My mind was overcome with such fear, anger and uncertainty. Because of one individual’s selfish, careless drunk driving decision, I had been robbed of my life as I’d known it. I knew no other amputees at that time and I knew nothing about prosthetic limbs. I was overcome with feelings of hopelessness and depression. I had been forced into a sink or swim situation, yet I felt so useless and beaten down that getting back up didn’t seem possible.
Early recovery was filled with overwhelming physical, mental and emotional challenges, extreme moods, self-pity, endless questions. Would I ever walk “normal” again? Would I be able to resume the physically active lifestyle that I loved? Would I face a future of labels and judgment? After all, I saw myself as damaged goods with a mutilated leg.
The list of insecurities grew. I doubted my abilities. But somehow I mustered up whatever ounce of sanity I had left and from deep within discovered an inner strength. I tapped into and began to trust that deep part of myself and -- fortunate to be surrounded by a loving, supportive network of family and friends--I learned to shift my fear, anger, negativity and frustration and propel myself forward, achieving one small goal at a time.
My mindset evolved: I had undeniably been stricken with tragedy and experienced great loss, but I did not have to let it crush me. Part of me may have died, but I was still very much alive. I still had fight, stubbornness and determination. There was bound to be good in this situation and it became my mission to rescue it – to rescue myself.
Literally, one step at a time I began to muster the strength and courage to view obstacles as opportunities. I decided the only limitation I will have is what I place upon myself; my prosthetic leg will not define me. I learned to welcome the questions and stares of passersby as an opportunity to educate. My self-image expanded as I embraced the true meaning of self-acceptance and unconditional love.
The journey of my recovery was long, painful and immensely challenging, but ultimately life-affirming and positive in so many ways. Words will always fail to convey what I endured nearly 20 years ago. But the healing, learning and growing never stop.
What did I learn? Inevitably, when staring death in the face, new life perspectives are formed. I may have lost part of my body, but I didn’t lose one bit of who I am. I actually have gained that much more; I’m a much more developed person, with a richer life than I ever had imagined. I truly believe that there are silver linings to be found in the worst of situations. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, sans prosthetic leg, I no longer see myself as damaged goods. I see an empowered woman.