I became an amputee when I was 18 years old. Losing my leg led to a slow and painful downward spiral toward rock bottom, and it has taken years to climb my way out. I’ve spent many months wanting to share these words, but fear of seeming like a hypocrite held me back. I want the words I share to be words of hope and life, but there are some days that I’m so overcome with grief and emotion that I struggle to see hope even if it is right in front of my face. My heart still holds a lot of bitterness over this loss, and I haven’t figured out how to let that go yet. But I recognize that even in the messiness and pain, I have learned things worth sharing. I have learned how to be patient with myself while I continue this journey, and I have learned that hope can be found even in the most seemingly-hopeless situations when we choose to find it. I don’t know what battles you are fighting or what you have lost, but I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I hope these words find you like a hug and remind you that even in your deepest sorrow, there is good worth finding and truth worth knowing. Thank you for giving me the space to share what I’ve found.
1. Healing takes time.
I put a deadline on my healing. I expected to make a full recovery, emotionally and physically, by a certain time—and if I didn’t, then I had to be doing something wrong. I swallowed my pain for years and wouldn’t dare speak of it because I had convinced myself it was past due. But I realize now that healing does not operate on a schedule. Slow or fast, processing trauma requires space and time and grace. If you are still in pain, know that you are not doing it wrong. If you are not “over it” yet, know that you are not failing.
Healing takes time. Take all the time you need.
2. You don’t have to apologize for your feelings. Your pain deserves to be known.
Since the amputation, there are many moments where I find myself distraught or angry over the situation, past and present, and my initial reaction is to apologize to the people in my life for having to witness it. Maybe I do it because I’m afraid of looking weak or of being a potential burden, but I’m learning that there is nothing weak or wrong about acknowledging your feelings.
Owning your emotions and allowing yourself to experience them without judgment is one of the bravest (and healthiest) things you can do. Your feelings don’t need to be justified or made to look pretty. You do not have to apologize for expressing what you feel. You deserve to have a space where you can be honest about your pain and a community of people loving you through those moments.
It has taken me a long time to let people in. But our burdens become lighter when we accept the fact that our pain does not have to be faced in solitude. I continue to remind myself that the people in my life who are with me in times of joy will also be there in times of sorrow—if only I let them.
Wherever you are on your journey, I hope you allow yourself to feel deeply without apologizing. I hope you choose to let people see you and know you. I hope you know that you don’t have to hide.
3. You are allowed to be proud.
You deserve to be proud of yourself regardless of how far you’ve come or how far you have to go. I used to believe that I had to reach a big milestone in my healing in order to be proud. I used to only share my progress when it seemed “significant.” But the reality is that getting out of bed on a bad day is just as worthy of praise as the day I took those first steps with my prosthesis.
Recovery is not linear, and not all days will be the same. There are days when I feel like I’ve conquered the world and there are others where the mere thought of greeting the morning requires everything I can muster. And at the end of the day, I am proud of both. Our accomplishments—whether they resemble pebbles or mountains—are cause for celebration.
Although I’ve come a long way, and in the process learned these truths, my journey with healing is not over. These things take time to believe and accept. But above all else, I hope to remember that whether the next step is tiny, giant or even backward, the best thing I can do is show myself grace.