I am controlling my narrative and owning it, are you? Every Day I Fight
Almost a year ago to the day, something happened which changed the way I viewed myself and my life. It was a Tuesday afternoon, and I went into my local café, rather than doing my university work I decided to read a book, I was hooked on the late Stuart Scott “Every day I fight”. It was early in the semester, so I justified my decision to read rather than do university work; plus, I had just come back from two long snow trips for University and didn’t particularly feel like doing assignments that weren’t due yet. It was getting late in the afternoon and I had plans to head out for a few drinks that night with some friends as it was student night. I was sitting minding my own business, on the table in the corner, I try always pick the corner table, and my cappuccino was brought over. I had been sick the previous week and my health was just coming back to its natural level, I was feeling good again. I was reading and strangely enough, I still remember the number of pages I had read before being interrupted (24) and I was on page (167) of my book. How I remember strange little irrelevant details like that fascinates me, why I am even telling you this you may ask? Well it’s to point out exactly how sound my memory is of this day, hell, even that whole week.
Back to my story, as I sat reading ignoring the world with a book I have later decided has made the largest impact on me as a person, something happened. I noticed a young boy no older the 4 watching me from across the room, I gave him a smile and next thing I know he’s running over to my table. He is short (obviously), with blonde hair, big smile and very underdeveloped motor skills, I thought he was about to fall over. I said “hello” to the young boy and asked what his name is, he responded with “hi, my names Brock”. I looked around for his Mother, she’s ordering over at the counter and has completely taken her eyes off her son. I didn’t mind, he was a friendly child and I wasn’t busy. He asks me if I had any pictures in my book, as it’s a biography it has a few pictures in the middle, like all biography’s do. Brock got excited as I flicked through the pictures with him, he continued to ask me questions and I answered. His mother began to walk over to the table to get her son, but said nothing to me. I go back to reading my book, it’s been ten minutes and during that time I noticed Brock was playing hide and seek with me, although I wasn’t aware we were playing. Brock’s Mother started walking up to my table, she too has blonde hair like her son, although it looked as though she has dyed it to make it lighter, she had a medium build, slightly overweight, and had a very distasteful look on her face.
She proceeded to my table and I looked up to her and said, “can I help you?” Her son came running after her and stood next to her smiling. She responded by saying “I couldn’t help notice you were talking with my son”. “He’s a lovely young man” I say. She said she would rather not have her son talking to me, I asked “why?” as I didn’t go talk to him, he came over to me as you weren’t watching him. She responds with, “my son shouldn’t have to be exposed to someone like you”. At this point I am taken back, I didn’t understand what she’s talking about, so I said rather rudely “excuse me” she continued to say, “you should have to wear gloves in public so nobody is exposed to that”. I was in shock; did that actually just happen.
For those that don’t know and were confused by that first section, I was born with a rare disease known as ‘Congenital hand and foot difference’, which is known as a central defect, where there is an absence of the central rays. This essentially means I was born with two toes on each foot, and four fingers on each hand. With many surgeries, hospital visits and doctor appointments I have great functionality and very few limitations.
This woman telling me to wear gloves in public is the second meanest comment that I had received. I thought I was past this shit, not that day I wasn’t. I couldn’t even talk, I was shaking and trying not to cry. I stood up grabbed my keys and wallet from the table and before I could walk away she said, “keep away from me and my child, cover your hands they are disgusting”. I walked very quickly, with a slight glance at Brock, he looked as confused as myself.
Now raining I make it back to the car get in and didn’t move for about 15 minutes, nor could I. This woman had completely broken me in that moment. Here I was thinking I was mentally strong and she had shattered my thoughts on thinking that I was past caring about what people thought of my (so called), disability.
When I finally was able to move, I drove home with a million thoughts running through my mind. I raced through the door and locked myself in my room. I didn’t talk to anyone for 2 days. I had put myself into a shame and guilt spiral, it wasn’t the woman that caused me to react the way in which I did, but rather myself. I was used to being looked at, the ugly looks, the glances and the whispers. This wasn’t new to me and yes, I had received many mean comments over the years but nothing like this. It started to dawn on me that young boy was stuck with this woman for a mother. The young boy hadn’t even noticed and if he had, I doubt he would’ve cared.
