From very early on in my life as an amputee, I’ve loathed using crutches or a wheelchair. I am a very autonomous person. I have blue hair and tattoos. I don’t think too much about the opinions or stares of others, but put me in a wheelchair and all that rebel-heartedness melted into shy shameful nonsense. I felt so suffocated by the shame that I couldn’t enjoy myself at all. But years of wearing my prosthetic for everything except sleep was literally wearing away my health and happiness. Prosthetics are hard on both limb and mind — most people don’t realize that it takes a lot of focus and strength to walk with a prosthetic on a tender limb.
As I learn to navigate my life and its specific abilities and possibilities, I’ve come to realize that time not wearing my prosthetic is essential. Downtime allows my limb and my self to rest and keeps me from living in the hazy gray fog that overdoing can cause. While using my wheel chair or crutches used to feel like failure, I’ve discovered that once I let go of the (unnecessary) shame, it gives me an amazing freedom.
I am the girl in both these images, which were taken a day apart. I am equally joyful in the gif of me dancing as I am in my wheel chair. Learning to have fun in my chair, on crutches, or while wearing my prosthetic leg, set me free.
gif from Girl Knew York Instagram
2 replies on “Freedom Means Letting Go of Shame”
…exactly why i don’t use crutches- (although it can be hard to explain to others why i wouldn’t ”jump at the
chance” to use crutches/braces all the time to ”walk”).
i learned early on that if i wanted time to do all the things i wanted/want to do in my life, it would be more effective/time-efficient to use my chair (think about something as basic as using the restroom or crossing the road on wheels vs step by step in crutches/braces–the light use to change before i got to the other side!). i decided in the scheme of things, traditional ‘walking’ just isn’t that important.
like you say, developing a thick skin took a little time, but once i got it, i never again thought of my chair and myself in relation to what people might think about me or what it means to them, etc.. it’s probably a form of focus or internalized meditation, or something, or perhaps a coping mechanism…it just never entered my head anymore.
i still think going in crutches and braces here and there is a good thing for exercise because it’s good and healthy to stand and move in that normal position, but my injury is far more severe (both legs paralyzed), so using crutches/braces is a lot harder for me. i pretty much use my chair all the time to get around.
great reading your story and post. thanks.
Great article! As an Occupational Therapist, a big part of my job has always been helping people to move through the process of fighting against their limitations, and coming to a state of grace where, by accepting their limitations, they can take their energy out of the struggle and put it into building the most meaningful life possible within those limitations. It is an inspiring process to be a part of. All the best wishes to you as you continue to carve your path through life : )