It’s been my opinion for some time now, that you can amputate a person’s limb, but not their character. When I speak of character in this context, I mean the qualities of a person that make them unique.
What I’m suggesting is that our character is more likely to influence how we navigate a life changing experience such as amputation, than the experience of amputation is to influence our character. What I’m not suggesting is that we don’t change from our experience with limb loss. We most definitely do.
We all have hot spots in our character that are sure to flare up when facing life changing events of any sort, and that can have an effect all sorts of things about us and around us. Our perspective, attitude, feelings and behavior will change. It will also change how we see the people around us.
Let’s not forget the anxiety, depression, the physical and emotional pain, all of it added to the mix to make for an overwhelming cocktail for the mind, body and soul. For some of us, this all came about from a traumatic event, so PTSD plays a role too. Naturally, this is happening to you while you are trying to deal with taking a shower, using the stairs, opening a new jar of pickles or just keeping your myoelectric arm dry in a rain storm.
Then, someone comes along and barks out “you’ve changed”. Hadn’t picked up on that, thanks for the insight.
Everything we experience affects our perspective, attitude, feelings and behavior, but this isn’t like having an epiphany over something some guru posted on social media. This is a storm of the mind and body, so this is change people are going to notice and there is a good chance it will last. It’s not necessarily the sort of change that people will understand or accept either.
Relationships will get caught in the wake of what we go through. Sure, this happened to us, but it still touches people close to us and that will change the relationship we have with them. Some relationships will grow stronger, others fade, a few may dissolve altogether. As much as we need strength and support from the people we care about, it’s just reality that they don’t all have it in them to provide it. Some people just can’t see past our limb difference and there isn’t much we can do about that.
If I have a point in all of this, it’s that our journey as amputees is about something more than just dealing directly with limb loss and learning how to function again. More than dealing with the stares and whispers of strangers. These are just the tip of the iceberg and people need to know and understand that.
Yes, much more than our body changes with amputation and we all need to know that while difficult, it’s okay that it’s happening. Even the trees with the strongest branches and deepest roots change with every season.
If any of this is striking a chord with you, just know that while your story is unique to you, you are most definitely not alone. You are part of a community that not only understands what you’ve been through, but one that is also invested in your mental health as much as everything else we deal with in our lives as amputees.
In just a couple of days, it’s #BellLetsTalk Day. On that day or any other, if you need an ear, bend an ear. If you have an ear, lend an ear.
Amputee Coalition of Toronto welcomes all amputees in Ontario and the surrounding GTA to join our support group for more information on monthly meetups, upcoming events, and a safe space to share your journey.
We’re in this together!