Walk With Me

It’s my second week of being bed or chair-bound as my foot recovers from a total overhaul. It’s been really inconvenient, but, ironically, it’s give me a chance to take a different kind of walk with one of the best people I know.

This time last year I was still writing mostly about Thing1’s journey with Ulcerative Colitis. We thought, at the time, that journey was almost over and that he was starting a newer, more adventurous one. Then his body recently reminded us that a diagnosis of a chronic illness is a permanent one.

His chronic illness is classified as a disability. It took me a little while to really understand why it’s classified that way, but as I watched his disease derail a year of his education and govern so many other major and minor life decisions, I gained a better understanding of how invisible illnesses can cause impairment. It wasn’t until the last two weeks, however, that I understood how that feels.

As someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I can sympathize and empathize with some of the impacts of invisible illness. Depression can impact your ability to function at work and your ability to parent effectively. It does not, however, turn the simplest activities, such as showering, into activities that need extra equipment or preparation. It doesn’t keep you from reaching the microwave. It does not have you planning your schedule when you might want to go to the bathroom next, let alone how to return to work.

Thing1 is less than half my age and wrestled with all of these issues and more in the last few years. These questions have determined where he would live and if he would go to school on any given day. They are determining if he may miss yet another year of school and when he will begin his adult life.

Spending a few weeks navigating the activities of daily living that are usually take for granted has been a pain in the neck, but it’s also given me a chance to walk with T1 in a whole new way.

OTT (Orange Tabby Therapy)

The doctor strongly recommended keeping my foot up for another week, and I’m having to swallow my pride and some heavy guilt as I get ready to let work know I have a few more days before returning. The cats, as can be seen, are glad I’ve finally heeded their advice and opted for more days of OTT (Orange Tabby Therapy) with a little grey fuzzy thrown in. 

Silly Things Before Drifting Off

Thing2 is cleaning his room, occasionally coming into see me to show off long-forgotten souvenirs from trips or country fairs (The giant inflated pickle he attempted to leave in the corner will certainly cause a nightmare or two). The Big Guy is listening to midday news as he does dishes. And, as the pain med I’ve taken after today’s doctor visit kicks in, lulling me to sleep in our sunny bedroom made even cozier by the sound of a snoring dog and purring cats I can only look at the new buckle-festooned boot wrapping the leg that has caused this moment and wonder if, like Luke Skywalker, I’m too short to be a stormtrooper. Should make for some epic daydreaming.

Accepting Rest

I got my homework for the week out-of-the-way yesterday, and, by 10 o’clock last night, I was glad I had. I would be even more glad today.

Last night around 10 PM I read of the death of a friend. It was not a surprise, and I had already mourned, But that sort of news, all too frequent this year already, always demands reflection. I took some time to think about our last conversations, read other friends tribute to this woman and, feeling the pain in my foot throbbing again, took my pain medication and went to sleep early.

This morning I woke up fully intending to spend the day writing, but my foot had other ideas. I don’t have trouble remembering that recovery is not linear, but there’s a big part of me that has trouble accepting that rest is a part of it.

Today was about accepting rest. It was about accepting that recovery of body and spirit can’t always be planned. Sometimes it just needs time to happen.

Mother’s Little Helper

 

Driving by Fields on a Snowy Day

Today was the first time I’d been out of the house since the surgery. I figured out how wrap my cast and get a shower before the Big Guy chauffeured me to my follow up appointment. I’ve been using the enforced break from the activity of daily life to get a better handle on my priorities, but today, trying to get back into it, even just for a couple hours, gave me an unexpected lesson in empathy.

My doctor prescribed Percocets and Ibuprofen for pain management. Paranoid about getting addicted to any opioid, I’m usually pretty pigheaded about avoiding leaning on Vicodin or Percocets. This week, mindful of the kids I now work with whose lives have been completely upended by adults struggling with opioid addiction, I’ve been even more stubborn about disciplining myself to rely mainly on ibuprofen or Orange Tabby Therapy, and I’ve been pretty lucky with the pain.

Until today.

By the time the doctor finished changing my dressing and cast, I could feel my Frankenstein foot gently begin to throb. The Big Guy and I got out to the car, and the pain was amplifying. There were a couple errands to run, and, even though I sat in the car for them, having the foot not elevated seemed to help push the pain up and down my leg.

By the time we got home, the three hours of ordinary activity had turned my leg into a constant throb, wiping out any hint of energy. I got back into the scooter chair and then into bed, knowing I was going to take the opioid and not the ibuprofen.

And then it hit me. Before any relief, before the purring of an orange tabby on my chest could lull me to sleep.

This is where the stories of those kids begin. They begin with a person in pain, with all the best intentions, looking for relief. For help. They may get it for a time until help becomes a disease and the disease a source of shame and judgement.

I’m guilty of passing those judgements. Of seeing only the impact of the disease on the people around the addict. Of forgetting that anyone could become the addict.

I used the help in the orange bottle this afternoon and knew I might use it again this evening. Tomorrow I will go back to the non-addictive pain management with purpose but also a little more humility and empathy. Recovery is not linear, and, in the setbacks, there are potential pitfalls that can upend anyone’s life.

I don’t know what makes the difference between the person who becomes addicted to these miraculous, terrible drugs and the person who uses them for a brief time and moves on. I know I won’t find the answer as I reach for my orange bottles over the next few days, but I’m determined to keep asking the question rather than living in judgement.

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