‘I would claim, ‘Oh yeah, I hurt myself. I’m wearing a hard brace until it heals.’ I never told my parents I wrote a suicide note.’: Woman known as the ‘girl with one arm’ hides prosthetic for 2 years, finally realizes, ‘they knew I was different, they didn’t care’

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“Feelings are scary sometimes. They creep up on you and out of nowhere, you are faced with rushes of emotions both good and bad. Sometimes, I tend to get really pessimistic about posting my blogs. My goal is to write these posts for ME. I want to create a safe place for me to be able to take everything I am feeling at that moment and get it out of my system. Kinda like putting a coin in a jar every time you find one. It makes you feel like eventually, this jar will be full and then it’ll be time to move on to the next jar. That is exactly what I think life is all about. You have phases that you go through, you live in that phase for a period of time, and then you move on to the next.

I have to say that I am very blessed to be in the phase of life that I am in currently. I have an amazing and loving family that supports me 100 percent. I have the best of friends, amazing soon-to-be husband, and really great career. But sometimes I feel like my purpose and my passion are neglected–my blog and all things that make me feel like I am lifting other amputees and those who have struggled up. When I write about my struggles as someone who is different, I feel connected to the people out there who might look like me. Everyone struggles with some type of insecurity. Replace the word ‘amputee’ with something different and there you have it, a replica of a depiction of the struggles of your own life. But what is life without struggle right?

Courtesy of Nikki Kress
Courtesy of Nikki Kress

Today I want to share my story. I want to explain the trauma I experienced that had me contemplating suicide for about two years. My story is hard to tell and even harder to have lived. It all started in the year 2006. I had just gotten the news that my dad was being relocated for his job. At the time, my family and I lived in Albany, Georgia, a fairly small southern town in the deep South. It was home to me and it was all I had ever known. I was about 15 years old when my family was uprooted from Georgia to Delaware, a state I had never thought twice about. One thing that rushed through my mind the moment my dad told me we had to move was this feeling of sheer and utter panic. I was 15, the age where acne, boy problems, no confidence, body issues, and all that fun stuff was going on. To make matters worse, I was born missing my left forearm and was very used to being depicted and known as the ‘girl with one arm’ in my small town. Even though that label stung, I was fine with it because people knew my story and for the most part didn’t ask questions.

Behind my high walls that I put up to protect myself, I was dealing with tremendous turmoil about how I felt about myself. I didn’t think highly of myself, in fact, I tried very hard not think at all. Instead, I buried those feelings and emotions way deep down in the back of my brain, trying to suppress the heck out of my dark thoughts and unhappiness. I essentially wasn’t living but rather existing each day, wishing I were someone else. As the move got closer I remember having troubling thoughts about starting school and having to face new people and the stares and the questions. It just got to be too much for my brain to handle. So I approached my parents with the idea of getting a new prosthetic for my arm. They were extremely shocked that the word prosthetic came out of my mouth. I am pretty sure they put the correlation together over time that the only reason I wanted a prosthetic (keep in mind I had not worn one since I was about 7) was because we were moving and I was leaving my comfort zone. Being the amazing and supportive parents that they are, they did what I asked of them and about a month after our move, I was fitted for a brand spanking new arm. Thinking back on that moment brings tears to my eyes. I feel so selfish and so sickened by myself. How could I ask my parents to stress themselves out financially like that, just to cover up myself with a security blanket? The only reason I wanted that prosthetic was to blend in more so I wouldn’t have to explain my story a hundred times, so I wouldn’t get stares, or laughs, or even pointed at. Because even though I grew up in a very small town with the same group of people, I still would get gawked at and I still left school crying plenty of days because of people teasing me.

This move to Delaware triggered so much anxiety and panic in me. I became consumed with ideas of new people staring at me and pre-judging me. I did not think that my life could get any worse, nor did I think what was going on in my mind was something that I needed to vocalize to my family. As close as I am to my siblings and my parents, I could not tell them how I felt. I didn’t want my mom to blame herself for giving birth to a baby that simply was just born different. I didn’t want my dad to worry. I didn’t want my sisters or my brother to think they had to protect me or say things to people who did stare. I wanted to suppress, suppress, suppress. And, that is just what I did.

