I love receiving emails and comments on my blog. I invest a lot of myself into each post, never knowing who my audience is going to be on any given day. I have learned early in this endeavor that I never know who I am going to reach or what information they are seeking.
Last week I received an interesting email. I was contacted by an author who is in the process of doing research for an upcoming book. This author is well-established and has published numerous action/adventure books. The fact that a "real author" was reading my words in an attempt to gain insight into the life of an amputee not only thrilled me, but validated my efforts.
This author's research was apparent when he started asking me questions. He posed an interesting question. He wanted to know which was harder: the adjustment to the physical limitations and changes caused by the amputation or the grief over the limb loss.
Obviously, the physical impact of the amputation is the most obvious adjustment. After my amputation I had to walk on a prosthetic, shower with one leg as well as a multitude of other basic daily living activities. For months it seemed that daily I encountered a new physical obstacle that I needed to conquer in order to complete seemingly mundane activities. Learning to live my life as an amputee was both laborious and exhausting.
In many ways, the psychological impact of my limb loss didn't present itself during the initial adjustment period. I think I was so focused on learning how to live as an amputee that I didn't have time to really think about my new situation. I had a lengthy list of skills that I needed to learn in order to regain function. I was focused on each goal. When a new skill was mastered, I knew that I was moving towards independence and I was able to take pride in my accomplishment.
It wasn't until after I learned how to live as an amputee that the reality of my loss became apparent. When I was no longer focused on achieving independence I let my guard down, and the grief set in. I needed to mourn the loss of my leg. It was a process that was lengthier and more painful than I anticipated.
I was walking and appeared "normal" to those around me. Only a few friends and family, in whom I confided, knew the depths of my grief. I was distraught. I felt lost and inept. Grieving my leg threw me into a full blown identity crisis.
I was feigning happiness for so long that I began to wonder if I would ever feel true joy again. Slowly I began opening up and giving my feelings a voice. I realized that the more I acknowledged the pain, the more it seemed to dissipate. It was a long process, but eventually I realized my laughter and smiles were genuine.
Grieving any loss takes time. It is imperative that both the amputee and those supporting him or her realize that adjustment does not happen overnight. My family and friends circled around me, allowing me to talk and cry whenever I needed to. They reinforced that I had a lot to offer the world, and that I could continue to help others despite wearing a prosthetic leg. They told me that I was beautiful when I felt freakishly ugly.
I learned through this process that I am not the same person that I was before I lost my foot. I am stronger than I realized. I am a more secure, confident woman. I have more respect for health and for completing seemingly mundane activities. In many ways, my amputation has made me a better person.
I enjoyed speaking with the author and telling him my experiences. In my opinion, and through my experiences, the psychological adjustment was much harder than the physical. What do you think?