I was originally going to call this lesson Healing. And then I realized that healing felt too passive for the process I was going through. What I was doing was rehabilitation. I’m not just healing — I’m moving forward into the world in a way that is (hopefully) better, stronger, and more positive.
I looked it up and realized that at least two of the definitions of rehabilitation (and possibly more) in some way fit what I’ve been doing these past few weeks (I’ll let you decide which ones I’m referring to!):
- rehabilitation – the restoration of someone to a useful place in society
- rehabilitation – reclamation: the conversion of wasteland into land suitable for use of habitation or cultivation
- rehabilitation – vindication of a person’s character and the re-establishment of that person’s reputation
- rehabilitation – the treatment of physical disabilities by massage and electrotherapy and exercises
So, I’m learning how to rehab. Mostly from the broken, torn, sprained, strained ankle. But also from other things. Mental things that I’ve carried with me for a long time, hidden deep inside their lock-box of secrets and fears. But that box was getting heavier and heavier, and I realized something this week: When I was doing everything on crutches, I had to put everything in my backpack in order to get around. And there just wasn’t room for that lock-box anymore. It was too heavy. And it was useless. It didn’t help me do the laundry on one foot. It didn’t help me hobble from place-to-place. It certainly didn’t make my rehab — or my day-to-day life easier.
And I had an epiphany: I’m strong. I can carry this damn lock-box every day while I’m healthy. I can lug it all over hell and barely notice. But do I want to? The answer was a quick and resounding no. I put the box down. It didn’t make my movement on crutches that much easier, but every little bit helped.
The second epiphany I had was an obvious one for most people. But, apparently, there are a few lessons I need to learn again and again. The “Don’t Push it or You’ll Do More Damage” is one I might have to learn a hundred times. My options were: push my injured foot and ankle so that I didn’t have to ask for help, look stupid, impose upon friends, ask for rides, etc. OR rest, rehab, grovel and beg, let go of my independent mentality and stance, crack myself open and let people in.
Doesn’t seem like THAT hard of a choice, does it? And yet I almost screwed it up. If not for a few friends who essentially said, “We ARE coming to get you,” I might have still mussed it up.
But in the end, I did choose. I spent my time doing hydrotherapy in the bathtub (hot and cold, hot and cold, to get rid of the swelling and to keep the healing blood flowing), giving my foot massages to move the swelling and bad stuff (yeah, that’s about as technical as I get) toward my organs to get rid of it, doing Ankle Alphabets and circles and stretches, lying on my ass with my foot up a lot and feeling so fucking grateful for my amazing, helpful, incredibly gracious friends. I am in debt to them — and I like this feeling. Because I know that should something happen in their lives, I can go and force them to take my offer of help (wicked laugh).
As it turns out, rehabbing the ankle and rehabbing the mind are similar things, aren’t they? Or, rather, they’re tied together. Part of that lock-box of fears and secrets has to do with asking for help, with feeling inadequate, with being afraid of relying on someone other than myself, of not moving fast enough and far enough.
It’s been almost three weeks since I stepped off the stair and borked my ankle. Three long, anxious, boring weeks of stress and worry and oh-my-god-I’m-losing-my-mind because I can’t move my body. In the past few days, things have changed.
I have taken off the casty-thing. I switched from two crutches to one. I have gotten back on my bike (in low gears, biking is recommended for movement therapy). I have slowly and carefully gotten back off the bike (the biking, as it turns out, is easy. the walking? not so much). And then, finally, yesterday morning, I realized I was making my way to the bathroom. And I realized that while I had the crutch in my hand, I wasn’t using it. I was actually walking (Of course, as soon as I realized that, I did kind of a Wile e. Coyote “Oh my god, I’m running on air!” thing out of fear and nearly fell down).
The results of rehab so far are tangible: I’m closer to walking fully again. And I’m closer to my friends who have helped out. I’ve let down some walls, put down my lock-box. Before I know it, I’ll be leaping, running, hugging, holding, shoving, hitting (uh.. no wait. Let’s pretend I stopped at holding there…)
My next step is to get to the point where the crutches aren’t necessary at all. I’m very much looking forward to that moment when I can return them to Fred Meyer and get my deposit back. Not because of the money, but because of what it will symbolize: my movement toward various forms of health. And my understanding that it’s okay to lean on things when you need to: crutches, walls, doors, your own strength, the kindness of strangers and friends.
I wonder if they take lock-boxes at Fred Meyer?
Hobbling forward, one half-step at a time, s.
“Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.” ~James Arthur Baldwin