 4 metres from my front door I realised it was a mistake. The wheels on my electric chair were stuck spinning in the slush, and I had to get a passing stranger to give me a push back into my flat. All I can do is watch from my window as the snow falls, and wonder how long I’m going to be stranded inside.
Thankfully my mum had called yesterday evening to tell me she’d seen the weather forecast, and that there’d be snow, so my immediate instinct was to go stock up on a little bit of food whilst it was still dry and above zero outside. It might seem dramatic, but I imagine most people in the UK could never imagine that for any reason that even if they wanted to they just couldn’t leave their house, and the lack of freedom feels pretty horrible. My wheelchair is my lifeline, but snow renders it useless and takes away my independence.
“My wheelchair is my lifeline, but snow renders it useless and takes away my independence”
I don’t actually know when I’ll see another person, and it’s days like this when the romanticism of snow fades pretty quickly and my mental health starts to spiral. Disability is isolating at the best of times, but winter is the worst for a lot of us. Wheelchairs can’t cope with snow, and our bodies can’t cope with the cold. Unfortunately, severe depression makes this even more difficult for me than it already is — I’m a very sociable person, and I like to see at least one other person per day, but in winter this just isn’t possible. Having no human contact is the one thing that hits me hardest. You begin to feel like a burden constantly messaging friends and asking them to come over to bring you some food and medicine, or just because you’ve not seen another person in days, but cancelling every social gathering outside the house.
Make sure to help out your elderly neighbours in winter, but remember that there are disabled friends who need you too.