It’s been about nine months since I lost my legs, but sometimes it still doesn’t feel real to me. I’ll be engrossed at my computer, turn to stand up and then realise I can’t. When I see a person struggling to carry something, my body will prepare to rush forward and help, but then I have to sit back in my wheelchair.
For the first few months after my amputations, it felt as though I was simply ill and as soon as I got better everything would go back to normal. But of course it won’t go back to that normal.
A new normal
Coming home to Cape Town jolted me into reality in many ways. My brother and I used to stand eye-to-eye, so when he picked me up from the airport and I saw him towering over me in my wheelchair, I realised for the first time that my legs were gone forever.
Driving through familiar neighbourhoods again, old haunts where I once had such a full life, brought home to me how different life will be now. At the time, I only saw all the things I could no longer do. The places I could no longer go. Sometimes that is still all I see. I try to think of all the things I can do now, or how I could do the old things differently, but sometimes I just can’t.
The big picture
Although I have no legs, in many ways I am more fortunate than many others on this planet. I’ve never gone seriously hungry and my family and friends have always done their best to support me (when I’ve let them). Thinking of people that have never been loved, have never had a full belly, and have never been given dignity and respect, changes my perspective on my problems slightly. But honestly … it doesn’t change that much or for very long. My problems are still real to me. And that’s okay.
Someone else may have no idea how to deal with my challenges and I wouldn’t know how to handle their debt or children or drinking habit. The truth is, we never know how to cope with something until it happens. And then, most of the time, we just do it. We get through it, because we have to.
For the first time, I am acknowledging my problems and doing what I can to change them, rather than pretending that everything is fine. Fixing me is going to take years, if it is ever completed at all. But then, we are all works in progress, aren’t we?