Only You Define You


In the secret and mysterious world of amputees, we contend with an entire dictionary of labels and names that we struggle to identify with.  There are the more polite names such as disabled, handicapped, physically challenged, and impaired which are all used in circles that include white-collared professions such as doctors, psychologists, therapist, lawyers, and professors.  It has also been my experience that any time someone is using these terms, they either have all their arms and legs or they really bum me out by feeling sorry for them because they don’t.  How many times have you said to yourself as you are being lectured by a four-appendage professional, “You are an idiot with no clue what it’s like to be an amputee.  Furthermore, I would fire you and find someone else if you weren’t the most qualified person in town who could help me!”  Nevertheless, they lecture and talk and blah, blah, blah like they know.  Oh, and then they make us want to fire them a second time by trying to relate your amputation pains and trials to having a gall stone or giving birth.   Uh, no.

Now, if you have been an amputee for any amount of time and you have grown to loathe those nasty names I mentioned above, it has been my observation that most of us settle on something that best describes who we really are in life and that name which focuses less on our missing body part.  For example, I call myself the Ampcop or a one-legged dude while a good friend of mine calls me Robo-bro.  A dear man who was an AKA that helped mentor me called himself the One-Legged Pig Farmer.  Another friend of mine who writes his own blog is called The ProstheticMedic.  And another who is a bilateral BKA is Two-Feet Shorter…literally.  Then you have the catch-all names that most of us use such as gimpy, one-legged, broke, amp, hop-a-long, and the one-sided nose pickers.  Furthermore, I don’t like using the term amputee because of its connotations.  I use amp or one-legged.

SO, where am I going with this?  This…  I will always prefer the second group of labels and here’s why.  Look up the word handicap.  The meaning according the Webster’s Dictionary is a disadvantage that makes achievement unusually difficult.  HuhNope doesn’t fit me in the least.  Actually it doesn’t fit anyone I know that is an active amp.  We all achieve what were going after and have no more or less difficulty as a two arm and leg feller.  Now, if you’re afraid of hard work and not willing to try, maybe you are handicapped, but I don’t call myself that.  Heck, I don’t even park in handicap parking spaces at stores.  I mean, I’m not handicap, so why would I?  I can walk just fine far distances.  Now look up the world disability.  Again, according to Webster’s Dictionary, the word disability means a condition such as an illness or injury (yep, got that part) that damages or limits a person’s physical or mental abilities.  That damaged my ability?  I pretty much do everything I WANT to do now just as I did before my amputation.  And as far as I’m concern, getting older is more of a disability than missing a leg.  OK Kevin, but what about the other parts of the definition, you ask?  Well, fine reader, it goes on to define disability as the condition of being able to do things in the normal way; the condition of being disabled.  The NORMAL way?  Huh!  What is the normal way you ask?  Well, Mr. Webster’s definition of normal is usual or ordinary: not strange AND mentally and physically healthy.

So I ask, usual and ordinary to what or whom?  The strange part?  OK I might have that, people have called me strange in the past, but that alone doesn’t make me disabled.  As far as I’m concerned there are only two normal things that really matter to all people alike, 1) how we take in a breathe and 2) how our heart pumps blood.  Pretty much everything else is up to interpretation.  And mentally and physical healthy?  OK, again the mental health issue trumps my argument there, but who is ALWAYS 100% healthy anyway?  So, maybe normal is not a permanent state.

So, are you handicapped or disabled?  I guess it depends on how you see yourself.  Do you think you fit either one of the definitions I discussed?  I sure as heck don’t think I do!  The real talk here is this, as amputees we are only as handicapped or disabled or impaired as we allow ourselves to be.  Simply missing flesh and bone doesn’t rise to the definition by itself.  To be those ugly professional labels we have to do something more, like give up or not try, or crawl into a corner to die.  Besides, every person on earth has a handicap or disability according to the definitions we discussed.  So why accentuate yours?   Yes, your amputation is a part of you forever, buts when’s the last time you called you mom your non-amputee mother?  Why let it be a part of your definition?

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