By looking at me straight on, you wouldn't be able to tell that my shoulders aren’t leveled. It’s not obvious to most, but to me and the countless others living with Brachial Plexus Injury, it is. The people around me are completely unaware of the self-consciousness that I have about wearing certain clothing, making a certain move/gesture, or even the way that my arm is never directly at my side. Brachial Plexus Injury has to do with the disconnection of spinal nerves. Most cases are from car crashes or just plain old accidents, even during birth. In my case, I got BPI from a birth complication. My injury can make me extremely upset at times seeing as though it makes me different, and it's very frustrating. During those hard times, I take a step back and remind myself that I can still move my arm because I still have one. It’s cliche to say, but there is always someone out there that has it worse than you.
As much as having BPI sucks, it’s another thing for me to conquer in life and to prove myself to the world. Between the childish teasing I faced at a young age due to my ‘bird wing’ of a shoulder blade and my own thoughts on my arm, I’ve learned to accept what my arm is and who it makes me; It makes me a young woman who already has a moving story and a young woman who, because of BPI, has a sense of who she is. Who is she, you may ask? Well, she’s an ambitious, driven, and caring individual who does not let small things define her, especially something she has no control over.
We aren’t given anything in life that we cannot handle and BPI is no exception to that. Remind yourself that what has happened to you has happened for a reason. The reason may not be so clear as of right now, but there is a reason. These things, the ‘life bumps’, are meant to prove the kinds of people we are. Rise from this terrible injury and make something out of it. Do not get caught up in the idea that you’re different for a bad reason. You’re different for a good and beautiful reason. So, put your own personal spin on the negatives you face with this injury and make it something great.
When I was born, my parents were given a list from the hospital of things that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own: hold my own bottle, crawl, hold myself up, hold toys, and more. We were told that there would be ‘alternatives’ for these things and that my parents would have to help me with them. As a young girl, I was never able to do all of the dance moves that we did in dance class. There would always be a problem with me moving my arm a certain way, and we’d have to put the class on pause just so the teacher could help me figure out an alternative. In the beginning of the year in gym class, I’d have to give the teacher a note from my mom stating that I had an injury and I couldn’t do certain things because of it. So when we’d have to do the pull-up test or some rope climbing, the teacher would get to my name and remember that I couldn’t do it. At that point they’d have to figure out something else for me to do. An ‘alternative’ is how I’ve felt my whole life. In those moments, I was the most embarrassed because everyone else’s lives would be put on pause because of me, ‘the alternative’.
Sitting here now, as an eighteen year old woman who has lived with Brachial Plexus Injury her entire life, alternatives will not be the answer anymore. I will not allow myself to face these alternatives because “I may not be able to do it" or "it may hurt me even more." You don’t learn anything in life without pushing yourself. This injury was given to me because I can handle it and I can overcome it. I can overcome it just like how I overcame the things on that list that was given to my parents when I was just a baby, the dance moves that held me back, and the pull-up bar test I couldn't do in gym class. I overcame all of those things because I knew that I could do them, and I eventually did. Once you put your mind to something, you can do it; anything is possible.
I speak to those directly with Brachial Plexus Injury, an injury from birth, or any kind of disability that has held them back from doing things; you can do anything. Do not let what has happened to you control what you do with yourself in the future. These little things that make us different should be seen as things that make us stand out in a crowd full of people. These 'life bumps' will continue to block our ways and we’ll just have to get over them with smiles on our faces and positive minds. Your injury does not define you, the way you live with it does.
Lead Image Credit: Photograph of Samantha Losurdo via Natalie Aldridge