Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Khalil Gibran
I am Canadian. I have noticed that, here, my foreignness precedes my disability. People are more curious about where I am from than why I limp or have stiffness in my legs. People are more inclined to start a conversation with me about Canada and the people they know there than about my impairment. When I studied here three years ago, there was another girl on my course called Nora; I asked my friend Faith how she and everyone else differentiated between us when we weren’t around. She said that I was Canadian Norah and that my classmate was ‘the other Nora’ which made sense since she is half Moroccan; there is no way anyone could mistake her for me or me for her. I wasn’t – as I am at home – known for my disability. I am known for my foreignness first. I have realized that even if I live here for thirty years, marry an Englishman, and have English children, I will still always be foreign. I don’t have a problem with it. I just thought, coming here, I would be someone else and I would be defined as someone else. I wanted to create a wholly new identity for myself.
A couple of nights ago, I went out with a friend whom I know from my time spent in Egham. I bemoaned the fact that I have to ask for so much help here and I hadn’t had to ask for the same kind of help – with the same frequency – when I lived in Egham. Moving to London, I expected to need help sometimes, but not as often or as much as I actually do. She told me – in a matter of fact way rather than a way of bucking me up – that my disability is a lot less noticeable than it was when I lived in Egham and that everyone finds London hard. Everyone needs to ask for help sometimes. I agreed, but I was still quite frustrated. I realized I have equated the notion of ‘complete cure’ with ‘never needing help with anything physical and never having to ask for help’ but this goal is impossible and the mindset unhealthy. Even the strongest and most physically capable people sometimes need help, and needing help is not synonymous with (or indicative of) weakness. It just feels like weakness.
My friend did more for me than I think she realizes. In Egham, I got into the best shape I’d ever been in and my body was the strongest, straightest, thinnest, and most cured it had ever been. I had succeeded in drastically reducing the visibility of my disability. I’d improved my walk and posture enormously. I lost it when I moved home and have struggled for years now to get it back, keeping that ideal of my ‘Holloway body’ in mind without considering improvements I have made ‘now.’ My friend said that (though I might not feel it or think it) my body is much better than it was and my disability is certainly not as noticeable. This news made me consider that I might have to adjust my perspective on my body. I have to stop fighting to ‘get my old body back’ and start working more proactively to create the best body I can going forward. I can no longer idealize the body I created when I had geography and circumstances on my side that were conducive to weight loss and better alignment. I suppose I am similar to a pregnant woman: I can’t get back the body I had before I had my baby because my body is unalterably different, but I can work to make the best body I can given the fact that I just had a child. Some women shrink right back after having children and some women struggle to lose the weight, yearning for the bodies they had before they had their babies. I have been very much the same for the last three years: fighting to get my Holloway body back and, ultimately, setting myself up for failure and disappointment. The best I can do is not try to recreate the past – because I proved to myself in that time that it was possible to have the thin straight strong body I developed – but to create a better future body, and to work with what I have now rather than against it.