Brace yourselves: Or how I hold it together

Nikki Barr
3 min readJan 19, 2022
Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

Anyone who’s chatted with me over the last week or so has, undeniably, heard (or got a text) to the effect that my brace is draining my will to ____. The blank could be anything from live to eat to sit upright. Now, that may be only a handful of people, but I “hear” myself saying it a lot.

When the random person with a brace in a bag showed up in my hospital room breathless and a tad disheveled as if she had to scale the building to the ninth floor, I didn’t think much of it. I was still on the good meds at that point and had the attitude that you want to put a brace on me? If it gets me to go home, strap it on!

She showed me how to put it on, and joked that you just “cinch up the straps-like a corset.” The nurse in the room laughed a bit, but I didn’t. I was actually troubled by the simile to a garment that has so much historical social stigma related to class and female appearance meant for proper healing of my spine.

The same chuckles nurse — who was by far the most unpleasant of caretakers I had during my stay — yelled at me an hour later as I attempted to take the brace off to go to the bathroom. When I clarified that I was somehow expected to perform the gymnastics of navigating a bed pan while wearing a hospital gown now secured firmly by the corset, she affirmed that for me. As if the bedpan situation wasn’t ridiculous enough.

At home, I remove the brace (aka the binder when I’m in a bad mood) to use the bathroom. The logistics of clothing practically require it. Post surgical winter fashion trends frown on the pants/underwear over top the brace look for 2022. It’s out of my hands, really.

The brace is a lumbar support device. It has a small surfboard back that is connected to various pieces of canvas-velcro fabrics and straps, and my favorite part, the sides are square plastic inserts into a mesh sleeve. This is not designed for a female torso. It is designed more for the male physique, though I’m certain that the addition of somewhat inflexible plastic is meant to allow the support of bending into the waist. But what actually happens is that it ends up digging into my rib cage. It reminds me of ill-fitting underwire push-up bras.

Today, I used a small wash cloth to provide some padding between my person and the poorly chosen material that make up the binder. I’ve also taken breaks and went and laid in bed for an hour or two — as I can be brace-free in bed/sleeping and the shower.

I’ll admit, out for a walk, the brace is appreciated. But, I am looking forward to less restrictions, which I hope means less brace time in 3 more weeks. Just three more weeks. In the meantime, I’m losing my will to sit with the laptop. I might go take a shower now.

Song of the day: Brightside (acoustic), The Lumineers



Nikki Barr

Normal human in an extraordinaire world. Memoir / Humor / Just Life