When you have a limb-difference, more often than not, you find yourself in conversations explaining to people all about your disability. Whether it be at parties, the gym, wherever, there’s always somebody looking or curious whether to ask and, quite frankly, I love that. I’m all for educating people about my difference. More should be done to encourage questioning (under convenient circumstances) than to shy away.
Having a difference, you get used to the kind of questions, in a certain order, that come your way. You kind of become a pro to predicting which questions will come and I’m sure there are many in our community who have the same experience.
The usual opening line is “What happened to your hand?” as it covers a broad spectrum of curiosity to which I explain my situation. This usually sparks further questions or tells someone all they need to know. People can feel really awkward about this question or try too hard to think how to word it when, in reality, those with limb-difference can have the thickest of skins.
We can be very difficult to offend – myself included. Especially in my own experience, some of us spend so much time around fully able-bodied people that we can feel very different around people with limb differences just like our own, therefore understand perfectly when it comes to this question.
After examining my hand whilst explaining how I was born with it this way, the next thing that tends to be noticed is my lack of a thumb, prompting “Where’s your thumb?” Whilst explaining this, more surveying is done. It’s also a pretty cool moment to show off the scar in the shape of a ‘H’ from where my thumb was. Pardon the pun, but on the other hand, some people don’t even notice my thumb until I mention it from being so interested in the scars.
That perfect segue leads into how I got my scars from multiple useless operations and plenty of brilliant extended summers off of school. Many of my scars came from having pins burst out of my index finger’s knuckle while pressing the break on my bicycle as well as frames being fitted like a halo on Miles Teller’s head in Bleed For This – returning to the hospital weekly to have it screwed with - all of which operations failed to work.
My hand seems to have the same stubbornness to adjust as I have to challenges. Despite that, as Shane Falco said, chicks dig scars and glory lasts forever.
Surprisingly enough, the following question is one that always seemed to make me wonder what people’s expectations were towards my hand. A question that, if it happened to be true, I’d have the best poker face in the world: “What does it feel like? Does it hurt?”
In reality, it feels just like an ordinary hand and hurts like any other if I whack it off of something. The architecture of it may be different, but it’s all I’ve ever known and feels just the same as my left hand. Nevertheless, it’s a question I understand. To the ordinary eye it looks different, therefore it may feel different. Due to tendons it may not be able to take the same amount of strenuous activity as my left side, but like everything you adapt and make it work
The final question was one I was often asked when I was in school and whenever I go back to speak to kids and teenagers alike. It’s brash, forward and simple: “How do you do things?” Most commonly for teenagers, I’m asked how do I play video games – but my answer covers most items on the spectrum. I adapt.
I adapt in a way that I don’t even think about as it the systematic approach of adapting comes natural to me throughout years of trying and trying with a diverse number of tasks. Playing video games is not one I can even break down without holding a controller in a natural form as I’m unconsciously doing it after so long.
Wherever disability finds itself, adaptation has to follow and if it doesn’t, you have to make it. In this day and age there are a number of things limb-different people such as athletes shouldn’t be able to perform and yet somehow manage to do through perspective and the fortitude to keep on going until you find the way that works for you. You have to keep trying or else what’s the point?
There’s such a vast number of ways to approach tasks and no matter how long it takes to tackle them, you keep trying. It took me almost twenty years and a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to figure out my method to tying my shoelaces. The main thing is it was conquered.
As part of Limb Difference Awareness Month, I hope more questions are asked and plenty more are answered. Word of mouth is the best way to produce these results and if your struggles can motivate, enlighten or intrigue a person, then take that as a note of self-encouragement. We all have our intricacies, but what will ultimately bring us all together will be sharing our stories to create a stronger society.