I recently attended a virtual meetup for people with upper limb differences, and the topic of holding hands came up. Spontaneous hand holding like at a church service can be quite anxiety provoking, especially if you have a limb difference and you’re not able to hold hands with someone you know. Having someone you don’t know touch your limb difference can be an emotional experience.
When I was in seventh grade, my gym class required dancing. The particular dance had the boys holding the right hands of the girls. My limb difference is my right hand. It was Winter, so all the boys would pull their sweatshirt up over their hands, so they wouldn’t have to touch my hand. A couple boys flat out refused to dance with me.
I never told anyone. None of my friends were in my class, so they didn’t see it. I just dealt with it by myself. Or numbed / didn’t deal with it, to be honest. I just carried on, like it was no big deal and it didn’t bother me. I did that a lot growing up. At the time it felt like a way to fight back, by not giving them a reaction and not letting it affect me.
Today, I grieve. I grieve for the thirteen year old who had to numb her feelings. Who had to go to gym class day after day, who even felt the boys’ behavior was ok and she deserved that at the time. That her hand was disgusting and of course nobody would want to touch it.
Who never cried about it until writing this. Who had to keep that pain locked inside.
I want to tell her it’s ok to let it out. It’s ok to cry about it. It’s ok to feel hurt and rejected and ashamed. It’s ok to feel angry at the boys and humiliated. It’s ok to feel angry at yourself for not saying anything and just dancing with them anyway.
What you went through was a lot and truly painful, especially for such a sweet, sensitive person. You are so strong, and I love you so much. I am so very proud of you. It must have been so hard to hold all of that in. So hard feeling unwanted and unloved. I know it wounded you deeply. I see you. I see your pain, and I want to give you the biggest hug.
You’ll find people who will love and accept you and your beautiful hand.
You don’t have to be so anxious and closed about your hand being touched. Your hand deserves to be held and touched, and to be able to touch other people. Your hand has so much loving energy to give and receive.
I do still feel some anxiety about people touching my right hand, even romantic partners at first. But it’s getting better, and I’m starting to feel more open to it. I know the more I trust and allow it to be touched, the more comfortable I will feel. It’s a process. I’m going to be loving and patient with myself. It’s understandable it will take time, as I’ve spent so much of my life not allowing it to be touched. The fact that I’m open to it is progress.
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