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.

15 comments:

  1. Show off your feet! I understand worrying about what other people think ... but I do not understand what it is like for *you*, to wonder, to be scared, to fear people laughing at your foot (which is so rude and mean!). My oldest step-daughter, now in her mid 20s, was born with a severe club foot. She went through many surgeries as a young child, and while the doctors were able to get her foot to face frontwards, the foot has four toes and a half shoe size smaller than her other foot. She used to wear shoes to hide her foot, but now she wears flip-flops primarily and doesn't give a flip what others think. I want you to try to do the same thing. I don't know you, but it makes me sad that you may not feel so beautiful because of your foot. Wear the open toe shoes, show off your beautiful dresses, own your awesomeness. Just be you!

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    1. Thank you, Stacey, for sharing about your daughter and for the encouragement! It means so much. xo

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  2. I just wanted to tell you that you aren't alone in how you feel about your foot. I have the same issues with my feet. I have a big bunion looking thing on both my feet from years of crawling on the floor, and the toes on my right foot are out of place. They aren't in a straight line but I have all five of them. I am very insecure about my feet as well. In fact, I would say they are my biggest insecurity. I always make sure to put socks on before anyone visits my home because I don't want any weird comments about my feet. In the few times I've forgotten it has been terrifying. I will never forget when my cousin called my feet gross. He was little, so it was understandable, but it still hurt my feelings. I know it's hard to get over an insecurity like this, but I know that imperfections are part of what makes you, you. And that is beautiful in itself. Because you are a wonderful person.

    Zahraa

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    1. Zahraa!! :) I know what you mean about putting on socks to avoid those comments. And ugh, I can see why that would hurt your feelings. HUGS. Thank you so much for the encouragement, friend. You are a wonderful person too, and I really appreciate your kind words.

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  3. Just yesterday at work, I passed by a mother and son. As I did, I heard - "her legs -" and felt that instantaneous paranoid (yet not) feeling.

    He is talking about me.

    I mean, maybe he wasn't.

    But.

    I felt as if he was.

    It's part of life.

    I rarely wear shorts. I can tell you the last time. Almost 10 years ago. Scars and one leg being smaller than the other. This is my personal choice. Part of my life.

    Still, the comments happen. They stop me short. I try to remember that they are a reflection of the person making them - not me.

    I hope you can try to remember that as well.

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    1. THANK YOU, Tara. xo I will try to remember that too.

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  4. I know what you're feeling...yet I also don't. My whole life, people have said, "What's wrong with her?" People see me. All of me. All the time.

    And it hurts. It sucks. People shouldn't judge us like that. They shouldn't be so rude. Whether eight or eighteen, there are other ways to express your curiosity. I have been around one-year-olds who handle themselves with more class around a wheelchair than your friend and your brother's friend. Honestly. Sometimes, people just don't know what to say, though. And sometimes, instead of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything," they feel entitled to comment about us. As if we ought to feel the same level of repulsion about us - about our bodies - as they do.

    All I can say is it's not true. Your foot isn't wrong, twisted or ugly. Your right foot is YOURS. It's unique. It may not be conventionally beautiful but IT is part of what makes you PART OF US.

    Loving our bodies is hard. Especially when the world is constantly telling us to despise them. Like Tara, I also rarely, if ever, wear shorts. A dozen surgical scars on my legs, spasticity that makes my toes curl and my legs contract, and that those things get stronger when it's cold all contribute to my choice to wear pants. All the time.

    You don't have to feel pressured into loving your body as is, right now. Know that we, in your community love it as we love you. We value it as we value you.

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    1. Tonia <3 You're right, it IS so hard to love our bodies sometimes. But it really helps to know that I have support from you guys. Thank you. HUGS.

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  5. Wow, how freakin rude. +a million to you are enough (and you, and your feet, are beautiful!)

    Similarly I have awful varicose veins in my legs, from my pregnancies. Since I'm under 30 it takes people by surprise and I am very self concious about it m, I've tried noting that I'm self conscious about them if someone makes a comment (what happened to your legs?!) and they are normally polite enough to shut up after that.

    My 2yo (who has a g tube) has swim class and I am dreading the day when we get similar questions in the locker room, or about his lack of a belly button from multiple surgeries.

    All that to say, big hugs, other people suck but you're awesome ;)

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    1. Laura!! Thank you for sharing and for your words of encouragement. I like how you chose to deal with those comments (but - similarly - I am frustrated that you have to deal with comments like that in the first place!!). YOU are awesome too - and your son! HUGS back!

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  6. Some people just suck sometimes. I always tell myself and my kids that we all have things we do not like about our bodies and that is OK. When someone says something mean like that to me I keep repeating that in my head. Amazing how much words can stick and hurt. I remember my mom telling me my face looked fat when I wore a ponytail and to this day I hear that in my head every time I do. GRRR! Focus on what makes you feel beautiful it makes the parts you don't like as much less.

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    1. Monique - thank you. HUGS to you - I'm sorry about your mom's comment, that IS hurtful. And you're right...words can really sting sometimes. I love that advice though! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  7. I AM SO MAD AT YOUR SO CALLED FRIEND!!! I don't have CP but I have really different-looking toes and have been made fun of them for forever. Also hey, I don't know if you know but I started a new site and will email you because I'd LOVE to run this there (is your email still the same?). I want to pound the people who made you feel badly and also thank you for the girl who said you have the same socks.

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  8. I'm not sure if I have any good advice, since I'm in my 40s and I still don't like showing parts of my body ... parts people usually do in public, like uncovered arms and legs. I guess what I will suggest is that right now is probably the perfect time for you to sort of pull off than band-aid and basically make yourself used to being fully you, whether or not people stare or make thoughtless comments. If you do it now, you may be less bothered by it all from then on.

    Also, I'm usually not a fan of sarcasm, but that "friend" of yours could have really used a fully sarcastic, full-sneer "Really!?"

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  9. I have experienced similar comments. Not about my feet but about my hearing aid. "What's that thing?" "Why do you have that?" And the worst offenders "you're a cyborg" and "what's wrong with you?" I now have scars on my stomach from a surgery this fall and while they are usually hidden, once when I was changing for gym, this girl who I barely know said " Why is your stomach so ugly?" Now I have a new scar forming in my arm from a mole removal and though I am confident I dread the comments

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Please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you. Thanks! :-)