“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.” ~unknown
Two weeks ago when my doctor told me I cannot return to work for another three months, I was initially devastated. Three more months on top of the four months I’ve already been off work is an awfully long time, and I would desperately like to reclaim some semblance of normalcy in my life once more. But the feeling of devastation didn’t last too long. In fact, I think I actually felt relief in knowing that I’d be home for three more months, because the lengthy extension means I no longer need to jump through the hoops of filling out forms every four weeks and anxiously waiting to hear whether or not I’d be allowed to return to work this time. Yes, I’d rather be back at work; however, the three month leave-extension has reduced my stress-load.
Back in December when both my chiropractor and physiotherapist were recommending I ask my doctor for a surgical referral, the very idea that my injury might require surgery was stressful. Despite my reaction to that idea, I was willing to ask my doctor, understanding the pros and cons and state of my body, and so, I was frustrated and disappointed when my doctor refused to refer me to a neurosurgeon. The fact that my doctor held all the power in this situation involving my health and well-being only fueled my frustration. Now that my doctor has finally decided a surgical referral is warranted, the frustration continues. He could have started this ball rolling months ago. Instead, I am still waiting. Still suffering. Once this ordeal is finally over, I will seek out a new doctor. In the meantime, I am choosing to be thankful that I do have a referral now. The projected timeline for an appointment is sometime in May, but I have asked to be put on the cancellation list and will check in (code for nagging) as often as I can work up the courage to pretend I’m that type of person. Mostly, I just feel relieved that something proactive is now on the table.
With the exception of a few days and weeks here and there, I have managed to continue going to the gym since my injury, and that has also been a source of frustration as I haven’t been able to do the type of training that I enjoy. I have had to let go of any goals or hopes of competing this year and for as long as it takes to heal. It’s been disappointing and hard to watch some of those goals crumble into dust, knowing how hard and long I have worked to reach them. Although I aim to workout at the gym three times a week, I usually do so in varying degrees of pain and discomfort. I do safe and essentially simple exercises that won’t inflict more harm on my back. For a long time, my limitations chafed. Okay, so they still do, but I also hurt enough and for long enough now to know that this is all that I can do right now. At least I can still do something! I never used to have a tough time getting myself to the gym, not until this injury, and there are days where I have to skip an exercise that is causing more pain. I’m listening to my body. I’m staying as active as I can with pain in my back and both legs and numbness in a foot and calf. Pre-injury, when I’d do heavy squats, the adrenaline would create little tremors in my hands. Now, it’s not adrenaline, and it’s not little tremors. My hands, my arms, my legs…they shake and sometimes violently, because of the pain and effort of holding myself together. But I’m not so frustrated in the gym anymore. I’ve known from the beginning that healing would take time, and now I have fully come to term with just how long that could be, even if there is no end in sight.
In the early days of injury, I thought I’d be better in a few weeks. A month after the injury when I finally agreed to take a medical leave, I thought I’d be back to work in 2-4 weeks. Late December I settled on my theme for 2018, choosing to make lemonade out of this lemon given to me. Since then I have gone through the gamut of emotions. Up, down. Angry, sad, relieved, even happy. I’ve been twisted inside-out, been hung out to dry, wallowed in misery, and broken fingernails clawing my way back out. It’s one thing to make a statement of making lemonade, but the practice of doing it isn’t always so simple or easy. But it isn’t impossible. I think I am finally, or mostly, at a place of peace and acceptance with what has happened these past five months and what is yet to come. This is probably the first time since the injury that I actually feel in control, not of what has happened or will happen, but in how I respond.