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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tips for Adjustment

One of the favorite aspects of my job lies with the people whom I meet. I enjoy meeting with individuals who have just become amputees, or those who are considering a delayed amputation, primarily because I lacked any one-on-one support when I started my journey. Remembering the isolation and fear that I felt continues to push me towards reaching out to offer support, insights and answers.

Although each individual is unique, some aspects seem to be universal. I find myself offering the same advice, so I thought it might be valuable to write about it. Below are my primary tips for adjusting to and living with limb loss.

Give yourself time. Everybody heals at a different rate. Just because somebody is up and using a prosthesis within six weeks does not mean that you are a failure or weak because your body hasn't recovered. The physical trauma that is sustained by the body when losing a limb is profound, so try to relax and remove the timeline from healing.

It is okay to grieve. I find that this needs to be stressed to those whom have undergone a delayed amputation. Just because you had some control over the timeline of your limb loss does not mean that the loss is less acute. It is okay to miss your limb; it was part of your body your entire life!

Give words to your emotions and find people to whom you can express them freely. When asked about my recovery, I  would always smile and say, "I'm doing okay." While this answer seemed to satisfy the question, in reality it was far from the truth. I was sad, angry, scared, in pain and feeling ugly. Worried that nobody would want to be around me if they knew that I wasn't nearly as well-adjusted as I seemed, I continued the charade. I spent the first 18 months of my amputee life feigning happiness and suffering silently.

Finally, I had to give myself permission to talk about my true experiences. Not feeling compelled to hide my true feelings to spare the discomfort of others has been liberating and supported my emotional recovery. If you don't find talking comfortable, try writing. In my opinion, the emotions will become toxic if you don't find a way to give them a voice.

Your body is different and it is normal to have body image issues after an amputation. The physical form that you've had for your entire life has been altered. It takes awhile to learn to adjust and to accept the changes. Although it might seem impossible, eventually living without your limb will feel normal.

Bad days are inevitable, and you are entitled to feel them. It is okay to visit the sadness and grief from time to time. I am a firm believer that we all have to visit those dark places in order to rally and come back stronger. I've been an amputee for a decade, yet I still experience those "I miss my leg" moments. I have learned to allow myself to wallow and feel sad, but I am also careful to pick myself up the next day and move forward. 

Keeping an open dialog with your prosthetist is paramount. Relying upon an ill-fitting socket can be painful and disabling. If you can't talk to your prosthetist or if you feel that you are not receiving quality care, it is your right to go somewhere else. The amputee is the consumer in the relationship. The prosthetist is not giving you a prosthesis; you are buying it and you deserve to be happy and comfortable.

Find a support system to help you transition and adjust. Having not only cheerleaders but also individuals who are able to provide first hand experience can be extremely beneficial. Solicit the input and experiences of others who have been living with limb loss.

Finally, it does get easier. I remember everything feeling laborious and exhausting. Nothing felt normal and I felt foreign in my own body. I was certain that I had made a huge mistake and was destined to live the remainder of my life in misery. One day during lunch I realized that I hadn't yet cursed my prosthesis. In that moment I realized that I was adjusting and that I was going to be okay.

It takes time and it isn't always easy, but life can be fabulous after limb loss. Eventually the limb loss will not define you but it will be relegated to a part of what makes you unique. Adjusting to a major life change is never easy, but know that you aren't alone and that there are legions of people who are willing to help.

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