Wednesday was my second session with my PA. We went to the Pump Rooms in Leamington which is a sort of combination of art gallery, museum, library, tourist information desk, cafe, and function rooms. It was interesting, but in a slightly weird way.
We were wandering around looking at all the exhibits about the history of Leamington Spa, and of course a lot of that is information about, you know, the actual Spa part of it. Some of the more experimental equipment looked downright scary, but a lot of the descriptions made the spa experience seem like a lovely way to spend a day. The Victorian visitors to the spa would drink lots of water (although apparently it didn't taste very nice), and then you'd have a soak in this and a massage with that and a steam treatment over here and then you'd go through to a cooler room and relax on a sort of sun-lounger while someone brought you a drink and a snack. The place was purpose-built and therefore extraordinarily accessible, since a big chunk of the target market would by definition be elderly or infirm and therefore being wheeled about the place. However it is also beautiful, since another important aspect of its function was to be a pleasant and relaxing environment rather than a clinical one. Afterwards, you went across the road to Jephson Gardens to enjoy the gentle recreation and surroundings.
God, it sounded like bliss, the absolute art of relaxation. Which was the weird bit. To be a disabled and kind of stressed-out (don't ask) person, sitting in an accessible hydrotherapy and relaxation facility, which is no longer in use but gets given money to produce displays and information about how fabulous it once was...
I still haven't got the hang of having a PA yet, though. The problem isn't her - she's lovely and doing really well. I just can't seem to get my head around having an employee.
For example. On Wednesday, when we got back from our outing, I was feeling pretty rough, and I wanted a cup of tea. So while my PA brought in the wheelchair, I shuffled through to the kitchen and started trying to make a cuppa. I was visibly and obviously having trouble, and my PA asked if I'd like her to do it. Full marks to her for asking rather than muscling in. But I messed up - I autoresponded with "no, no, I can manage" just like I would if a friend was there.
But my PA is not there as a friend. She's there as an employee. Helping me with the normal stuff (like tea-making) that is difficult or painful for me to attempt to do is not an additional favour that I would be unreasonably demanding of a friend who has already put themselves out for me by taking me out. It is the entire reason she is there and is what she is getting paid for. It is unfair of me as an employer to expect her to stand around like a lemon watching me struggle when she is aware that her job description is to help me so that I don't have to struggle.
I really have to try and get to grips with the whole idea. Intellectually I get it, but in a more immediate sense, it's just... I get through my life by insisting that I am capable of being independent, that I can Do Things, although they might be more difficult or take longer. In my day-to-day life I do any number of things that are stupid or reckless or painful simply because they need doing and no one else is likely to do them - like hanging up laundry or heating up food or washing up dishes - and then I fall over or spill stuff or scald myself or break something - and then I basically yell at myself to stop being such a useless pansy and get the hell on with things. But it gets worse, because then on the occasions when I am offered help, I push it away! For instance, I'm so sick of people assuming that Steve does everything for me and waits on me hand and foot, that I overcompensate in trying to make sure he doesn't do anything of the sort. It's even worse with people I don't know well. Admitting I can't do stuff and asking for help is like doing a DLA form. I hate it. It makes me feel vulnerable. It's also really irrational and I need to find a way of sorting it out.