No one in my life has told me that wearing leg braces is something to be ashamed of. But I believed that it was because growing up I’d hear “Why do you walk like that?” countless times and saw immature eighth grade boys mocking my limp. They were all harmless, really; kids ask because they’re kids, curious and genuinely wanting to know and eighth grade boys just make dumb jokes. But I didn’t fully realize this when I was young, so all my life I’ve only worn things that cover my legs. My wardrobe never had any skirts, short dresses or shorts. I’m 21 years old now and today it still doesn’t. I know that although I have CMT and therefore I do things differently, I’m the same as everyone else in this world. It’s such an obvious and basic fact and yet to this day I won’t go out in public showing my braces. Twenty-one years of catching someone staring at me because of my disability has been repeatedly seared into my mind, which has registered it as trauma that I can’t bear to have strangers possibly see me in my braces. I wouldn’t even allow any of my friends see me with them on. Growing up, I had sleepovers at my best friend’s house a lot, where I worried about getting ready to go to sleep. During the day I’d keep my shoes on in the house keeping my braces a secret, but they inevitably had to go off before I went to bed. I always made sure to bring a big tote and extra jackets just to stuff my braces at the bottom and bury it with clothes on top so that there wasn’t a chance of my friend noticing them if she were to pass by my bag. I always had her leave the room when I changed and made sure that the door was locked before I grabbed ahold of the velcro fasteners on my braces. I was always so scared that someone would hear me ripping them off as I tried my best to take off my braces quietly. I worked so hard to keep my wearing braces an eternal secret because I was afraid that I’d lose my best friend if she were to find out. I knew that deep, deep down inside she wouldn’t – she really was my best friend who loved me – but I never wanted to take that chance. Just the thought of her not talking to me in class anymore or not wanting to be seen with me at lunch was enough for me to never risk her finding out. I didn’t want to be alone. After seven years, we’re no longer friends. It’s funny because I thought that if there ever were a reason that we’d break up it’d be because of my braces, but our friendship actually ended because we gradually grew different when we went off to college. Life has proven to me that my braces present no problem at all, yet I still see it as a secret to keep.