“Don’t ever let anybody tell you they’re better than you, Forrest. If God intended everybody to be the same, he’d have given us all braces on our legs.” Mrs Gump.
This post is going to be about needing to wear leg splints. If you know me personally, you would know that I need to wear leg braces. Not all braces are made of metal as the popular film Forrest Gump shows. Leg braces are sometimes made of plastic – like my ones. I’ve worn some form of leg splints since around the age of 12 so I am pretty familiar with the ups and downs of them.
“What are those things on your legs?”
Ah, the age-old question. You would be surprised how often strangers ask me this. My go to answer is “they help me walk” and I’ll hopefully manage to disengage with that unwanted interaction. When the question is asked in a more friendly manner or if by someone I actually know I’ll give them a thorough response. I tend to call my leg braces my ‘splints’ and they can also be called AFOs which means ‘ankle foot orthosis’. I explain that the leg splints act as the muscle I am lacking. My calf muscle is so wasted away that I really struggle to put my foot in a heel to toe motion when I walk. In fact, I have 0 strength to even lift my toes up to achieve that foot shape. So the leg splints keep my feet and legs in that ready position, like a L shape.
Staring is most definitely not caring
Something that I have to deal with daily is the stares I get from strangers. I am lucky to be a relatively self-confident person. I manage to use these stares as a reminder that I do not need to avert my gaze to the floor with embarrassment from their looks, instead I look at them in the face. Once they are done evaluating my leg splints I give them a look which I hope says “so what?” Most of the time people turn away in embarrassment once they realise that I have caught them in the act of staring. I simply refuse to feel embarrassed over people looking at my legs, if they want to look and be rude they can. It shouldn’t happen anyway but since it’s something that I cannot control, there is no point feeling self-conscious about it. Once you stop feeling embarrassed or ashamed, you can find empowerment from not hiding from stares. Be unapologetically disabled.
The issue with my leg splints being made from plastic is that heat and plastic do not mix well. Have you ever stood up from a leather couch in summer with a skirt or shorts on? Unsticking bare legs from hot plastic braces is similar to that sensation (ouch). Another summer time issue is that your legs and arms tend to swell a tiny amount from the heat, but this tiny amount is the difference between fitting into your leg braces or not. Winter time brings its own challenges. I find that my legs end up freezing due to the plastic getting really cold and this isn’t good paired with my poor circulation. Ice, snow, and muddy leaves are absolutely horrendous too. Poor balance to begin with and slippy surfaces are a really bad combo and makes it difficult to even venture outside, especially when it’s icy.
I love my leg splints. They give me the freedom to move around. They may not be dainty and pretty and I may miss out on wearing beautiful shoes but without them I would be falling over all of the time and in great pain trying to walk. This is why I refuse to hide them under my clothes. Why should I? I’m not desperate to fit in and I’m not ashamed of needing to wear them. I wear them proudly and on the outside of my clothes because I am simply happy with my circumstances and glad to have something that helps me so much.
Hope you enjoyed this post. Please check out my previous post and my poems page too! xoxo