Wednesday, April 13, 2016

MY RIGHT FOOT

There's one topic related to my CP that I've never touched on here before. It's hard for me to talk about, and I almost didn't post this. I might delete it later, but maybe I won't. Maybe I'll be brave and leave this up here, because maybe it will help somebody somehow.

My right side is much more affected by my CP, and for as long as I can remember, my right foot has looked significantly different than my left foot due to spasticity, dystonia, and muscle imbalances. I have less voluntary movement in that foot, and, as I used to say when I was little, my toes on that side are kind of "crumpled."

I remember being eight years old, wearing one of my favorite bathing suits, navy with green flowers and a swim skirt. I couldn't wait to jump into the pool and swim away the afternoon, and I felt beautiful in that bathing suit.

That's when my brother's friend pointed at my right foot and started to laugh.
"What's wrong with it? It's all twisted and ugly." 

And just like that, I didn't feel beautiful anymore.

I didn't say anything back to him. I didn't cry. I didn't tell my parents what he had said. Instead, I took his words and tucked them inside of me. Something's wrong with me. I'm twisted and ugly.

Ten years later - I was a freshman in college, sick with a really bad cold one weekend, and I was taking a nap but, in a moment of sickness-induced delirium, I had forgotten to lock my door. About an hour later, I woke up in a daze to a friend knocking on my door, and she proceeded to let herself in (???). She was upset because a group of girls were excluding her and made her feel alone, and she needed someone to talk to, so despite being really sick and a little confused about why she had just let herself into my room, I climbed out of bed and invited her to sit down.

THEN -

Her eyes fell upon my right foot and she pointed - and she LAUGHED.
"What's wrong with it?" she said.

I stared at her, shocked. The same. exact. words. Ten years later.

Except this time they didn't come from an eight-year-old boy. This time, they came from an eighteen-year-old girl who I thought was my friend, who had come to my room in tears because she felt excluded. Because she felt alone.

And yet, here I was, sitting on the edge of my bed, feeling more alone than ever. I'll admit that I wanted to ask her to leave. I wanted to tell her to get out of my room and I wanted to lock the door behind her and I wanted to never let her back into my life again, because what kind of "friend" points and laughs and says, "What's wrong with it?"

But I didn't. I told her "nothing," that nothing was wrong with it, and I listened to her as she cried and told me how alone she felt. I listened as she told me about the beer stain she had gotten on her dress and she wasn't sure how to get it out, and I told her that if she spot-cleans it before she puts it in the washer, it should come out just fine.

I didn't tell her this: that there are some stains that never come out in the wash. Some stains are permanent. I never forgot her pointing, her laughing. It's amazing, sometimes, how much words can hurt. How a single sentence can leave us feeling so alone.

It's been a lifetime of those comments, of feeling nervous whenever I have to go barefoot in front of people who aren't in my family because whataretheygoingtothink? Are they going to point and laugh, ask me "what's wrong with it?" Even if they don't, is that what they'll be thinking?

Last summer, when I went on a trip with my two best friends from home, part of the reason why I was afraid to go in the first place was because I knew I'd have to go barefoot to swim. And part of me was scared of what they'd think. Sometimes it's hard to feel beautiful when everyone around you says there's "something wrong" with you.

I needn't have worried. When I came downstairs in my Crocs ready to go swimming, I tried to laugh off my insecurities. "I know," I said. "Crocs. Not exactly a fashion statement."

But my friends didn't even blink. "I think they're perfect for swimming!" one of them said. And then, when I took off my Crocs to swim, there were no comments about my foot. It didn't matter to them at all. 

At one point during the trip, my other friend glanced, with a contemplative expression, at my feet, and I wondered. For a moment, I wondered. Was she looking at my right foot? I knew she wouldn't make fun, never...but what was she thinking?

"Did you know," she said with a smile, "that we're sock buddies? I have the exact same socks!!"

Oh! :) She had no idea how much her words meant to me. How a single sentence left me feeling so happy.

But even with those experiences to boost my confidence...in the next few weeks, there are a bunch of dances and formal events coming up. The only pair of formal shoes that will work for me and that will match with the dresses I have, are open-toed shoes. And I guess I'm back at that same place I was when I was eight years old...there's a part of me that is scared.

I'm scared of what my friends are going to think of my foot. That sentence sounds ridiculous, I know, especially because the group of friends I have here are some of the most genuine, incredible people I've ever met. But it's hard. I can't help but to be worried about what they'll think, and I'm worried I won't feel beautiful, even though I love my dresses.

I want to feel beautiful at these formal events. I know it's what's on the inside that counts, and I really do believe that. And I truly embrace my CP as something that has brought so much good to my life. But I can't shake those words and the lifetime of hiding my foot from other people.

If anyone has any words of advice, or encouragement, or any words at all that aren't along the lines of "What's wrong with it," it would mean so much to me if you'd leave a comment.

I'm going to try to be brave. I'm going to try to wear those open-toed shoes.
I am more than those words, more than that laughter.

I am me.
I am enough.