Weak | Strong

One of my biggest pet peeves is people equating recovery with strength.

Whether it’s a sports commentator complimenting an athlete’s ability to get back into the game, a person bragging about their ability to recover from an injury, or people insisting that their loved one survived illness because “they’re a fighter”, it hurts when people make recovery out to be a moral victory.

Because there is incredible strength in coping with weakness – regardless of whether or not we recover.

I was 12 when I had my first major knee dislocation, which meant years of surgeries that would come to define my teenage years. While my peers were developing exponentially both physically and socially, I was relearning how to interact with my own body and with the world around me as a person with a physical disability. While my peers were figuring out whether they were good at sports or music, I was relearning how to bathe. While my peers were developing unique styles, I broke down in happy tears when my mom found me pants big enough to fit over my cast. Every step I took was painful, physical therapy was like a part time job that yielded almost imperceptible improvements, and every day was a struggle to define myself as being even just a bit more than my disability. Every single thing I did took so much effort. It was difficult to get out of bed, it was difficult to get dressed, it was difficult to wash my hair, it was difficult to walk with crutches in the snow and ice of an Ottawa winter, and particularly hard to get around because my family didn’t have a car. And after months of doing little more than go to school and sit in front of the television, it was difficult to remember who I was and what I was fighting for.

And last year, when I had my first major flare up of arthritis in my knee, even with all the self-awareness and confidence that comes with adulthood, I broke down more than once with my husband in fear that everything would be difficult forever. I was scared that he would stop loving me if I couldn’t be as active, and that he’d be less attracted to me if he had to start helping me take care of myself. I had to remind myself that using my cane wasn’t a failure, that needing to sit down wasn’t a sign of weak conviction, and that I could still be a fierce and fiery fighter even if my body only ever got weaker. I had to remind myself that I was strong (and awesome) regardless. 

Society seems to struggle to accept different iterations of “health”, and while it’s keen to celebrate recovery, and offer endless unhelpful advice for rehabilitation in the interim, it offers little congratulations for the daily victories that come with living with illness.

Which is why I love the SickKids ads, one of which is featured in this post, wherein real patients are depicted as badass fighters. These kids endure incredible adversity, and it is truly inspiring to see that them overcome that adversity to develop confidence and character. Some of those kids might never “recover”, and I imagine a lot of them have bad days when the battle feels like too much to bear, but they’re all fighters and they’re all victorious on innumerable counts.

Posted in: Progress

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