A little over two weeks ago, this word wasn’t really part of my conscious vocabulary. That’s not to say I didn’t know what it meant, just that I wasn’t in recovery and didn’t know anyone recovering from anything.
That changed, as you all know, on Friday the 13th.
A little over one week ago, I thought recovery was a word I was going to love. As in “After surgery, when you’re recovering…”
As it turns out, recovery isn’t all I’d cracked it up to be.
Maybe I put lofty aspirations on the after-surgery portion of my injury. I expected to be fitted with a hard cast by now, able to get around better and get back to work. I expected that, somehow, life would be easier after they pinned and plated and screwed my bones back together. After they gave me miracle pills that would help it be ok. After that, it would just be time.
Time to mend, time to heal, time to relax a bit, time to rebuild what I was inevitably going to lose in muscle tone and strength.
I saw it in the distance, my full recovery. Going into and even coming out of surgery I could see it getting closer, almost something I could grasp in my hand. I could almost smell the dirt and trees I was missing on the trail runs my friends posted on Facebook, and I knew I’d be there soon.
But much like smoke, it dissipated. Recovery seems to have disappeared with each passing hour I spend in stillness, trying to get better.
Hours I’ve spent lying or mostly propped up in my bed, watching mindless television, trying to read, or occupying my time on the computer. Hours when I’ve defied doctor’s orders and sat at a table working on a puzzle, only to realize I’d lost feeling in my toes due to swelling. Hours when I’ve had to rely on friends to bring meals for my family, because let’s face it – a woman who can only stand on one foot isn’t going to be a gourmet chef.
Hours when I’ve had my parents, who have concerns of their own, chauffeuring me about to appointments and even to their house just to have a different environment in which to sit.
You don’t consider this part, really, when you’re first injured. You just don’t think about the endless dependence on others for the simplest of things. I don’t like asking for help or being dependent on anyone for anything, and this is part is particularly awful to endure.
Dependence for things like eating.
I can’t carry much, so if my boys are at school and I’m in my bed, I’d better be well set with water and snacks to last about ten hours. I’ve learned to make my way downstairs and really can carry small things, but any food that requires preparation or even a dish…not do-able on my own with any sort of regularity. I’ve gone hours sitting here, knowing I could make it downstairs but not wanting to stress my healing ankle, and I’ve gone hungry. And thirsty.
I can do small things, like make it across my room to the bathroom, or downstairs once or twice a day, but I’m left so exhausted after those trips I immediately regret doing them. Upper body strength was never my strong suit, so crutching my way down the stairs and around the house, then hauling myself up the fourteen stairs once more is a lot.
My foot doesn’t hurt much anymore, but now it’s my glutes, quads, shoulders, and back muscles that spasm from being stressed by using crutches or sitting/lying in the same position for hours on end. I have constant headaches from the kink in my neck that comes from reading or typing while lying down.
I know, it sounds like a ton of self-pity. It is.
If I sit upright for more than 30 minutes, the toes on my right foot turn purple and swell. The nurses assure me it’s normal and that I just need to continue to elevate. And take the pills I’ve been prescribed.
I’m not even sure what they’re supposed to do anymore.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m wallowing in my own sorrow. No, I mean this blog post as a testament to what happens in the mind of an active person who suddenly isn’t.
Certainly I’m not alone in this. Certainly others who have had similar injuries requiring similar recovery can relate.
My brain and 80% of my body long for the outdoors, which I rarely see these days. I even have vivid dreams about hiking, running, and cycling. When I wake, the disappointment is almost cruel.
Depression is a real thing to someone who used to set her alarm to get up at 4am to make a 5am trail run up in the canyons. It’s a reality for someone who has a drive to achieve at a job she loves but cannot do adequately because of her mobility issues.
Depression is a dark cloud that threatens to encompass everything I am in the hours I sit alone, waiting anxiously to hear the front door open when my sons return home from school. In those hours, I become convinced that I’ll never heal, that it will be like this forever. That I’ll not ever run without pain again. That I’m permanently broken, damaged goods of no use to anyone.
Depression rears its ugly head when I think of next week and the trip my boys will be on, leaving town for six days. It’s wondering what I’ll do with all that time if my doctor has not cleared me to return to work. And how I’ll feed myself, and what happens if I fall and no one is here to help.
That’s possible if I fail to get my hard cast in a few days.
My prognosis has me finally receiving my hard cast two days from now, and then spending three more weeks in it. After, I should have a walking boot to train my ankle and support it while I learn to walk on my new hardware. That will be about four weeks, but at least I’ll be able to ditch the crutches then.
I try to think rationally. I’ve been like this for two and a half weeks, so three more shouldn’t be so bad, particularly in a hard cast when I can move about. Three weeks from now, when I’m looking at having the doctor take that damned thing off as well, and put me back on two feet.
I’m halfway there, if you consider that I injured myself almost three weeks ago.
But just like most days since I hurt myself, tomorrow will come, the boys will shout their goodbyes from downstairs, and I’ll hear the front door shut.
The loudest sound of all, because then I’m alone and dependent on only myself.
Oddly, companionship is no salve for this condition. I have had some great visits from friends and my parents, so it’s not like I’ve actually been abandoned. It just doesn’t help.
It doesn’t fix what’s broken. And sadly, neither may this. The surgery, the waiting…I may still be permanently incapacitated to some extent.
Neither do the brightly-colored pills in their amber bottles, each one promising to make it all better.
Only time will fix it. Or not.
And in the case of time, I’m completely out of control. I can’t make it pass faster.
I can only do my best to cope and stay sane.