I thought of my first physiotherapist today.
When I was in elementary school, a woman would visit me once or twice a week to work through a series of exercises with me that were supposed to help strengthen my legs and my back. I would be pulled out of class and go to the nurses room where a mat would be laid out for me.
The physiotherapist, a wonderful woman with short curly brown hair and a nice smile, would get me to take off my shoes and socks and lie down on the mat. She would take one foot in her hand and stretch it, lifting the leg into the air and pressing down on the foot.
“This will stretch out your muscles,” she would say.
“Life hurts, Jamie.” she said.
She would make the leg fold in on itself, as if I were pulling my knees up to my chest and then repeat the same pushing and pulling exercise with the other leg.
“Have you been doing your exercises at home?” she would ask.
“Yes,” I said, knowing this was a lie. My father did not like anything that showed weakness. I was forbidden to do my exercises at home. My father thought having a cripple for a son was a weakness and an insult to his pride.
She would make me do ab crunches. I was able to do these with few problem. I could not do sit ups and still can’t. I’m not able to get my muscles to cooperate with me, I couldn’t get them to do what I wanted to do.
She would make me do push ups too, to help strengthen my upper body. I couldn’t do normal push ups and instead pushed myself up with my arms from the knee up. My legs would not support me if I tried to do regular sit ups.
After each of these sessions, I would be so sore I could barely walk. I would shuffle back to class, legs and arms screaming at me for putting them through such torture.
Walking through the hallways, the other children would stare at me, my difficulty walking. I would look at the floor, ignoring their stares.
I would pretend that they were jealous of me, wanted to be me. In reality, I think they were frightened of me because I was different.