The indoor track of my alma mater’s gym smells like rubber and sweat. It has a specific warmth to it. The repeated impacts of dozens of feet send shockwaves through the track and almost make it feel alive.
It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve been on that track, but I have some vivid memories of it. After all, I had to lift my face off of it each time I tripped and fell during my college “fitness walking” course — the easiest gym course my college offered that still fulfilled one of two fitness requirements for graduation.
Of course, I could have had my doctor write a note to excuse me from having to complete those requirements, but I actually wanted to take the course. I didn’t want to feel left out and I wanted an excuse to force myself to go to the gym. I just resigned myself to the fact that I would fall on my face over and over again in front of all my classmates.
But that never stopped me from trying my best. Looking back, I felt like I took my many falls in good humor, even if I still kept my CMT a secret from my classmates. And I actually have some fond memories of that semester.
But when a recent conversation with a fellow member of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth community reminded me of that semester of fitness walking, I realized something — I think I’ve lost some of that good humor and lack of ego from my college days, at least when it comes to CMT. Because when that fellow CMT-er encouraged me to add mental and agility challenges to my walks around my neighborhood, I could only think of the embarrassment I’d face from looking silly in front of my neighbors and possibly tripping and falling.
His proposition was to try walking backward, sideways, to try walking while talking, walking while singing, and skipping because he said these practices have helped him maintain his balance and improved his walking ability during his many travels. And I don’t doubt that these practices may have some benefit. But walking while singing? Skipping? Walking backward and sideways in public?
I could feel myself hesitate. Do adults do those things? Won’t I look foolish? Then I thought, would 20-year-old me be so hesitant?
I had previously thought these kinds of self-conscious thoughts were more of a preteen thing, but I’m realizing that at every age, we have a fear of looking awkward — different. In college, I may not have been as ashamed of my CMT symptoms as I am now, but I definitely felt self-conscious about other things — my physical appearance, my academic struggles, and my “Asian-ness.”
It’s a pity that fear would be the hurdle that prevents me from exploring certain exercises and walking as a form of treatment for CMT symptoms.
It’s a struggle to accept that I have this disease, something that will inevitably always make me a bit different — and maybe a bit awkward. But I ought to find a way to push past that.
I know I shouldn’t allow myself to feel ashamed of being different. All of us, disabled or able-bodied, are each unique in our own ways and we ought to celebrate ourselves for how far we’ve come and how far we can go, not feel shame about where we are.
I just wish I could recapture my 20-year-old self’s attitude toward tripping and falling in public.
Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.
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