It’s official. I canNOT get out of my own way. I had been experiencing some significant ankle/achilles pain this past fall, yet somewhat carried on with my normal activities. I even attended an awesome certification training to teach my favorite class, WERQ (cardio-dance fitness). As time passed, my pain increased and it became painful to walk, to put on my winter boots (that’s always a little painful;), and it became especially painful to drive, which is a bit of a bummer when you drive for a living.
You’ll be proud of me, however…I actually went to the doctor in early December!! If you know me, you know that I grew up without health insurance, and learned to excuse away symptoms, or better yet, just ignore them. “You’re fine,” Ken used to say, “it’s far enough away from your heart.” Now there IS some truth in that. We certainly don’t need to rush to the doctor for every sniffle and twinge of pain. So far, I’ve lived a good, healthy life with very little need for medical intervention, and I count myself incredibly blessed! So when this ankle/heel pain started, I figured it was just a little side effect of my addiction to WERQ.
Well thank goodness I didn’t suffer in silence!! I had three appointments with the orthopedic doctor. I had x-rays to check for fractures/spinal issues (everything looked good), took oral cortisone after the first appointment, braved a cortisone injection to the joint at the second appointment, plus another dose of oral steroids just in case, but I was STILL in pain. I even abstained from dancing 6 days a week;), and when I DID brave a class, I wore my amazing bubble brace and hopped on my “healthy” leg through lateral moves. NOTHING seemed to help. By the third visit to the doctor, my options were – trying a hyaluronic injection to the joint (not covered by insurance and may not really help), or go in for arthroscopic surgery, to “mow the grass” (WHAT??) and fix any imperfections of the joint. Sounds amazing, right!?
Oh. And by the way – the doc just so happened to have a cancellation for the following Monday morning and it was MINE if wanted it. Talk about luck….
Just like every other part of my life when faced with a decision, I look at the options in front of me, make the best choice, and then I jump ALL in without ever looking back. This time, however, I will admit questioning my decision just a little bit – did I really need surgery? Maybe it didn’t hurt THAT much…
But you guys!?!? In the end, I was SO brave!! No tears, no panic, no (serious) freaking out!? I may have become a one-woman show with the nurse and anesthesiologist . And yeah, I drew a huge, obnoxious heart around my initials on my ankle, then proceeded to show off my pre-op art like a toddler would display a glitter, glue and feather masterpiece on the fridge. But I was FIIIINNNNE….nothing to see here. 😉
In the end, the procedure was mostly uneventful. Two little incisions, and not much to write home about until the doc got to the back side of the joint. It was a crazy, gnarled mess and no wonder I was in SO MUCH pain!? Seriously, take a look at this (WARNING – graphic image to follow; not for the faint at heart)….
And what, actually, is my point to this whole minor surgery, story sharing ordeal?? I learned a TON about myself through this experience. I would rather sew my head to the carpet than accept help. Yet my people showed up, and I let them. Baby’s daddy took not one, but TWO days off work to get me to the surgical center, and to drive me around to my accounts when I was (sort of) back on my feet the next day. A dear friend kept watch in the waiting room and was such a comforting sight to see when I was wheeled out to go home (and gave me amazing new socks, which is one of my favorite creature comforts). And in the days that followed surgery, my people continued to show up – checking in on me, helping with the kids, driving Miss Daisy to work and to social functions, and reminding me that indeed the sun would come out tomorrow and I would eventually be able to walk again, without needing to put a quarter in the swear jar. 😉
But more than anything, I was reminded of how blessed I have been to live a pretty healthy life, generally only limited by my own fears and insecurities. I came out of surgery barely remembering my name, but SO incredibly grateful for a skilled surgeon, his caring support staff, and the sweet nurse who brought me my first snack after fasting for nearly 24 hours (I hadn’t been that hungry since my days as a poor college student;). I was thankful for the open toe of my stylish, post-surgical boot because the bitter cold January air actually felt good on my tingling ticky-toes. I was thankful for the 2 seconds of sunshine on my way to fill my pain med script, because it suddenly seemed like I hadn’t felt that kind of warmth since 3rd grade. I was beyond thankful for the healing hugs of my (not so) little people, who surely grew six inches while I was gone (for a few hours;).
I wasn’t so excited about the utter exhaustion that washed over me a few hours later. I napped more in the day or two following surgery than I’m pretty sure I had throughout my toddler years. Two days post-op, when the pain kicked in a bit and the open toed robo-boot no longer felt sexy, I was done. DONE. Calling it a day and ticked at the world that jacked up joints are even a thing.
The first post-surgery (half-ish) bath was an adventure to say the least.
And it just so happens that the “everything hurts and I’m dying” stage of post-op recovery can actually show up at EXACTLY the same time as “if I don’t wash my hair, I may actually lose my mind (the rest of the way)” stage. I wasn’t supposed to shower for at least a week – EEK!! Once again, my people came through. I could barely make it up the stairs, but my sweet Emma gathered all of the supplies and lovingly washed my hair, and even helped me get dressed. I suddenly had a better understanding of the vulnerability that my Home Health and Hospice patients experience. While certainly not to the same extreme, I was frustrated by my limitations and discouraged by my lack of independence. I also understood the aversion to pain meds. I didn’t like how tired and loopy they made me feel, but I knew rest was essential to recovery. More than anything I realized – I will be a force to be reckoned with one day in “the home.” I’m independent to a fault and my determination can be detrimental. My surgeon is still scratching his head as to a). how I damaged the joint and b). how I was dancing through the pain for months. I won’t claim to know the answer to either mystery, but I am SO very thankful for pain that comes (mostly) to an end, and to stitches that eventually come out.
