Learning to Walk Again

“(I’m) getting good at starting over” – Foo Fighters “Walk”

I’m coming up on one year since I was hospitalized and unless it’s for somebody else’s benefit, I don’t care to talk about it much. I know better than that. Experience has taught me that not wanting to is a sure sign of needing to.

I’m still surprised when I look down at what isn’t there. I’ve had dreams in which my body manages to grow a new leg. I try to kick the blankets off each morning when the alarm goes off, which results in my stump being tangled in the sheets. I miss driving. All in all, if I’d known what to think, all of this wouldn’t be nearly bad as I would have anticipated.

That’s the thing about uncharted waters, you don’t know what to expect, so you make it up as you go along. If you do it earnestly, you get to the other side. If you do it with the kind of love and support that I have in my life, you get to grow.

I get called an inspiration a lot. It’s nice but I’d rather it was for something I truly feel I have a choice over. I’d much prefer to inspire people as a father, partner, mentor, stakeholder, recovery ally or supervisor. Those roles have tons of tough choices.

Being an amputee was my choice because the alternative was to be left with a useless limb and a chronic pain condition. After they removed the lower half of my leg, the choice was to do my best to heal and get back to living. The only alternative was self-pity, which I find intolerable.

I’m working with a very talented physical therapist. She’s teaching me to walk again. Nearly all of my greatest learning experiences are things I never saw coming.
Every time I go to her office I hear Tom Petty singing, “I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings.” The prosthetic gives me functionality and it makes me appear whole. I’m blessed to be a very happily and secure old married guy – I don’t give a damn about appearances.

I take stock of my life, my family (kin especially), my spirituality and the connections I get to make every day. I hear Katy Perry singing, “This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me.” Having mended my broken heart repeatedly and the fact that it’s full to bursting is what makes me feel whole.

I forget sometimes that I’m a lousy patient. I’m cooperative and pleasant…I’m just accustomed to being the one facilitating the healing. As a patient I get in my own way.

To be the patient is to be vulnerable…and I do vulnerability really well…provided it’s reciprocal. Having her watch as I struggle to walk a straight line makes me self-conscious, which I don’t recall feeling in years. Everything about this process requires that I be patient with myself. I’m normally very good at that but without fail, every time I think I’m really good at something (I’ve come light years in being accepting of me) my Higher Power gives me opportunities to see how much more there is to learn:

Tons.

Having her praise me for climbing a short set of stairs dumbfounds me. She’s encouraging and professional. I forget that this is a big deal. I just do the next thing in front of me. That’s the benefit of having been through so much shit in my life. This is just one more series of adjustments.

I’m a firm believer that focusing on attitude and gratitude serve one well. I’ve learned that loss really is the spiritual touchstone for growth and I’m doing my best to take nothing for granted. Pain ends. Losses must be grieved. I’m walking, not very well, but I am walking. Life is good.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.