I had a conversation today with a family member who told me I had acceptance “on lock”. He said that he wished he could move on from things that hurt him, relationships lost, professional setbacks, even physical issues the way that I accept the things that happen in my life.
I told him that acceptance was a lot like forgiveness in that it doesn’t just happen once, it’s something that you process repeatedly. Just when you think you’ve got it sorted it comes back to hit you over the head and then you have to start all over again. Sometimes these things eventually stop coming around, and other times they will hit you over the head for the rest of your life.
Chronic pain will force you to either master the art of acceptance so that you can live a full life-despite the pain and illness- or you will drown in the unfairness of it all; something I really struggled with about this time last year. When I wrote Acceptance is Hard I was working to remember all the good I had in my life, and it wasn’t really helping. I was angry that I would always be in pain, angry that somehow my body had been chosen to fail so spectacularly.
As the snow melted and spring gave way to summer things got a lot better, and I was feeling much more myself. I learned the peace a life walked closer to Jesus brought me and when I was baptized (for a second time). I felt like I had really found my groove.
Just six weeks later I found myself planning my tenth surgery and trying to convince myself that this was for the betterment of my future. The short-lived pain of recovery would give way to less pain once I healed. Removing the diseased tissue was the only way to get there.
I have had easier recoveries and I have had difficult recoveries; this one was a beast. The pain I head post op was awful and specifically loud in the space where my remaining cervical stump had been removed and then stitched up. I remember crying as I shuffled my way up the stairs to my bed just an hour after leaving the hospital, hating that I was going through this again.
I went through the motions of walks around the house to wake up my digestion, ice packs, pain medications, naps, taking things easy. So easy that I rarely lifted a finger for the first seven days post-op. As expected I slowly eased back into normal life and before I knew it I was on my way to a concert with friends.
This only lasted a week.
At about six weeks post op I had an ovarian cyst grow within my ovary and become infected which required surgery to remove before it ruptured inside my body. It was two weeks of so much pain I could barely walk followed by another surgery and recovery.
This recovery was even harder than the first because my insides were still inflamed from the surgery before it. Just like the first time around I slowly got better, each day walking a little faster, moving a little more and at six weeks post op, it finally stopped hurting to laugh.
And then, twelve days later I broke my foot.
I still can’t believe it. I look at my foot, all cozy in it’s robot Aircast and I think “How in the actual crap did this happen?” Of course, it had to be my right foot so driving is out of the question for what will be the entirety of this winter and of course it had to be just 15 days before I was scheduled to get on a plane and jet off to the beach.
I tell you what; I am practicing a whole hell of a lot of acceptance.
I thought living with chronic pain was the biggest obstacle I would face in my life. Hell no. This is like post-surgical healing on steroids. After surgery I need help with pretty much everything for the first three days, then another 5-6 days of a little less intense babysitting and then it gets better. Quickly.
It’s been two weeks and still, nothing is any better. Well, that’s not true. The acute pain of the break is ebbing, but beyond that, it’s still exactly the same. What I don’t need an actual person to help me with I can’t do without the help of an assistive device that wreak their own brand of havoc on my body.
The Aircast is heavy and it causes pain in my lower back to hold my foot off the ground whenever I am moving around. The crutches hurt my underarms and the friction is causing a rash to form anywhere they rub. Scooting around is also hard on my back since there is uneven weight distribution. Not to mention the fact that my calf muscle is half the size it was two weeks ago and my foot hasn’t seen a good soak and scrub since my last pedicure a month ago.
Everything is hard. My bedroom is upstairs so there is no “running upstairs quick” to grab something, change clothes, grab a hair tie, or any other task. I can’t wash my own clothes, make the bed, clean my bedroom or even manage self-care without a large amount of effort. Getting dressed is a task since I have to do it sitting or balancing on one foot with a crutch and don’t even get me started on trying to shower.
The worst part is that I can’t drive so I am stuck at home- a lot. I’m blessed with a husband and friends who will play taxi for me, but there is something to be said about the freedom to just get in your car and go somewhere on your own. Driving with my favorite music turned up loud, going wherever I want to without worrying about someone else’s timeline. Everything I do now requires someone else’s time and energy.
Remember what I said about acceptance beating you over the head? I’d say this counts as a repeated beating. At least with the surgeries I could see the improvement happening every few days. I’d start taking the stairs a little faster, be able to stand a little longer, need to take breaks less often. This is unchanging. Every day is exactly as hard as the day before.
I don’t think I can say that I have accepted this so much as I am unable to change it. Does that make sense? I guess I don’t really know what it would look like to deny (isn’t denial the opposite of acceptance?) but I don’t really feel like I’m embracing it either. I’m more like a hostage of the situation than an accepting participant.
To be honest I’m downright furious about the whole thing. I mean, come on. Was the surprise second surgery not enough? Just when my family was getting back to normal, BAM! I walk into a step instead of going up it. And no, it couldn’t just be a sprain it had to be broken bones and of course it had to be my right foot so driving is out of the question. The icing on the cake? It just had to be bad enough that traveling was not an option, so I had to cancel my trip to Jamaica which meant so did my friend.
It just feels like I haven’t taken a breath since July. Like no matter how hard I try to get back on my feet (literally) I can’t seem to do it. The kicker here is that it is all completely out of my hands, these aren’t obstacles that I am inflicting on myself. I’m not spending too much money and then crying about being broke. I’m not neglecting my spouse and then being heartbroken that my marriage is rocky.
Now I know that I still have some control here. I can choose to wallow in it for the next 8 weeks until it’s over or I can acclimate and try to make the best of it. While I’m not just going to stare at the wall in self-pity for the next two months I just really need to say that this is bullshit and it sucks.