Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What is "Normal"?

Have you ever noticed something that just seems off? You tend to look twice, perhaps even go so far as to stare.  Now imagine being that something.  How would that behavior in others make you feel? I really don't mind having people do a double take.  But I am not the average person when it comes to "body image" 
I grew up taller than most people. I am still over average in height, even with the younger crowd getting bigger each year. I stand just under 6 foot 6 inches and weigh close to 250 pounds. a large percentage of people throughout the years have commented on my height or my weight, telling me that I'm as big as a linebacker. So when I had my amputation, the stares continued. Some of the questions I have heard tend to make me chuckle inwardly. I know they make some people uncomfortable even to ask. Josh Sunquist has a great video about some of them, you can watch it here
I was amazed that I had people actually say some of this stuff to me. It is always good for a laugh. The whole body image problem many amputees face is riveted in the poor understanding of how people lose their limbs. Most people have never considered how they could lose their limbs and have no idea on how we survive. True, there are a lot of challenges that we have. Limb loss is a huge annoyance. Having to plan ahead to do everything really takes a lot of forethought. Making sure I have the security of my wheelchair close to my bed in case I have to hustle to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or carrying my little bag of socks to add volume to my socket.

The looks I get at some of the places go from disgust, to pity, and even to reverence. Some people assume a lot of things about people with one leg. The ones that boldly walk up and thank me for my service to our country are the ones that really get me. Yes, I served in the military. I served during a the Grenada invasion. No, I did not lose my leg in that conflict. I lost my leg to a simple one celled organism called MRSA. Yes, it was a war. It lasted a year. Am I bitter? Yes, I am. It has done irreparable harm to my body, my family and life in general. But, please, do not assume I am a war hero just because I wear a prosthesis.

In the end, and I know that I am preaching to the choir here, Body image is what we make it. We can own the fact that we are different in some way from others, whether it is our legs, arms, fingers or toes that are missing. We can be proud of our ability to adapt and  overcome. Alternately, we could wallow in self pity of the things that we perceive that we are not able to do. I chose to find solutions. I chose to proudly show people that with a little perseverance, anyone can overcome adversity. I am normal, for me, and in the end, that is all that matters to me.   

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