If you’re going through hell, keep going. ~Winston Churchill
I chose this quote earlier this week. Ironically, nobody needs it more than me on this Wisdom Wednesday. Traumatic stress can be a real rollercoaster. Today I will ride it out, knowing tomorrow will be better. I just have to keep moving forward.
This morning was difficult. I had lots of fatigue, pain, and stiffness. I got out of bed at 6:00 am, and made my way to the couch where I slept another 4 hours. When I did get up, I didn’t feel like doing anything. I made myself go to the YMCA, where I got into the whirlpool and sauna. This coupled with the fact that it was sunny and warm (79 degrees) really helped my spirits (and body). We also had dinner delivered by the angel that has been cooking for us on Tuesdays. Now it is evening and I am feeling much better… and grateful for all the things that have turned my day from a rough one to a pleasant one.
My son took this photograph just before I left for the hospital. I removed the splint so you could see the pins. (The stitches were removed two weeks ago.)
My husband took this photograph after we returned home this evening. It’s the first time I’ve had my wedding rings on in 4 months. (We actually drove home to get them before we went out to dinner.)
I still have some occupational therapy to do, and I have to sleep in a splint at night, but my hands are recovering. I actually typed this with the three veteran typing fingers on my right hand, and my index finger and thumb on my left. Now that’s progress!
Recovering from trauma is a process, with it ups and downs… three steps forward, two steps back… and can be unpredictable.
Yesterday was a pretty good day until, on my way home from a trip to the store, a bus pulled up right behind us at a red light. I thought I had overcome all of my anxiety surrounding buses. Evidently, I have more work to do.
After having been hit by a school bus while walking to my car in November, I worked with a cognitive behaviorist who recommended exposure therapy. Right after my accident, the hair on my neck stood on end every time heard a school bus drive by my house. This was particularly difficult as three buses pick up children in the morning and the same three drop off children in the afternoon.
My therapist suggested I overcome my fear of the bus by gradually getting closer to it until I could tolerate the fleeting feeling of anxiety that always came with hearing it. After standing at the front door with my walker when the bus came by in the mornings, I eventually had my husband take me outside in my wheelchair when the bus dropped off my son in the afternoon. This strategy enabled me to pass buses on the road with no physiological symptoms… until yesterday.
When I realized there was a bus behind our car, I felt a bit queasy. Then I heard its brakes and almost immediately developed an excruciating headache. By the time we got home, I felt physically sick and cried intermittently for the next 30 minutes. I felt completely drained and remained on the couch for the next several hours.
Having participated in a trauma survivors’ class and individual therapy, I knew that I needed to talk about what I was experiencing. I talked to my husband and gave myself permission to feel what I was feeling. I forgave myself for having what I saw as a setback. Although I was emotionally exhausted, I was feeling better before I went to bed.
I slept late this morning, and woke up feeling calm. In fact, I had the thought that I felt unusually peaceful. Like a still lake, I felt emotionally placid. The day was peaceful and quiet, with no surprises. Once again, I am grateful for a good day and the fact that there are increasingly more good ones than challenging ones.
On October 6, 2011, my father lost his battle with lung cancer. Soon after, my sister’s best friend lost her father to lung cancer as well. The following spring my sister and her friend suggested that we walk in the Fight for Air Walk to raise money for the American Lung Association. My step-father had also been living with COPD for some time so lung disease was profoundly affecting all of us “girls” (all in our 30’s & 40’s). I thought participating in the walk would help my healing process, so I volunteered to captain the team that we named “Daddies’ Girls.”
My step-father continues his struggle with lung disease and Daddies’ Girls continue to walk. This year will be especially important for me. Not only will I be raising money for a good cause and supporting family and friends affected by lung disease, but I will be walking after being in an accident last fall which left me unable to walk on my own for 2 1/2 months due to multiple fractures in my pelvis and a fractured hip. I also had 9 fractured ribs which made breathing difficult.
I am currently receiving physical therapy to regain the strength in my legs, and the mobility in my hip and knee (which was also broken and lacerated). I also had several other injuries that didn’t affect my ability to walk, but have required rest for the healing process. I began walking on my own a couple of weeks ago, and started focusing on this year’s Fight for Air Walk. I am looking forward to being out in the May sunshine, with my “girls” beside me, as I continue doing something that makes a difference.
Today, my hubby posted these pictures on his Facebook page with the words “Buh-bye ramp!” I was grateful for my father-in-law’s labor of love (building my wheelchair ramp after my accident) and now it no longer serves me so it is time to let it go.
The day I was cleared to walk, we returned home from the orthopedist and I asked my husband to leave the wheelchair in the trunk of the car. I was grateful for the loaner from my step-father, and I was ready to release it. I returned it rather than bringing it back into the house.
