My mama used to tell me I'm like a pink tree in a green forest. "People will stare because it's different. They will also stare because it's magnificent." As she'd hold me in her arms, I'd try to let her sweet touch and comforting words reassure my aching being. My mama tried very hard to make me understand that there is nothing wrong with me. Even more so, that being different is beautiful. Although I couldn't help but agonize in wondering why. Why? Why me? Flawed, shameful, ugly, faulty... I got the notion inside my head that, somehow, I was defective and needed to hide my hand.
You see, I used to be a laid-back, happy-go-lucky little girl. Often smiling and giggling, unbothered by what should and should not be. I don't remember the exact breaking point in my psyche when things changed for the worst. I do remember that, before the age of eight or so, I walked, breathed, and lived as free as can be. Apparently, I once told a little boy in kindergarten that he had too many fingers when he asked me why I was missing some. Talk about a witty comeback! It pains me to know that my childish glowy heart would soon be tarnished by the need to fit in.
And so, for years and years, I would go on, condemning this part of myself. Compensating with my smile and humor for the shame I felt. I thought people would forget about this shameful part of me if I blew them away with my wits and big personality. Truth be told, this make-believe became my hiding place. Through the reflection of other people's positive views of me, I would escape my own twisted, distorted reflection of myself. Through them, I would be able to cultivate the denial of how I really felt about myself. Pretty deep, huh?
It's no surprise that high school was pretty tough. I mean, it's pretty much shit for a lot of teenagers, no matter the looks and all. Therapy did not really help me at the time, since I was way too absorbed in unhealthy coping mechanisms to make progress psychologically. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and body dysmorphic disorder only reinforced how weird and abnormal I felt. I even wore a prosthetic hand in school for a couple of years. It looked pretty realistic, although I had no mobility with it and felt stuck and imprisoned. I eventually decided to stop wearing it, as the mobile capability of my hand became more important than the look of it. This decision was a big milestone in my self-acceptance journey. This meant I was ready to start facing the fears that held me hostage from my liberation. In hindsight, I can say that my struggles have helped me become stronger. I'm not as afraid of my shadow as I used to be. It doesn't swallow me whole anymore. We walk hand in hand now. My shadow teaches me and helps me grow.
As a 28-year-old, I feel relieved to state that I'm not just a two-fingered left hand. I'm not limbs or missing limbs. I'm not my depression or anxiety, nor the shame that consumed me for so long. I'm a human being living a human life. I AM ME! With all my intricacies, eccentricities, and yin-yang. There's beauty in that. There's horror and sadness and ups and downs... There's light and enlightenment.
They say seven is a lucky number. Well, I'm on the journey of embracing my seven fingers. I feel so lucky to be alive. Each of us is so unique and that's wonderful. Diversity is breathtakingly beautiful. It's about time I cheered for it. It's about time we celebrated it as a society. So, here I am, with eyes wide open, smiling down at my little crab hand. This crustacean and I have many things in common. We both shed our shell each time we've outgrown it. Crabs move in many directions, most typically sideways. They rarely move directly towards their destination. Yet, they reach it with confidence and self-reliance. Life is a gift to be cherished. I would not have thought I would one day feel this way, but I'm happy to be me. Free, strong, adaptable, wise, and resilient me, like a crab at sea.