I entered the hospital with trepidation, knowing I was about to have surgery, but not really understanding what that meant. As I awoke in the hospital room afterwards, I was aware only of the severe throbbing pain that shook me to my core. I sought relief, pressing the little button that had been provided to me, but it seemed like none came. The pain was overwhelming. I looked around the room and felt so alone. I didn’t know yet, that the hardest part was yet to come. I didn’t know yet that the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional aching that would come next.
Recovery from the surgery seemed endless. I put on a strong front, but inside I felt so, so small. I was only 11. The surgery had been to straighten out the bone in my stump, a surgery that I had been told I must have so that I could wear a prosthetic leg in the future. It was then, for the first time, I felt stripped of all dignity. I felt naked without my leg. I felt the disconnection, the difference from others that would haunt me for many years to come.
I desperately wanted to be anyone else. I wanted to fit in. I wanted the rods removed from her leg. I wanted two legs like everyone else in my life. That’s when I knew I was different. That’s when I became conscious of myself. And no longer felt comfortable in my skin. My confidence was shattered and I became a shell of former herself. The spark of life was gone. I continued to wear a mask that hid the loneliness I felt inside.
Growing up in a home where no one expressed emotion, I retreated further inwards. I made friends and played sports, but could no longer connect with my true, authentic self. That innocent, childhood spark was gone. I learned to be what everyone else needed me to be so that I would be loved and accepted. I comprised myself. I was harassed. I was bullied. I played my role. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t make waves. I was small. I felt so small. I felt powerless.
I hid rather than blossom. Then I was introduced to running. And I started to run…and run..and run.
Running changed my life. It provided the backdrop I needed to find strength, resilience and self-reliance. I learned how to connect with myself. I re-wrote the narrative that had been playing in my head, changing the version of me that I shared with the rest of the world.