It's no secret that I'm somewhat stubborn. (Actually, my mother prefers the term “determined,” but let’s be real, she’s always seeing the best in me.) I’ve always had a "I can do it myself" attitude." You can imagine my culture shock when I moved to the South and was introduced to southern gents. It took me MONTHS to realize it was okay to allow a male to open the door for me...
I also happen to be an incredibly competitive person. Any trainer that has worked with me at the gym will tell you… how do you get me to work harder? Yell at me. As weird as it sounds, literally nothing motivates me more. In group workouts I tend to push myself to my max - there has been more than one instance where I’ve pushed myself hard enough in a workout that I physically get sick afterwards (not my best moments).
Now clearly not everyone operates this way, thank goodness. Often times I even have to ask myself why I operate the way I do. In the past few weeks, I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve actually come up with some reasoning behind the madness. So here goes…
Probably the simplest and most obvious reason for my “determined” personality is my family. If you know the Bream clan, you are very aware that the idea of enjoying a relaxed, slow-paced game is essentially impossible. We like competition, and we get REAL upset when we don’t win. The competitive nature tends to be ingrained in every Bream, no matter what age.
Although it may seem a bit obvious, I would also say that having a prosthesis has given me plenty of opportunity to adapt a “push through” over an “I give up” attitude. I think the same can be said of most people who live with a prosthesis. Technology has given me an incredible amount of movement since I first learned how to walk, but the whole process still has its challenges in order to stay active. I remember in particular what it was like during the first few weeks of trying my new prosthesis. We came up with a completely new way to attach the prosthesis to my body, and so it all felt very different to what I was used to. I also needed to try several different socket (the part that attaches my limb to the prosthesis) materials to test what worked best. After a few days, I was ready to give up. My skin was bruised and blistered, and it was all I could do to wear the leg through an 8-5pm workday before I’d come home and take it off, refusing to touch it for the rest of the night. When the time came for my check-up appointment with my prosthetist, I was expecting extreme empathy - maybe even a hug. After I explained how I still couldn’t make it through a full day with the leg on, he paused and said, “Well, you just told me that you started out not being able to wear the leg for even two hours; now you're up to nine. I'd say that's incredible improvement and you should just keep going.”
My initial (inward) reaction to his statement was extreme annoyance. I assumed he was being uncaring and inconsiderate, and I kept thinking to myself, “If he had to deal with this level of pain on a daily basis, he would be singing a different tune.” But with time, I realized he was absolutely right. After a few weeks my body slowly adjusted and I could wear the leg all the time with very little discomfort. I don’t believe that kind of situation is uncommon, and many amputees deal with much worse. It’s not fun, but what can you expect when you’re attaching some form of plastic or metal as an almost-permanent part to your body in replacement of a limb? Adjustments will obviously need to be made.
If I dig a little deeper, I’d say the root of my determination comes from a more emotional level. When I walk into a gym, I am aware that it’s likely I’ll get more attention than many of the other people in the room. Please don’t see that statement as arrogance; it’s just bound to happen. Let’s be real, walking around with a metal pole as a leg tends to draw a certain amount of curiosity from the average onlooker. That attention, whether positive or negative, will come whether I want it or not. So, I always think: “If I’m gonna get any amount of attention, I want to earn every bit of encouragement I receive.” Why? Because maybe the person working out next to me is overcoming a way harder internal struggle than my physical challenges. Maybe the girl in front of me has extreme anxiety and fights panic attacks on a regular basis; maybe the person to the left of me is an exhausted, single parent but still manages to make time for the gym anyway. He or she deserves just as much recognition and encouragement for being there, but it’s easier to overlook them if their challenges are primarily internal.
Right now you may be thinking, “That’s a nice little anecdote Amy, but why the heck did I just read all that gibberish, and why should I care?” Well, first off, maybe it makes you a little less annoyed to workout next to me when I appear to be “doing the most,” as my friends call it. Secondly, I think it’s also important to recognize there are hurting people all around us who face struggles of all levels just to be present. Even if they don’t have an obvious physical challenge, maybe their internal emotions are wreaking havoc in their life. So every chance you get, be kind to people. Choose encouragement over comparision, because everyone has their own obstacles to overcome.
I also hope this post motivates you to always try your hardest, no matter what you’re doing (doesn’t even have to be working out). If you have the physical and mental capacity to push yourself, do it. Don’t take your abilities and opportunities for granted. If you are competitive or even stubborn like I am, use those qualities as catalysts to inspire or encourage others around you. A simple word of encouragement goes a long way!