my ankle ruined my life

February 9, 2008 at 7:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Maybe not ruined ruined, per se. But it certainly changed things.

When I was seven, a kid in my second grade class pushed me over. It wasn’t bullying or anything, he and another kid were in a mock fight and I happened to be standing in front of them. When I fell, my left leg went out and my foot folded in, and as I later found out, one of the ligaments snapped. I was on crutches for a while. And being seven, I didn’t get how important physical therapy was, and my parents were both busy with my new baby sister- she would have been a few months old at this point. So it healed, but not properly.

When I was nine, I stumbled somehow in ballet class and hurt my ankle again. Being a fourth grader with a cane is not fun, except for smacking Matt L. in the shins when he called me “Granny.” The doctor said I would either have to give up ballet – we were about to start dancing en pointe – or not be able to walk when I was an adult. I loved dance, I had been doing it for about four or five years at that point, dancing in a local production of the Nutcracker (I was one of the mice who pull the sleigh at the end) and going to “ballet camp” at the dance school in the summer. But I had to give it up. And looking back, I wonder how much that affected me. I was lucky enough to go to a school where the teacher focused on teaching kids to dance rather than molding our bodies; I was one of the stockier kids in the class, but I don’t remember being told that I was too fat. But if I’d kept dancing, would I have been forced out as I stayed built like a brick shithouse and developed breasts and hips? Would I have grown to hate it?

When I was twelve, I hurt my ankle in swim practice. I kicked “too aggressively,” and had popped the joint somehow, damaging that bad ligament again. Another week or two with the Aircast and cane in my school with lots of stairs, and another mandate to give up the sport. It wasn’t a particularly hardcore league; it was recreational, not school-organized, and while we had some good swimmers we were never pressured to be the best of the best, just to swim the best that we could. I didn’t love competition, but getting in the water for two hours every three days was one of my favorite parts of the bleak hell of middle school. Like most teenagers, I had massive friend drama; this is about when my eating disorder/disordered eating started. Stopping swimming at that point is something I’ve always regretted. I might not have been as fat as I am now; I doubt I would have been as miserable.

My ankle’s still sort of fucked up. I can’t really run – aside from being out of shape and needing a sports bra that resembles the framework of a battleship – because my feet have a natural tendency to supinate (or tilt inwards) and that combined with the weak ligament means bad times are ensured. But I wonder what would have been different if it had never happened, if I had kept dancing, if I had kept swimming. What would I look like? Who would I be?



  1. Bernadette said,

    I tore the ligaments on both sides of one of my ankles when I was eighteen. I didn’t do the physical therapy either, and the ankle stayed weak for years. I kept re-injuring it (I bought a special, pretty cane at the Renaissance Faire because I needed one so often), and developed a nice little phobia bout walking on anything that looked slippery/uneven/likely to turn an ankle. I also utterly refused to wear any shoe with more than a 1/2″ heel. I have been very overweight all my life, which probably contributed to the problem.

    When I was 30 I started swing dancing. I loved it so much that I kept doing it even though I was afraid. Sometimes my ankle was sore, but I kept dancing anyway. My ankle got stronger. A lot stronger. After about a year of dancing, I took tap dancing as well. Again, it hurt sometimes, but my legs and ankles became very strong. I also did things to improve my dancing that coincidentally helped my ankles, like learning to walk putting weight on the strong, inner/middle part of the foot instead of rolling my feet to the weaker outer edges. This past summer I fell and sprained my ankle again. This time it healed in fairly normal fashion. I’m still dancing multiple times a week, and have started taking ballet lessons.

    I guess my point is that it’s never too late to do the things you love, that a weakness does not have to determine your destiny. Strength can come at any age.

  2. hotsauce said,

    dwelling on what you think might have been is not going to change anything and you know it. besides, if you had kept dancing and swimming you probably would have hurt yourself even more.

    i recently decided to give up running. i don’t know if it’ll be forever, but i had been continuing to run on an old knee injury, and every time i started doing more than 12 miles per week, i’d get pain after a mile or two. i was stubborn about it for a while, keep trying to inch up, but i finally thought, what am i doing? do i want to risk hobbling myself for good just to keep this up? there are other fun things i can do to sweat and feel good. i also pretty much live to go hiking, and there’s no way i would sacrifice that for a few miles per week of turtle-slow running in the short-term.

    anyway, as for sports bras, have you tried Title 9 or Athleta? i’m a DD and i have no problem whatsoever running (boob-wise anyway) thanks to my Athleta bras. both stores are online. has a lot of large-size bras, too, including sports bras, and also cute lacy ones that don’t look like handgun holsters. you may pay more — my sports bras are $40, but they’re well-made and last a long time.

  3. Nomie said,

    Bernadette, I’m so glad that things have gotten better for you. I was going to take a salsa dancing class with a friend this semester, but it conflicted with a study group I’m in – but I will definitely try to start dancing again in some form.

    hotsauce, that’s a really good point. And I haven’t tried them out yet – I’m a poor grad student, but I think I have to bite the bullet and lay out some cash for a decent sports bra. It’ll be worth it, in the long run.

  4. Bernadette said,

    I will add that if you start dancing, it would probably be best to do it in flat or very low heel shoe (yeah, I know, not very fashionable in salsa circles). I have an advantage in swing dancing in that almost no one (including the pros) does it in heels except for those who specialize in one particular swing dance called Balboa. I know that I personally need to be as stable as possible, and heels just don’t help. I do have one pair of low-heeled ballroom shoes that I wear occasionally, but I find that after an hour or two my ankle starts hurting more than I like, so I switch back to my usual flats.

  5. fatgirlonadate said,

    Hey, this could me my story, too. I broke my ankle for the first time when my horse fell (…. onto my left leg. big ow.). It never healed properly, and ever since I’ve re-injured it at the drop of a hat (running down the stairs, stepping off a curb wrong, etc.).

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