Chronic Illness · Chronic Pain · Mental Health · Personal · Recovery · Short-term/Acute Illness

A Moment of Learning to Live (Visibly and Differently) with Less Shame

I’ve struggled over the past few months due to a difficult hip injury (and worsened the knee pain I’ve dealt with for a while). One of the things that has helped is bracing my knee so that my whole leg is in better alignment. I’ve had the privilege of getting an amazing medical-grade brace used for the kind of knee instability that comes from ACL injuries, but I’ve been too ashamed to use it in public. When I’ve really had to (and trust me, I did my best to convince myself never to wear it, especially not to work), I’ve worn black pants for as many days as possible and tried to disappear. A few days ago, I let go of that, and I had a coming out moment with it. 

I wore shorts. I didn’t apologize.

I didn’t let my fear of looking bad stop me from functioning better.

I didn’t let the fear of others noticing get in the way of my experiencing relief and more confidence that my body will be able to do what I want it to do.

With it, I can dance (badly and not anything intricate, but still), bike, and play ultimate frisbee (or most other games the youth group wants to play – also badly, but still). I plan to get back to the elliptical and bike many more miles than I can right now, but even right now, it’s the scaffolding that helps me be able to do surprisingly many things.

My sister took a candid video of me dancing on my coming out day. These are my two favorite stills from it. My brace is ugly, especially without the black sleeve underneath that hides its enormous plastic shell shape, but wow, does it work, and that matters more. These pictures are ridiculous! I am ridiculous! My brace is ridiculous! And yet I am unashamed. I am grateful.

Without it, almost everything I love doing with my body is difficult. This won’t be permanent, and the relief right now is real. I’ve worked too long to figure out how to exercise and live a fit life despite having chronic health problems to stop now just because I don’t want to be visible – to be visibly different.

I’m done being ashamed. As I retrain all my leg muscles in PT, and as I do big things like bike and hike and travel (for almost two months total before I move in less than four!) and all that, hello, brace. When I need it in the future for any reason, hello, brace. I’m tired of saying goodbye to it and hello to societal expectations that give me more unnecessary pain. So I’m done.

Mobility devices improve lives, and people who use them don’t need to be pitied. Instead, celebrate with me all of the things I’m learning how to do again without fear, even when they’re small.

Because, in reality, they’re not small at all – they’re momentous.

This body and my (tentative and yet still somehow real) acceptance of it are my resistance today.

2 thoughts on “A Moment of Learning to Live (Visibly and Differently) with Less Shame

  1. Great post! Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way and do what’s going to help us without worrying about how we’ll look, what others will think, etc. I’m so glad you’ve found that freedom to do what works for you. Pinning!

    Like

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