Most people are used to offering their opinions without understanding what the situation is like for others. So, when we received a question from a reader about what to do when his wife told him not to take his leg off in public, the initial reaction was exasperation. How could this insensitive comment come from someone close to him?
But then we realized that if we don't take the time and patience to educate others about the situation of most amputees, they won't be able to understand. And more people can get hurt.
So, we came up with a few strategies you can try when a family member or close friend show their discomfort.
The Situation: They tell you not to take your leg off in public.
You might be walking outside on a beautiful but hot day, and you feel the beginnings of a painful chafe. To address the situation, you sit down on a bench and take off your leg so you can wipe your limb and rub some chafing cream or add another 3-ply prosthetic sock.
Your companions, however, look horrified. They tell you not to do that again.
Their reaction is elicited by the discomfort they feel when they see you taking off your leg. We don't know exactly why they are uncomfortable, but since your family and friends mean a lot to you, you want to help them understand.
Be patient with them. You can start by explaining what happens to the skin on your residual limb if you don't take immediate precautionary measures. Tell them that developing a painful chafe means that you won't be able to wear your prosthesis or walk comfortably for a while. Explain why it's crucial to maintain the health of your residual limb.
The Situation: They tell you not to wear shorts or show off your prosthetic leg.
For many lower limb amputees, wearing shorts offer relief, especially during a hot day. Explain this patiently to your family and friends, who, no doubt, also find comfort in wearing shorts when the weather's warm. Explain to them that even though you have a prosthetic leg, you run hotter and burn more energy than most. If they genuinely care about you, they will understand and apologize.
Your prosthesis is a part of who you are now
Sometimes their discomfort over your prosthesis is rooted in the fact that they don't usually interact with amputees, and anything out of the ordinary makes them feel uncomfortable. It could also stem from the possibility that they haven't accepted your new physical condition, and they are insecure.
Whatever the case may be for your friends or family, it helps them to realize that your residual limb and prosthesis are a part of your physical identity. But this doesn't mean that you are a different person now.
One thing that can help them see you for who you are is when you continue to do the same things you used to enjoy before your amputation. If they care about you, it will help them see past the prosthesis or residual limb and recognize you are their friend or family member.
Sometimes, it also helps to be straightforward with them. You can let them know that their comments hurt you. Once they see the effect of their opinion, they might be more inclined to understand where you're coming from.
If your family or friends still don't budge, don't worry. You've done everything you could to help them see things from your perspective.What do you think about this topic? Have you been on the receiving end of these comments from the people who matter to you the most? How did you handle the situation?