Something that a great deal of amputees will be able to relate to is the notion of wanting to go back to sleep, to just make everything all better again.
Waking up, still bleary from the anaesthetic, with an empty, numb sensation floating where your limb should be is a nightmare that every amputee wishes they could wake up from.
For some, the amputation may be a preordained ordeal (135 amputations are made a week due to diabetes alone) but for others, such as myself, the fist incision may well be made by extraneous unforeseen circumstances.
The flash of a speeding car, the glance of a passing motorbike – two small, seemingly unrelated events leading to what could essentially be an irrevocable change in someone’s life. With self-realisation in my tool kit, I was able to picture a happier, satisfied version of myself – set within the new reality of my disability.
The first step was accepting the loss of my leg. I had prided myself on being an independent individual, headstrong and assertive person. When my leg was taken from me in a violent collision with another car, the physical impact was so strong that I felt that I was almost a different person.
One of the most common mental issues that people struggling with new disabilities (of any kind) suffer from is the fear they are inconveniencing their loved ones in some way. That their predicament has led those who they hold closest to see them as different, as less than they were before. There is no way that you can control other people’s reactions to your new found status.
I remember, in the first few days that I was allowed home from the hospital, I would obsess with this notion. The idea that my wife was now lumped with a husband who relied on her, not just for love and support, but for mobility of the most meagre kind, left me sleepless at night.
She didn’t let me mope for long.
Just a week after I’d returned home, she started prodding and probing me for reactions. ‘How do you feel?’ ‘Are you going to leave the house today?’ ‘How about helping me with the washing up?’ She’d taken it upon herself to bring me out of my self-contained stupor and shake me into activity once more. That’s all it took.
I met young men in hospital, who’d attempted suicide through drinking, drugs – you name it. These guys were never older than 26 or so, still kids really. They’d felt that their lives had lost all meaning and the only answer was to fall into oblivion. Sometimes, I think the doctors were using me as a way of guilt-tripping these dourful lads into appreciating the quality of their own lives. But, it’s all relative really.
The only advice I would give to them now, if I could, would be to stay active. Get up, make a plan and execute it. The simple act of achieving goals, no matter how small, gives our brains a rush of endorphins that snowball into happiness.