Yesterday, I posted a photo to the Lymphie Life Facebook page of my bare ankles—a very big deal, as fellow lymphies can attest to—and the supportive feedback I received was overwhelming. You all are awesome, and because of all the comments, I wanted to address a couple things:
For those who are struggling to bare their lymphie limbs: It takes time! And lots of positive self-talk to gear yourself up. Something that helps me is to start small: I begin by wearing shorts around the house, then graduate to running errands with them, and then—finally—going to an event or social gathering. Exposing our swollen limbs and compression garments feels like a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be. It just takes a little time and practice to get comfortable doing it. Most people don’t even notice, and even if they do—so what?! Our health and happiness is more important than a stranger’s thoughts or comments. There’s no reason to let our lymphedema—or fear of how other people will perceive us because of our lymphedema—stop us from wearing what we want, or doing certain things, or feeling certain ways about ourselves.
For those who rock their socks on the daily: You all are inspirational, truly! It’s no easy feat to bare what for some of us is our greatest insecurity, and it’s motivating to know that there are lymphies out there who do that regularly. We all have our down days, but it’s the days where we can face our fears head-on that really gives us the push we need to know that it is possible, and, in turn, gives us the strength to do it again. So keep rocking your socks! (Or arm-socks!)
For those asking about my lack of compression garment: I am “in between” garments right now. My current one is a few years old and has lost a lot of its compression, so I need to get a new one. In the meantime, I maintain my lymphedema by keeping my leg elevated whenever possible, avoiding sodium, performing manual lymphatic drainage, and wearing a nighttime compression garment to bed. Replacing my daytime garment is on the top of my to-do list, though, because they are so crucial to daily lymphie maintenance!
Okay, so what prompted me to take the bare-ankles plunge yesterday?
A few months ago, I bought a pair of cropped-ish pants. When I tried them on in the store, my mother was gushing—they look awesome, so cute, you must buy them!—but I was worried about my ankle. The cuffs of the pants were a few inches above my ankle, which, to me, drew the eye directly to the part of my body I try my hardest to hide.
I trust my mama so I bought the pants, even though I was secretly vowing to myself that I’d only wear them with boots. Trusty, ankle-hiding boots. Everybody wins, right? But yesterday was a little warm outside, and as I was getting dressed, I looked at the pants and thought, Why not wear them with flip-flops? Why not just try?
It was a crazy thought, but not an impossible one.
I put on the pants, then slid on a pair of flip-flops. It was the first day in a looooong time that I wore anything exposing my leg, and I was nervous about doing it. I wasn’t going anywhere special—just running some errands—but before I left the house, I was obsessively checking myself out in the mirror. Was it obvious? Would people notice?
I asked my partner what he thought:
“Well, I know it’s there,” he said. “But really—you can barely notice it at all. Even if I didn’t know about it, I wouldn’t notice it.”
As much as I logically knew he was right, my mind was screaming otherwise. However, I know myself well enough to realize that when I’m uncomfortable, it’s a sign that I need to push forward and do whatever it is that is making me so anxious, i.e. wear the damn cropped pants. And so I did! And I’m so glad I did, too, because it reminded me that I am capable of facing my fears and conquering them. (At least for the day.)
My insecurities haven’t magically disappeared because of what I did yesterday. I have always struggled with body image issues, and I acknowledge that I probably always will. But each day that I combat my fears is another day affirming my self-worth, and those negative voices in my head get that much quieter.
Because, hey—I have lymphedema. My leg, ankle, and foot are a little puffy. So what? It doesn’t define me or change who I am, and it doesn’t make me less of a worthwhile person. It also doesn’t mean I can’t wear certain clothes if I want to, because my body isn’t shameful. And neither is yours.
So dare to bare a little! Push yourself out of your comfort zone; transform your fear into action and see what happens. You might surprise yourself.