I was definitely thankful for my “You’re Okay” Band Aids that served as a reminder that I would probably pull through my minor ankle surgery. 😉 I’m even thankful for my bowling-inspired, glittery laced, sensible orthopedic shoes! I was a little self-conscious to wear them at first, but when I spent a long weekend visiting my parents in their new home in The Villages (Florida), I quickly realized I fit right in! Almost wished I had brought the walker and the boot! 😉
I also found that this simple little surgery triggered some not-so-simple emotions from the past. And yes, I’ve heard your feedback about ‘letting go of the past’, etc. I know the intentions are good, but I’ll go ahead and heal in my own way, and honor the hurts that I’ve lived through, in much the same way that I honor your story and your unique hurts. If you are sick of the “woe is me,” then please feel free to unsubscribe and move along. ANYWAY…I had become so skilled (expert even) at ignoring pain, and pushing through discomfort. I wouldn’t have dared speak up about any pain on Robinson Drive, because unless you lost a limb, you were going to be just fine. And maybe I was never sanctioned to carry the financial burden of those years, but I was acutely aware of the bills, and the stress over paying all of them with Ken’s humble paycheck (that he often drank away before it paid a single bill). I grew up terrified to have a need or create an expense, because it would cause a fight and maybe it would even drive Ken to drink more. I learned to not give my needs attention, or a voice, and I was so good at this behavior that it became a way of life. In fact, I still fight the tendency to just “suck it up”, instead of speaking up.
Oh, and by the way, I’ve also had some tooth pain in recent months (don’t even get me started on the dental work I’ve endured and funded- that’s a whole other post;). Right before my ankle surgery, I discovered a fractured filling and was originally going to wait until my next cleaning to speak up (wish I was kidding). Be proud – I fought habit, and actually called the dentist to schedule an appointment before my cleaning! In the course of scheduling the appointment, I mentioned I wasn’t available the following Monday due to minor surgery. Well bust my buttons, you can’t have a ding dang surgery if you have outstanding dental issues! Outstanding alright!? So now, not only did I need ankle surgery, but I also needed to have a tooth fixed and possibly even a crown. You guys – I came UNdone. I caused not one, but TWO expenses, and if my teeth were just perfect (decent even), and my stupid ankle hadn’t been defective;), none of this would be happening. And here’s the real kicker – we have pretty decent insurance coverage, and I work full-time, plus my skincare side-hustle, so it’s truly not even a financial thing anymore. But it is SUCH an emotional thing, to be sure. I often don’t even see it coming, but it’s such a part of me, to carry the responsibility of so many things that are not my “fault” and certainly aren’t mine to carry. Again – no one ever asked me to play the part, I just so naturally took it on. You wouldn’t know any of this (except I spill my guts to the “interwebs” regularly;), but I’m working so hard behind the scenes, to lay this down. To step away from carrying the weight of the world and from the habits of ignoring my pain and my needs and my RIGHT to take up space in this world. I GET to have needs. I GET to speak up. Now I’m realizing that not only do I GET to, but I absolutely HAVE to.
The irony, is that my teeth (and my smile) are one of the first things I get compliments on when talking to people (“you’re teeth are PERFECT”, I’m often told). I’m here to tell you that I could send one of my kiddos to college on the amount of dental work that I have had done as an adult. Life is not always as perfect as it seems, and I’m not ever going to pretend (again) that it is. I hid behind perfectionism on Robinson Drive, and throughout college and grad school, and even when I became a Mama. I had many people fooled that I had it all together. But guess what – I’ve been brave and terrified at the very same moment, every day of my life, and have worried that people would figure out that I was a fraud. That Ken was a drunk. That we all have our own addictions. That our “perfect little world” was actually a huge debacle. I’m still a hot mess, even on my best days. And you know what – I embrace my mess (at least I’m a hot one;)! I forgive myself right here and right now, for having janky teeth and a jacked up joint. And I will no longer carry the burden of perfectionism. It’s a work in progress for sure, and who knows what will come up next from the vault of Robinson Drive. But I tell you what – I’m thankful for it all. For the challenges that taught me life skills, for the pain that brought me to my strength, and for the empathy that I have for whatever struggles you are facing in this life. Adulting is no joke – it hurts, and it’s hard, and sometimes I want a big fat do-over. But I’m stuck with these teeth;), and I thank God every day that I have even ONE tooth left in my head to brush!
So what are you lugging around in this life, that isn’t yours to carry? What can you release yourself of RIGHT NOW, to start living the life you deserve? You are worthy of love, and belonging, and connection JUST the way you are. So here’s to janky teeth, jacked up joints, and a life that is amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time. And if you realize that the path you’re on is no longer serving you, my wish for you is to have the courage to speak up, and choose a new path. Saving space for you, and whatever path you’re on.