I drove back to my home town of Geelong, Australia on Friday, except I didn’t stop, I kept driving down to Kennett River, my favourite place in the world. This is the place I go when I don’t know what to do, when I don’t want to talk, when I need to reflect. Nobody knew I was down there and that was the intention. It is very quiet at that time of year due to it being winter and it was the coast, there wasn’t anyone around. I spent two days thinking, why had it bothered me so much what that woman had said? The conclusion was simple. It was because she was the only one brave enough to say it to me. Others had only ever thought it. I promised myself whilst looking over the ocean on a gloomy day that I was going to work hard on myself, to improve, to be better internally. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin, I shouldn’t need the validation of others. I finished my book, stood up, packed up my gear and left. With the title of the book on my mid as I drove home “Every day I fight”.
Yes, I have four fingers and two toes, I have had countless surgeries, I have been told I wouldn’t be able to do so many fucking things, and here I am, doing more than most. I was born this way and didn’t choose it, who would? I never let it define me but I knew it was part of who I was. Maybe I was wrong? Maybe I should let it define me. I had hidden it for such a long time, or at least attempted to. What this lady had said to me had really gotten to me, I had always prided myself on being able to shake off people’s nastiness.
I am sharing this publicly for the first time on my blog and social media, not to get attention, sympathy or likes. The reason I am sharing this to my blog and to social media, is because I want to own it. If I own it, that’s a step in the direction of not letting it control me anymore. I have let it control me far too long, but it wasn’t easy getting to this point. This might be my own selfish reason, except I am not finished just yet. There is some truth that I haven’t fully excepted myself, can you ever fully except yourself? I am not sure anyone truly does but I am working towards just that.
One of the main reasons I am choosing to share this now is I want to help others. People in general yes, but more specifically those with disabilities of any kind. There is a lack of support mentally for those in similar situations and very few that understand just how to help, I wish there was someone who could understand me and my condition as I was growing up, rather than those people who just assumed. We all have doubts, fears and burdens of ourselves as people. Whether its body image, insecurities, fear, doubts or even something greater such as a disability or mental illness, it is important to take action, work on it. Don’t hide from it like I did for so long. I want to help, so feel free to message me, share this blog post, pass it on, l will respond to anyone that asks for help.
I won’t ever have 5 fingers or 5 toes, so what? We all have our own burdens, I am finally taking it on myself to own mine. I’ve been doubted by people my entire life because they instantly think I’m incapable, I’m here to prove them wrong. This will be one of the hardest things I will ever have to share, I have wrestled with the choice to share this story or not in the last year, and I’ve been back and forward about posting this since I finished writing it. For anyone that cannot deal with it just go onto my profile now, and unfollow me, send me a message noise your complaints if you need to, I’ll listen, but it won’t control me. If we all had a choice I am sure we would all choose to be perfect, unfortunately that’s not the world we live in.
To the mother that had the audacity to come up to me in public and say what you said in front of your young boy, I hope he doesn’t grow up to be like you, the world already has too many people like yourself. In saying that, I want to also thank you as this broke me in that moment, but shit did I come out tougher. You have no idea, I grew in ways I didn’t know were possible.
I would like to thank the people that have supported me through and through, you know who you are so I won’t list names, but it means more to me than you’ll ever know or I’ll be able to express, so thank you.
There will be a day, in which I say to myself, that I’m happy this happened to me. That day has yet to come, but that’s is what I am working towards. I am controlling the narrative are you?
If you have made it to the bottom I appreciate you. If you enjoyed this piece I would appreciate if you could share it out, and write a response or give it a clap (mediums new likes). Would love to hear any feedback, thanks.
Tim Hart (@timmyandrewhart) * Instagram photos and videos
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