The Recovery (Part 1): Pain

This is a continuation from The Unexpected Fall . If you haven’t read that post yet, start there before continuing on.


I refused to take my painkillers the first night I got back from the hospital. I felt fine at the moment and the doctor said to only take it “when needed”. Yeah…. I should’ve taken my painkillers that night. At around 2am, I was woken up by sharp, throbbing pain and cried because of how painful it was. I finally popped in some painkillers, but it was useless as I was already at level 10 pain. The irony is that this same thing happened to me when I had my knee surgery back in 2010, so I should’ve known. I remembered thinking then that I never wanted to feel this pain again, yet here we were. I cried and cried and cried until I fell back asleep at 4:30am out of exhaustion.

The next day, I woke up at 10am and realized, “Shit! I never called off work.” Then, tears immediately streamed down my face since I was still in so much pain and my foot felt like it was on fire. I tried to get my laptop that was across the room, but I couldn’t get up. It felt so heavy and painful to just lift my leg. I cried even more because I felt so helpless and frustrated. The simple act of getting out of bed became my greatest struggle. That theme continued throughout the 5 weeks I couldn’t walk, but crutch my way through daily life. Picking up things was a struggle, going from one room to another was a struggle, changing clothes was a struggle, moving things was a struggle, carrying things was a struggle, just simply living was a struggle.

That morning, I yelled for Ingria, my housemate at the time, to help grab my laptop. I tried to hold it together, but it was impossible to hide the pain and tears on my face. I felt so vulnerable, small, helpless, and embarrassed. At that moment, I hadn’t accepted that this was my reality – that I was in pain, could not walk, and was forced to rely on others whether I wanted to or not. I was in denial of the whole situation and kept replaying the accident over and over in my head and asking “what happened?”, “why did I slip?”, “what could I have done differently?”, “was I not strong enough?”, “am I a bad climber?”, “how could I have let this happen”, and on and on. I kept blaming myself for the accident. These thoughts clouded my mind and haunted me in my sleep for months.

The pain finally subsided after 4 days. Pain became discomfort as my back was hurting from sitting and laying all day. I consistently had terrible nights of sleep since my leg was bound by the huge cast. For the first 2 weeks, I couldn’t get the cast wet so Ingria had to help me shower. She would help wrap my leg in a trash bag, tape it around, and hand me soap as I showered seated.

Ingria was my saving grace. We spent so much time together that I was worried she was going to get annoyed with me. Anytime I needed help, even to simply grab my water bottle that was across the table, she’d help me. She made me meals, encouraged me to get up and move, listened when I needed to vent (which was a lot), and always made sure I had my meds and water by my bed before she went to sleep. She’d clean up my mess that I’d unintentionally leave around the house since it was hard for me to do anything. She was my little guardian angel.

Other friends also visited me and showered me with gifts and food. Even friends from home sent care packages and sweet notes. I felt so loved and cared for. These moments gave me so much joy and temporarily stopped my mind from endlessly going down the dark rabbit hole that I’ve created.

After 2 weeks, I had my first doctor’s check-up. He took out the stitches and it was the first time I saw my foot. It was a chubby little guy. The first thing I thought of was that it looked like Shrek’s foot. I was shocked and could not imagine how it was ever going to look normal again. I was still non-weight bearing but was transferred into a boot. It created more mobility and freedom. I could get it wet so showering was easier, I could sleep better since I didn’t have to keep the boot on, I could put on pants easier – it’s the little things y’all.

The doctor also gave me exercises to do which prompted me to also look into upper-body floor workouts. I was amazed at how much content there was on YouTube. With this small progression, I started to feel like things were going to be okay, that I was going to be okay. I was spending time with friends, occupying myself with the internet, reading, focusing on my workouts, and becoming a pro at doing things with one leg and being on crutches. My housemates gave me the distraction and time I wanted.

I tried
Ankle flexes all day err day

Because I became so fixated on trying to get better as fast as I could physically, I never gave myself the time and energy to process what happened and face my feelings. I gave myself an arbitrary number of one week to “feel sad” and “sorry for myself” and then it was go time. I told myself that I just needed to push through and tackle this recovery head on.

I thought I was healing, but what I was actually doing was avoiding my feelings and thoughts. I didn’t want to acknowledge the accident and accept my limitations. I didn’t want to deal with all the sadness, grief, anger, pain, helplessness, frustration, that I know I was feeling deep down. I simply just didn’t want to feel. So what did I do instead? I numbed my feelings and ignored my thoughts. When they would come up, I would box them and store them way in the back of my mind. I got so good at it that I genuinely felt fine on most days. No big deal.

Well, any healthy person knows that you can only ignore and numb your feelings for so long until they build up and bite you harder. I resisted for over a month, letting it grow and grow until it all came crashing down on me. It was then I realized… this is when the real healing begins.

Your friend,

Vivian


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