I wore my prosthetic to school for two entire years without removing it for gym class, soccer practice, speeches, or honor society–nothing. I had mastered a way to tuck my prosthetic into my pocket (I ALWAYS wore long sleeves with a jacket that had pockets, no matter how hot outside) so that no one would suspect I was any different than them. I made friends and acquaintances that I tried not to get that close to just so that they wouldn’t notice so that I could lead somewhat of a ‘normal’ life. Every day without fail, I went to school wearing my prosthetic arm and came home, only to rip it off as soon as I walked through the door. I absolutely loathed wearing it. It was heavy and very hard to wear all day without wanting to take it off for a few minutes just to rest my shoulder from carrying all that weight.

My prosthetic was extremely high tech and had the capability to open and close the hand, pick things up, hold cups, and all that fun stuff. Sadly, I never utilized it for its intended purpose. Instead, I only wanted it to take the shape of my left arm and hand that I didn’t have, and to mask any abnormalities so no one could tell. There were a few occasions where my peers would unexpectedly touch my arm to get my attention or tried to hug me and would point out that my left arm felt really hard, as of a cast was on it. Anytime that type of thing happened I would go with the ‘cast’ excuse, claiming that, ‘Oh yeah, I hurt myself over the weekend and am wearing a hard brace until it heals.’ Of course, no one ever questioned how silly I sounded, since the hand of my prosthetic was never visible and was always tucked into my jacket pocket. And I hadn’t gotten close enough to anyone at my school for them to really notice. So for two whole years, that mind game would go on, leaving me feeling empty, hopeless, and towards the end of my 17th birthday–suicidal. It is extremely painful for me to admit that I was at one time in my life thinking of killing myself. The thoughts were present for a while and after each and every night that I would cry myself to sleep, I reached a breaking point. I wanted to die and I wanted to be free from the pain that was present in my life from something that I later realized I created.

It is very painful to talk about the details of what I wanted to do, to plot out my own suicide. It is something only my sisters and close friends know about me. I have never sat down to tell my parents that I wrote a suicide note. One interesting fact about me is that bright sunny days sometimes make me really sad. The morning that I woke up feeling like I was done with living, it was bright, warm, and sunny. My family had gone to breakfast and I had told them the prior night that I didn’t want to go, that I wanted to sleep in and have some alone time. As I sat up in my room writing out all the reasons I didn’t want to be here on this planet, I broke down in tears. I thought of what I was going to do to my mom and dad, and how my actions were not only going to affect just me, but also my family. And from that point going forward, I knew I had to make a choice. And I chose me. I chose to be Nikki. And I am so glad I did. The rest is history in my eyes.

I showed up to my very first day of senior year without my prosthetic–a scary, bold, and unintended moment. I got a few stares and had a bit of explaining to do to some friends and teachers. Luckily, a lot of people already knew my story because my amazing and wonderful big brother had a few talks with some of my teachers and friends. All along they had known that I was different, and they didn’t care. They were just waiting for me to share my stories with them, and to be comfortable enough to open up to them.

Courtesy of Nikki Kress
Courtesy of Nikki Kress

I had been so wrapped up in the idea that I was going to be antagonized and bullied that I did not even take a moment to think about the opposing side. What if people just accepted me? What if I showed up at school wearing nothing but my smile, my very little to no confidence, and hoped that I would be accepted? Maybe I would have gotten stares, but maybe I would have overcome those stares and used them as motivation to educate people about my lucky fin. I would do a lot of things differently if I could go back. But that’s the thing about the past. It’s behind us, not in front of us. We can’t revisit old memories or thoughts and try to change them. We can only grow from lessons learned and mistakes made.”

Courtesy of Nikki Kress
Courtesy of Nikki Kress
Courtesy of Nikki Kress

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nikki Kress from Maryland. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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