Something interesting popped up on my Facebook memories yesterday, a picture I’d completely forgotten about in the 10 years since I posted it. It may not look like much to you, but there’s a bigger story behind it.
I know, it’s such an inspiring piece, right? No. It’s a fairly crude digital illustration that I created ten years ago. TEN. Actually, that almost doesn’t compute. Anyway, by itself, it’s pretty uninteresting. The story makes it remarkable. You see, I created this illustration with my feet.
Yes, you read that correctly.
So I have this weird thing
Turns out I have this weird disease where my body simply decides to attack the nerves in my arms and shoulders causing severe neuropathy and atrophy in the limbs. There’s a lot of weird medical stuff with that, but that’s a blog for another day. Hang in, fellow science nerds.
At two points in my life, I’ve found myself with huge problems from this. The second instance was far worse than the first.
In January of 2008, as a freshman in college, I noticed a tingle in my neck and shoulder. Soon after, numb patches began appearing up and down my left arm. Not just deadened or desensitized. Numb. Mr.-Deeds-frostbitten-foot-numb.
By mid-February, my left arm was completely useless from shoulders to fingertips. You know how hard it is to button up a shirt with hand? Tie your shoes? I do. Even putting on socks becomes a huge chore. But, I’m right-handed, so I can make this work. School was annoying, but doable. Work was hard, but passable.
It was the pain that began to break me. No one ever tells you how much it hurts to lose nerves and experience muscle atrophy. Unpleasant doesn’t hold a candle. I often kept met dorm roommate awake all hours of the night from my sleepless anguish. More than once he offered help from the “street pharmacy.” I’d be lying if I said that I was never tempted to take him up on it. (Disclaimer: I never did)
By early March, numb patches began popping up on my right arm. Within days, I began to noticeably lose dexterity and fine motor skills. So I called in an army of my amazing friends to help move my stuff into storage, and take me to the airport (driving was iffy now). So while I could still hold a boarding pass, barely, I hopped on a plane to Tulsa, to move back in with my parents like any good millennial.
It couldn’t have been soon enough.
Within weeks I’d lost total functionality from the shoulders down in both arms. I spent my entire 19th year on this Earth (and then some) being spoon-fed, changed, and led around (I couldn’t even open doors). Miserable doesn’t cover it. Netflix wasn’t a thing yet (it was the ancient days of getting discs in the mail) but even if it was, it’s not like I could use the remote to control it.
Fortunately, I have the best mom on the planet. She has an amazing, God-given gift of being a caretaker. She is incredible in every and never grumbled about it. Even when I’ve been a complete badger because my pain is at an 11 and steroids turn everyone into a heathen, she cared for me with unbelievable patience. She truly is the best.
But you can’t keep a good dog down
I’d like to think I was a good dog, anyway. That’s beside the point.
My mom always told me I could do anything. The crazy thing is, I’ve always believed her.
I’ve loved art since as long as I could remember. Before I had to drop out of college (look, I know every dropout says it wasn’t their fault, but I feel like I have a pretty good excuse) I had just switched my major to Mass Comm with an emphasis on Graphic Design.
You know what isn’t easy? Doing graphic design without hands.
So I learned to do it with my feet.
I had my dad help me get a screen where it needed to be, put a keyboard and trackpad on the ground and figured it out. I learned how to do most of what I know with my feet first. Yeah, I know, feet are gross. Bear with me.
This picture is one of those first creations. And that’s why I’m so proud of it. Not because it’s amazing (it’s not) but because it’s a symbol of all the junk I went through. I managed to look the adversity in the face and tell it that it’s barking up the wrong tree. By the grace of God, I came out more determined and driven than I likely ever would’ve been if left to my own devices.
Oh, and by the way, Tulsa was never on my radar, but I met a pretty incredible woman and we have the best baby in the whole world with another on the way. Don’t tell me God isn’t working in the details.