A STUDENT’S HIDDEN PAIN . . .

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Patty Cake

“Special” to The Dryersonian

It’s a day I’ll never forget.

I was sitting in Madame Hawkins Grade 4 class waiting anxiously for the bell to ring. I touched my pocket to make sure I had my brand new jumbo pink slammer. It was safe, and I was ready. Little did I know that I was about to have my first run-in with the condition that would affect me for my entire life.

Pog fever had swept our elementary school and I was caught in the thick of it. I had earned the reputation for being handy with a slammer and I had kids lining up to challenge me. Today’s showdown was with Jenni Crawford, an older kid from the bad side of school. She had a limited edition Pog that I desperately wanted, and I had wagered my whole collection trying to get at it.

When recess was announed, I leaped from my seat and ran outside. But something was off. My right arm felt… funny. And then I knew. My arm – was asleep. Even in my state of shock, I knew that this was the worst thing to ever happen in my life.

I knew I wasn’t in optimal Pog-playing form. I tried to back out of the match when Jenni showed up, but she wasn’t having any of it. I groaned and rotated my arm, I knew this would be bad.

We flipped a slammer to determine who went first and I won the toss. I crossed myself for luck and tried to shake off the pins and needles in my arms.

It didn’t work.

It was my turn, and unable to feel my fingers, I made a pathetic attempt to knock the Pogs over. My feeble effort barely made a dent and Jenni seized her turn with glee. With a mighty heave, she threw down the slammer and knocked over the whole pile.

I went catatonic. With one turn, my whole collection of Pogs had disappeared – all because of my sleeping arm. I went home and cried. I wanted the world to end. There was no way this was happening to me.

I was still crying when my mother came home from work. When she tried to talk to me, I just buried my head deeper under the covers.

Despite my refusal to look at her, she launched into an explanation of our family’s history with the affliction. As far back as anyone can remember, my family has had various sleeping limbs. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and we can still lead normal, healthy lives. Having my arm fall asleep occasionally wouldn’t do me any harm, my mother assured me.

I’ve done some reasearch into the topic now, and I’ve discovered that nearly 65 per cent of people suffer in silence from pins and needles. I’m just like everyone else, and I wish people would recognize it, dammit!

Still, back then it was hard to be consoled when my Pog empire had just crumbled around me. My mother just laughed and hugged me – and then we went shopping for new Pogs.

I felt better temporarily after the first incident, but I quickly fell into a deep depression. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t feel like a whole human being again. Nothing would ever be the same. My disease would always be in the back of my mind, lurking, ready to flare up at any moment.

High school was especially tough. Once, my math teacher asked me to do a problem on the board. But I had been resting on my arm and it was now asleep. I had to pass the task off to someone else while the rest of the class snickered and gave me dirty looks.

Kids used to pass me in the hall and laugh at me. They would try to high-five me when they knew I was perfectly incapable of giving them one back. I would scream at them to leave me alone, but that would only fuel the fire. I seriously considered ending my life.

The turning point in my life came when I met my hero, Sammy from Days of Our Lives. My family was on vacation in Los Angeles when we ran into her outside of a restaurant. I told her about my disease, and she revealed that she had suffered from pins and needles her whole life! Sammy told me that I should never be ashamed of who I am.

When I got back to school, I held my head up high and ignored the jerks that mocked me. I learned to take pride in my affliction. If someone didn’t treat me with respect, I didn’t want to know them.

I’m now a councillor at a summer camp for children that suffer from the same syndrome that I do. I try to teach them to embrace who they are. If people put them down, I tell them to straighten up and fly right, square their shoulders, puff out their chests and set their jaws. Sometimes I forget the advice I’ve tried to share and get down on myself. But my campers always set me back on the right track. I love those kids.

The other day my foot fell asleep while I was on the subway. Instead of getting upset about it, I just kept riding along until the episode had passed. Sure I missed my stop by six stations, but when I got off, I didn’t even limp.

After all, I’ve learned that you can’t fight the way nature made you. My limbs may fall asleep, but my mind is still agile. And I’m happy with that.

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