Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On being gimpy

My body hates itself. And sometimes I hate it.

Since adolescence I've had problems with my joints, especially my legs. I'm flat-footed and knock-kneed (among other things) because of loose tendons. When I was probably 14 I developed bad knees, in part as a result of a couple years being a catcher in softball. Doctors told me I just needed to lose weight--keep in mind that while I've always been above the "acceptable" BMI, I've never been visibly obese. I probably don't need to tell you what hearing "just lose weight" from all sides does to an adolescent girl. I didn't, really. My weight in proportion to my height has remained the same pretty much throughout my life. I've gone to a chiropractor on and off since I was 15 or so because of my bad knees and big tits, which put extra strain on my back. (I told you my body hates itself.)

When I was 19, I injured my shoulder and then my lower back while fencing and ended up in physical therapy twice. After seeing me walk, the physical therapist looked at my legs. He said, "Did you know your left leg is a lot shorter than the right one?"


No. I did not. It turns out that my left leg is 3/8" shorter, which is a significant difference. It's been a major cause of pretty much every lower body problem I've ever had. The physical therapist said some people had surgery to correct it, but unless I absolutely had to, he recommended that I take the much-simpler route of getting a heel lift. I immediately flashed back to visions of my art history teacher from a couple years before, looking at her right shoe. The sole was a good inch thicker than the left one, and I always wondered what was up with that. Well, now I knew. The therapist must have noticed the look on my face because he said the lift was just a shoe insert. If I wanted to wear heels, he recommended having the right one cut down 3/8" to compensate. That simple.

Well, for a long time it really was that simple. The heel lift has really done wonders for my lower body comfort. My chronic knee pain has all but disappeared except for occasional flare-ups. My hips hurt sometimes, but mostly when I was PMSing--likely a symptom of yet another body rebellion, PCOS. Within the past year, though, I've been experiencing more and weirder symptoms. Last summer I avoided putting on real shoes for weeks at a time, mostly wearing flip-flops. I started experiencing pain at the top of my left foot. I figured out through Dr. Google that it was likely caused by a severely over-pronated foot (something I already knew). I bought some arch braces to see if they would help, because ten bucks for braces is a lot cheaper than a couple hundred bucks for a doctor's visit and x-rays. I avoided wearing heels. That helped for a long time.

And then in May this year I did something really dumb, for me. I walked six miles in a day. I hadn't walked that far or that long in well over a year. And I did it without the arch brace. (Told you it was dumb.) My foot came back to haunt me. Well, okay, back to the arch brace. A week later and my foot was feeling much better, only my hip now despised me. It feels approximately like there is a nail sticking out of the top of my femur into the side of my hip joint. Dr. Google and I suspect hip bursitis, but since this happened after I lost my insurance (of course), I can't afford the doctor/specialist/x-ray/whatever combo. The hip starts hurting about 20 minutes into my daily walk and keeps hurting until I stop. It's also impossible to sleep comfortably without a very firm body pillow to prop my hip, and even then I have to turn regularly during the night like a rotisserie chicken. Awesome.

The whole reason for this round of body bitching is that today I woke up and my hip was achy before I ever really started walking around. Fuck this, I thought. I broke down and bought a cane. Nothing would do but I also go to another store after I bought it. And I'm pretty sure I've never felt so self-conscious in my life.

People stare at me a lot. Most of the time I'm not sure why--maybe it's because I'm an Amazon who is just non-white enough to confuse people. Most of the time I find it amusing, but this time was different. I'm pretty sure as I was walking through the store the reason for the looks wasn't "weird tall girl" but "OMG Y U HAS CANE U NOT OLD!" This was rather starkly demonstrated when I passed an old guy with a cane and he gave me the hairy eyeball.

Well Jesus. I'm sorry. I know I'm only in my mid-twenties and all, but my body fucking sucks.

Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but it seems like if you're young and in a wheelchair or on crutches or have a white cane or a guide dog or whatever, people stare, but their discomfort is laced with pity. But I couldn't help thinking these people didn't pity me--they didn't think I was legit. I kept wondering, am I not gimp enough? What is it about a walking cane that's different from any other assistive device? Is it that I don't have any obvious signs of injury like a cast or a brace, or that canes are often associated with old people?

I don't get it.

The part of me that is always amused when people stare for no reason thinks, fuck you guys, stare if you want to. But the insecure part of me thinks, maybe I'm not legit enough. That's not going to stop me from using the cane, because I'm tired of my hip hurting and I don't want to do more damage, but the self-consciousness is not so different from the kind I felt when the doctor told me I just needed to lose weight. I keep thinking, oh, I probably did this to myself. It's not that bad. I certainly don't need to advertise it.

Yeah. That is some deeply flawed thinking. Thanks, doctors, for helping fuck that one up for me.

I have no conclusion to this post other than to state that I'm frustrated with my body and my thinking right now.

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