School is not exactly the most comfortable atmosphere in which to wear a brace, but “I’ve been there – done that” and have come away with some helpful tips to make the experience a more enjoyable one.
Tip #1 – Introducing your brace
Have you thought about how you are going to share your brace with the world? You could choose a “grand entrance” such as, making a presentation to share with your class about what your brace is and why you wear it, or you could choose to fly under the radar and only share the details of your brace with the people you feel most comfortable telling. The choice is yours! In my case however, I decided that I was not going to treat my brace like a secret, but I also wasn’t going to be shouting from the rooftops that I was wearing it.
My biggest piece of advice here is: “The way you put it out, is the way others will perceive it.” This means that if you are very nonchalant and explain that the brace is not a big deal, “It’s like braces for your teeth, only for my back” people will not bother with asking you more questions. However, if you lead with “Oh this brace is awful!” people will most likely perceive it to be worse than it really is and ask you more questions to get to the bottom of what exactly your brace does.
Tip #2 – How you feel about your brace, makes all the difference.
Be confident! I wasted way too many years being self conscious about my brace. I promise, when you walk into a room, no one immediately knows you are wearing a brace – they don’t have X-ray vision. Live your life just like you did before you had the brace and don’t take up precious brain energy worrying about what others think of your new spine accessory, you will need it for studying! No one is thinking about your brace as much as you believe they are.
Tip #3 – Clothes!
Who doesn’t love a shopping spree?! If you do not wear a uniform to school, I suggest that you invest in things that make you feel comfortable and confident. I stuck to loose fitting shirts and sweatshirts for the school months as they made me feel much more relaxed. I would often pair a shirt or a sweater with a vest in the fall, as this was a perfect way to conceal my brace and keep me warm. I would also suggest that if you like to wear your pants under your brace that you take off the belt loops, they can really hurt your hips after a long day of brace wearing!
Tip #4 – What to do when you need to take your brace off at school
During P.E. class, there will often times be activities where you will need to take your brace off (sit ups, volleyball, basketball, etc…). If you are like me and aren’t very comfortable with the idea of taking your brace off in a room full of people for gym class, have no fear, your school nurse will be your new best friend! I would suggest that you go and visit your school nurse at the beginning of the year and explain your situation with the brace and that you would like to store it safely in their office while you are at gym class. If you are feeling comfortable and confident with your brace and you would just like to store it in the locker room (or your P.E. teacher’s office) during the class feel free to choose that path. In fact, looking back on my brace wearing years I would tell my younger self not to worry and just go with the latter.
Wearing a brace to school really isn’t so hard after all. The idea is more intimidating than the reality. Remember that the brace is not forever and your time wearing it will be over before you know it. Have fun, learn lots, and “embrace the brace! It will be worth it!”