When it no longer served me, I asked my husband to put my walker out in the garage. The same was true for my tub transfer seat. And I recently put my cane out of sight. It isn’t that these things trigger bad memories. I simply want to keep moving forward, and it seems like getting the things that no longer serve me out of my awareness helps me do just that.
Today I finished the process to obtain my coaching certification. I am ecstatic, as this is something I have dreamed of and only recently had the intestinal fortitude to do. I took what could have been a tragedy (traumatic injury) and used it to create something good (Alchemy-turning base metal into gold).
Tomorrow, I embark on a journey I had begun 2 weeks before my accident in November. I planned to optimize my health through an exercise and eating regimen that I abandoned when my accident prompted me to accept meals prepared by caring souls whom I would not ask to meet all of my dietary needs (although they did a great job of keeping me Gluten free). It is time to reinstate my transformation.
I am also happy to celebrate my son-in-law’s 24th birthday. He and my daughter dated for several years before they married in November of 2012. I have watched him grow from an unsure teenager to an admirable young man that I am grateful to have as my daughter’s helpmeet. (My oldest son’s birthday was on Wednesday, making it a week full of celebrations.)
To top the day off, today I was asked to write for an organization I support. I nonchalantly shared my experience with them, and later they asked me if would share my story. I am finally beginning to feel like a real writer, even though I know the only thing necessary for me to be a writer is that I write.
I waited to post until later today because I was hoping to entitle this one Writer’s Hands, Part 3. I went to the hand surgeon today, thinking the stitches and pins would be removed from my left pinkie. The former were, but not the latter. But I did get the go ahead to remove the splint from my right pinkie.
I have resisted putting pictures of my finger online because they are quite graphic. I find them quite fascinating but when I’ve offered to take my splint off and show people what’s underneath, I often get responses like, “That’s all right” or “I’m good.” So my next “Writer’s Hands” post will have to wait for two more weeks.
On the other hand (no pun intended but after it came out, I decided to leave it), I was happy to hear that a woman who has been cooking for us every Tuesday would be bringing dinner. (I still have difficulty cooking because of my hands and because standing for long periods of time is painful.) I had not received the usual heads up she sends, so I thought we had enjoyed our last meal from her. Instead we arrived home from my doctor’s appointment to a hot meal of roasted chicken, green beans, and scalloped potatoes.
And really, when I looked back over the rest of my day, I even more for which I am grateful. I completed 2 hours of physical therapy this morning, without the usual fatigue that follows. Afterward, I mailed a coaching contract and assignment to a client. I completed the last module of an online course I am taking. I designed my own business cards and ordered some. I tackled a technology issue that I normally would have asked my husband to show me or do for me. In spite of my limitations, I was productive today.
Albeit, I was disappointed that I will still have a splint and pins for two more weeks, I really can’t complain. This day may have been a mixed bag, but there was much more good than anything else.
I am noticing that my recovery is not linear. Today I struggled to get up and get moving. I managed to make it through an hour and a half of physical therapy. Initially it was wonderful. My therapist did some soft tissue work, relieving the tension in my muscles from my previous visit and the headache I endured much of the previous night. She then assigned several exercises that quickly reactivated all the tension she had just relieved. I then returned home only to struggle to stay awake a short while. I finally gave in to the exhaustion and slept for two and a half hours. This evening my husband suggested dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, to which I quickly agreed. I will complete this post and my day will be essentially done.
This has been the pattern lately. If I take a shower, that’s the most physical activity I can endure in one day. If I go to the store or to run an errand, I’m done. It is somewhat frustrating for someone who has been used to running at full speed all of her adult life. I am learning to accept the low energy times, although I do regret the “lost time” until I remember that it isn’t “lost.” I have to remind myself that these afternoons when I have to recover from therapy or other activities are times my body needs to heal itself.
Above all else I have to remind myself that I am fortunate that these obstacles I am facing are not permanent. So I will accept the fact that some days my body’s need for rest will win out over my will to be Wonder Woman. In the long run, this will ensure that I keep moving forward. After all, three steps forward and two step back does equal forward movement… one step at a time.
This is a follow-up to my post on January 16, 2014 entitled Writer’s Hands. I resisted the temptation to include a picture of my exposed, post-surgery, pin-laden, stitched pinkie. I found it fascinating, yet others have described the graphic photo with other less-than-desirable adjectives (i.e, gruesome, gross).
I can now type with 5 fingers, 3 on the right and 2 on the left. Unfortunately, I still cannot wash dishes or vacuum. (Okay, I must confess. I actually don’t really mind doing dishes. In fact, I actually enjoy housework in general. Strange, I know.) Using my cane is a little tricky, but not impossible.
In addition to my hand issues, I am now attending physical therapy regularly. It feels good to be moving again, and I am exhausted (and somewhat uncomfortable) afterward. And at the end of the day, I am grateful to be making progress every day toward a full recovery.
Ironically, my temporary disability is what has allowed me to write more, and that writing, in turn, has facilitated my healing process.