A while ago, I posted a #mybodystory on the Do the Hot Pants website. In it I talked about my limp and how self conscious I still am about it. It’s one of the few things about being an amputee that kind of makes me embarrassed. In the story, I talk about the first moments someone pointed my limp out to me. It was in kindergarten and one of the boys said I walk like a penguin. I think I remember my classmates laughing. I’m pretty freaking positive he didn’t mean it as a joke, just an observation, but I still felt a little sting at the time. I didn’t know it then (I didn’t understand emotions quite yet), but now that I understand emotions better, I felt ashamed of myself in that moment.
There were several other moments of shame when it came to my limp. Throughout the years I had doctors who wanted to “fix” my limp. I did some therapy for it at one point. I remember specialists came to one of my prosthesis appointments to watch me walk. I remember fighting back tears because I was embarrassed about everyone staring at me, but I didn’t know how to tell my mom. I just kept telling myself not to cry, not one single tear. I don’t think she would have made me continue had I told her, but I didn’t want her to know I was upset. Another time, a family friend told my mom it “looks painful” and she wondered if I lost weight it would help me to walk differently. (I am at least 85% positive the two have no correlation, but it’s not something I care to examine too far.) It’s one of the first things a little kid notices about me. When I worked in childcare, my kids were all about two. I had numerous kids emulate my walk, and follow me around. A little girl in particular would ask me at least once a week, “Hey Miss Toni, why you walk like that?” As an adult it’s funny and cute and honestly really adorable. But as a kid myself, it was kind of rough to hear and see.
My coping mechanism became making jokes about it. It was my way to change the narrative. And eventually the fake jokes about my walk and my leg in general became real and genuine. As my confidence grew, I lost some embarrassment.
However, I still catch myself sometimes looking away from a glass door so I can’t see my walking reflection. And I still have a hard time when I catch it in a video or an old home video. I’ve been working on these negative feelings since I wrote that post. I said I eventually want to get to the point where I can post a photo where you can see my limp. And maybe when I get super brave, I’ll post a video. (I’m not there yet 😬.)
So today is the day. I purposefully had my cousin (my photographer) take photos while I was walking so I could pick one out where you can see my deep gate. Despite my smile, I’m not leaning over for a cutie lil pose, this is what I look like every time I take a step. And it doesn’t seem so bad here. It looks fine. It probably doesn’t even seem like a big deal to other people. But that’s the thing with our insecurities, they don’t have to be big to other people. They are ours. And we don’t have to explain them or validate them to other people. We can work through them in our own way and at our own pace.
Seeing this photo makes me want to change my mind. I really really really want to find a more “perfect” photo. One that looks a little more put together. Or pretty. Or normal. But this is my normal. This is a part of who I am. It’s a piece of my struggle and my strength. It’s a portion of my story. And the journey of fighting this shame is the next chapter.