Author: Bryan Potok, CPO
Celebrating or simply remembering specific dates and milestones hold significant power. It allows us to look back and see how far we have come.
Celebrating your amputation anniversary (which we refer to in this article as “ampuversary”) is no different. Doing so can help improve your mental health and prepare you to be at your best for future challenges.
Everyone’s limb loss story is different. For some, the decision to amputate may have been done in a short amount of time, leaving little time to prepare mentally and emotionally. For others, amputation may have marked the culmination of years – even decades – of pain. Soon after, you embarked on a new journey filled with challenges but also marked with many milestones and achievements. Learning how to retrain your body and mind to operate as a prosthesis user is a great achievement, and this is a great reason to celebrate.
What is the date that you consider to be your ampuversary? On that day, take some time to reflect on where you are in life. Do you like where you are at this moment? Are you interacting with other amputees and learning from their experiences? If not, what steps can you take to get you to a place where you appreciate your life and your direction in it? What habits, people, or things do you need to let go of to get you to your goal?
As you’re reflecting, it’s best to write down your thoughts, so it’s easier to go back and review whenever you feel like you need to reset or reflect. Next, take a moment to reflect on the milestones that you have achieved in the past year. What were they? Perhaps you’ve been trying to go back to your favourite sport, and you’ve had a few amazing sessions. Or maybe you recently learned to walk on your prosthetic leg with the help of your prosthetist and physical therapist. Whatever it is, remember those milestones and take a moment to bask in the glory of having been able to achieve them.
Celebrating your accomplishments strengthens your physiology as well as your psychology. It encourages your body to release endorphins, the hormones responsible for triggering a positive feeling. And allowing yourself to bask in the glow of these good feelings is essential to reinforce your success. It will enable you to step up the next time you face a new challenge or opportunity. On the flip side, not taking the time to reflect and celebrate your accomplishments wires your brain to think that what you’re doing isn’t necessary. If your daily life starts to feel mundane (even when you’re doing well), you will stop giving 100 percent of yourself to each task, leading to lackluster results. Simply put, choosing not to celebrate your accomplishments as a prosthesis user, no matter how small, will result in less focus and even stunted progress.
Your ampuversary is also the best time to remember the supportive people you’ve met along the way. They are the ones who are crucial to your success. The beautiful thing about the amputee journey is that you never walk it alone.
Dozens of supportive people walk alongside you, from your healthcare team to your prosthetist, your friends and family to members of your amputee support group. It’s also essential to take the time to thank them for their contribution to your success. You can choose to write a note, call, or thank your support circle in person. The method doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take the time to express your gratitude. Doing something as simple as thanking them means that you’re acknowledging your wins as well as their role in them. This is a great way to feel those endorphins mentioned above. It also helps tighten and strengthen your support group, who will be with you the next time you meet a new challenge.
Just like a new year or a birthday, celebrating an ampuversary allows you to pause and reflect on how far you have come. Celebrating or acknowledging your wins – big or small – is key to more success in the future. So, don’t take your ampuversary for granted. However, if you’re currently struggling in your amputee journey, don’t give up. Embrace, grow, and learn from your struggles. Then, set a date (preferably your ampuversary) when you can take a short break and allow yourself to see how far you’ve come. Do this, and you will see how ampuversaries can fuel you to face more challenges in the future.