People often ask me to explain the biggest adjustment I faced post-amputation. Many people assume that it would be walking on a prosthetic. They are often surprised by my answer.
Sleeping was, without a doubt, the most difficult adjustment post-amputation. I just could not get comfortable with my residual limb. My amputation and my stump felt foreign as I was lying in bed. I felt incomplete.
I remember lying on my side, trying to rest my stump against my sound leg. It felt strange. My legs no longer lined up and I couldn't get used to the new sensations. Regardless of the position I tried, I felt like a stranger in my new body. It was horrible.
It was during the midnight hours that I shed the most tears. I grieved for what I lost. I cried out of the anger and frustration that stemmed from being a stranger in my own body. I couldn't get comfortable. I couldn't escape the amputation, even in sleep. I used to just lie as still as possible until I finally fell asleep. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I saw the sunrise.
I found that I didn't have difficulty napping during the day. At first I attributed the ability to nap to my insomnia. Although this was probably a contributory factor, I suspect that my wearing the IPOP (Immediate Post-Operative Prosthetic) allowed me to finally rest.
My IPOP against the mattress and my body simulated the sensations of having a leg again. I was able to nap with little fidgeting and no tears. Unfortunately I was not able to wear the IPOP for extended periods of time, so I could not wear it at night.
I found sleep a little easier when I wore a shrinker sock. I suspect it was a combination of compression and keeping the skin on the stump covered. I often placed an elongated pillow under my stump when sleeping at night. The pillow provided some physical feedback on my sound limp as well as providing a comfortable resting position for my stump.
Eventually, I adjusted to sleeping without my leg. It was difficult, but I am now comfortable with my residual limb. I slowly became familiar with the feeling of my stump in bed, and those sensations became less foreign. There are times when I still use a shrinker sock and a pillow to fall asleep, but these instances are rare. I am not sure that time heals all wounds, but it certainly does facilitate adjusting.