Roses On My Left Leg: How I Learnt To Love & Live With Chronic Pain

Roses On My Left Leg: How I Learnt To Love & Live With Chronic Pain
Anusha Misra

On June 25, Anusha Misra, who goes by ‘Nu’, celebrated her 13th ‘Stroke-a-versary’, to celebrate her second chance at life. Says Nu, “I had a stroke in 2007 and I never acknowledged or celebrated a stroke-a-versary until today. Today, I made a list of things I’ve survived so far in my life. Amongst several losses, it included a stroke, relapses of my chronic illness, lupus, more depressive episodes than I can count on my fingers, lost friendships, lost relationships. ... I have always been a rebel. I have always jumped into the metaphorical fire even though my anxiety begged me not to.” Nu, who runs the Revival Disability Magazine one of India’s very few publications that discuss disability and feminism, dreams of building the largest crip community in India so that no disabled person feels alienated anymore.

Pain is subjective. However, it’s also personal and equally objective, which pretty much makes it an oxymoron, and perhaps, in not belonging to either side and not claiming to ephemeral or the ‘only truth’, it becomes as sublime as love. With pain comes pity. Pitiful eyes that gaze and claim to understand but that limit themselves to grazingly mock or find contentment in “I’m glad that’s not me.” To truly love what pains, therefore, is a rarity.

Nu’s story is interspersed with pain, but, in no way, is it solely about pain. Far beyond being in pain, Nu is “sad, sexual, queer, vulnerable, loud, and a rebel.” To her, the self-love of her body is equally important. She says, “Confidence is also very very integral. I remember when I used to wear special shoes that used to look huge on my feet. They were called Ankle-foot Orthos and they helped me walk. I used to hate wearing dresses at that point because my shoes used to come up to my knees and I thought I looked ugly. I also used to have a rule that whenever I wear a dress, I won’t use my crutch. I felt the need to conform to the norm of looking ‘lady-like’: an idea of feminity that had been ingrained in me by patriarchy and social media.”

Her disability has never been a gentle breeze for her and she confidently says that none of her stories is adorned with daisies and sunflowers. Over the years, she has learnt to not only emotionally depend on herself but also ask for support when she needs it.

Amalgamating all of her power, pain, pride, and love, she says, “I write these stories for YOU, the chronically ill, bedridden folx who still haven’t lost hope, I write for the old me — the girl who was too exhausted to say or do anything, wondering every day how her life would turn out, wondering when her life will begin. I write for the folx who couldn’t stand or move their fingers and are now living in a new city. I write for those who are on their journey to self-acceptance, I write for those who don’t have the loudest voice but have a loud heart that is ready to riot.”

When Homegrown got to know about Nu, we knew that we had to have her talk to our folx, and so, here is Nu, talking about herself and how she has grown to love each part of herself, including the ‘golden girl’ of her body, her left leg, in her own words.

“Living with chronic pain makes me have good days and bad days. Any recovery in life is always an inconsistent process. There are good days and bad days. There are days with un-shampooed hair, worn-out clothes, bad dreams and there are days with jazz, the kind that makes you dance alone in a room while you feel joy and empowerment, and when you draw a symmetrically perfect shaped crescent and name it the moon.

Nu writes a poetic love letter to her left leg,

The Golden Girl Of My Anatomy: My Left Leg

I look down at my numb foot full of pins and needles
Are you there? I scream.
I try to wiggle it as fast as I can,
My toes are squiggly and crumpled.
Most days I forget about them,
Except on days when I beg them to give me some sensation
Even if it’s a whiff or a smidge or a blop or a bloom.
My right leg has been supporting my left leg my entire life,
It’s as though my right leg is carrying on the legacy of my long-forgotten left leg,
My therapist told me that my body was a temple,
So I started wearing anklets on my left leg,
They had several moons and stars on them,
I started painting on my left thigh too,
After all, after years of physical pain, she deserves all the love in the world,
Nowadays, I’ve begun being grateful for my left leg,
For putting up with me during all those nights of pins and needles, crying over the loss of my mobility, numbness and tiredness and pain and plaster that I acquired after a medical professional poked and prodded at my poor leg for several hours while I dreamt about roses and cultivating my own fruit garden.
I’m done grieving and giving my left leg rebuttals, I’m done shouting at my left leg forcing it to do better,

My left leg is my golden girl—the black sheep of my anatomy,

So now, I paint roses on it every Thursday and forgive it for going to sleep once in a while,

and dip it in rose water, for it survived.
I forgive it for buckling and for not being strong enough,

My left leg is much like me — still growing, still breathing and takes it one day at a time, appreciating small victories.

(This was written from my toilet seat, and, oh no! my left leg is asleep again!)”

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