I’m now 6 weeks out from my crash. Six weeks ago I could barely move, could barely raise my hospital bed enough to drink from a bendy straw, and was thankfully adrift on pain medicine. I could wiggle my toes, and the x-rays all showed that my fractures were non-displaced, so the doctors were confident I’d make a full recovery. Recovery seemed far off, and the only thing to do was take things a step at a time, find the small victories, and keep moving.
That attitude – granted, with interludes of frustration and anger – has carried me well thus far. And then I got crutches! I got a taste of moving normally, being seen by others as injured but not scary. (Young people using walkers make people nervous, but most everyone can relate to crutches.) So my goalposts shifted. Why shouldn’t I be able to handle doing errands on Saturday morning, stopping by the Riesling Fest, and then going to a Redwings game? That’s not much. Heck, usually I would’ve done all that but led it off with a 3 hour bike ride.
When the doctor cleared me for 12 hours of work from home this week, I thought I’d be fine with that. I’d been cleared for 4 hours per week previously, and I’d handled that ok. Honestly, when I first saw my estimated back-to-work date of August 30th, I thought it was crazy! I’d be FINE, long before then! Maybe not walking, but my mind would be working.
This is the part where I get surprised. My body is thrilled to crutch-walk, to feel muscles release that have been tense for over a month, to regain flexibility little by little. I got on the recumbent therapy bike at the gym today and put in 15 whole minutes, reached a cadence of 81 rpm (that’s not too far from normal!), and even pushed my heart rate over 100 bpm for the first time since July 4th. No pain in the hip, but my knee sure hurt. (Apparently the knee bone really is connected to the hip bone, and my knee feels the way I’ve been tensing it for a month to protect my pelvis.) I even climbed a flight of stairs to get into the weight room.
But despite the fact that my body is healing, and I see little improvements each day, I have less energy than I did last week. By a lot. I’ve been sleeping deeply and long, and when I wake up I still feel like my head is full of sand. I can pep up well enough to get through my PT exercises, but I have no motivation to straighten up counters, wash dishes, or put any effort whatsoever into prepping food. I am physically able to do these things, but just thinking about them makes me completely overwhelmed. I’ve completed zero of my 12 hours of work at this point; I just couldn’t make my brain work.
So the goalposts have shifted, as they clearly have to. It’s wonderful to celebrate that I can put a sandal on, but then it’s time for another goal. And I am being challenged now. Being on crutches lets my body go into autopilot more. I move more, move faster, and expect myself to do the things that I normally could. Then when I realize that I’m still limited by my physical ability or my energy level, I get frustrated. I can SEE the finish line now; I can FEEL what it would be like to have energy and the ability to walk. I can see myself doing the laundry, running the vacuum, putting together a lunch to take to work. But I can’t do it yet.
I know that the finish line will keep getting closer, as much as recovery or health can be considered a finite line; what really excites me is that I can keep on pushing the goalposts out, even once I’m back to the condition I was in on July 4th. Until I’m there, though, I’ll be walking through this middle ground between disability and ability, injury and health, can’t and can. My challenge will be to set my goalposts far enough to stretch me, yet near enough to give me hope of reaching them. I know that managing those expectations will be key to finding health, even once I’ve traded crutches and Lazy Boy for bike and Prius. I guess I’m pretty lucky to get a chance to practice…