Wednesday – December, 26th
I’m happy Christmas is all over! I woke up with a case of very bad depression. I tried to shake it but it stuck with me all day, even though I went to Starbucks with my laptop and did various chores, I still felt like “everything was wrong” and I just cried on and off, even in the car. My knee started to give way at Walmart (my second home) but luckily the shopping cart (buggy down here) prevented me from going down. Still, it unnerved me and added to my morose mood. I was too depressed to actually make anything for supper so I settled for popcorn and leftover turkey. Also there is so much uncertainty associated with the Aflac disability which I still have not received for December. That lack of money coming in makes me frightened and depressed too. The Aflac agent never bothered to return my call—lovely! I kept calling myself fat and worthless and crippled. My state of mind prevented me from getting to a meeting but on a good note, when I came home, David called and wanted to Skype so I could see Henry. I also received the album that Joanne put together for Christmas; Henry’s first year. I even saw Joseph at David’s who is miraculously staying there for a few days. I ended up feeling a little better and know that God will take care of things if I just get out of the way. So, I will get to bed early and read. When I spoke with Joanne, she suggested that just like other illnesses, I will one day wake up and suddenly feel way better. That would be the best present ever in my entire life. I said maybe that will happen and maybe I should believe it. Maybe I am too negative and who knows what the future holds. It is all a mystery to me but I do know that at this point tonight, I have no more control of anything except what time I will clean the bird cages or go to bed. Good night!
Discouragement – 11/28/12 – Wednesday – 2nd entry – For some inexplicable reason, after doing the PT, going to a meeting, and walking in Target, my legs, abdomen, and back are unbelievably numb and tingly. I had to go back to the house suddenly because I felt so terrible I couldn’t really stand up too much longer. It is so upsetting and discouraging. I actually felt halfway decent today, but as of right now, my body from my waist down is totally numb. I’m back to thinking in a negative way again. I told myself to be positive but I’ve had it for the day. I think I will get the chores done early and retire to my bed to read. At least if I enter a world of fantasy, I don’t have to think about myself. At this point I really am wondering if this will ever get better. One day I seem to be making progress, and the next day I feel no better than I did before the damn surgery. Sometimes I wonder why the hell I even had the surgery in the first place. I actually feel worse than I did a few months ago. I am having trouble finding a reason to go on with this whole thing. I hope I feel differently tomorrow!
11/30/12 – Friday – I resolved to be in a more positive state of mind because I know it does affect the healing process, or so I’ve been told. But, as usual I awake with stiff and numb knees, quads, abdomen, back, etc. The only good thing is that the cortisone shot in my knee seems to actually have helped so my knee does not get “stuck” in one position when I sit causing me to limp until it straightens out. I must be at least grateful for something and I truly am. But, my right leg is just so damn weak that I am constantly off balance and must limp. At first I thought my limp was due to the uneven hips but actually it is because my damn leg will simply not support my body. I am very self-conscious when I have to use the cane, but I limp less and don’t feel scared of falling as much. The fear is still there though. I rant and rave today and finally decide that there should have been at least some sort of improvement so I call the doctor’s office and speak to the nurse (of course) who seems somewhat concerned. That surprises me because I am sure she will say, “Oh, it is too soon so don’t worry.” But she decided to put me on a steroid pack to help relieve inflammation. It is day 3 and there is really no improvement so far. Actually I thought I was walking much, much better on Saturday but by Sunday that progress seemed to have disappeared. Maybe it was just wishful thinking or maybe there was an initial improvement, but I don’t understand why sometimes things seem better and then I wake up back to square one. When I get up and I have trouble walking, with the same numbness, I get discouraged.
Positive Mindset: 11/27/12 – Tuesday – Today I went to the orthopedic doctor I’ve seen numerous times for knee injections. He is the surgeon’s partner and actually I like him a lot. He ended up giving me a cortisone shot which will help with the stiffness and pain. I was in a better state of mind for the rest of the day. I went to a meeting and felt so much better.
11/28/12 – Wednesday – This is the first day of my physical therapy. I am in a good state of mind because I will hopefully get the OK to do some more exercises. He says I am more flexible than the average person, which is a good thing. But, of course, he cannot give me any time-frame for my nerve root to heal. Until that heals, all the therapy in the universe will not bring my dead leg back to total function. It is a slow process, as I’ve been told over and over. But, on a good note, he said in about 6 months or so he thinks I should be back to normal. Six months is a long time, but as long as I continue to see progress, it is OK with me. He said to walk slowly so the nerve pathways can learn again—if I walk too fast (which is really not even an option at this point) my nerve becomes “confused” so keep it slow! I went to Target to walk around with the shopping cart (buggy down here) but for some reason, my legs felt like someone had injected an anesthetic agent into them and I was walking on dead tingly legs; very discouraging. I decided to go home and work on the computer. It is an effort each day to stay in a positive state of mind but I am going to try. I cannot guarantee that I will be successful. I’m scared that I will never be able to return to the life I knew; I am scared that I will be permanently disabled. You can’t play the “what if” game. My biggest problem is between my ears. Life constantly changes but that is the nature of life. I don’t know what the future will hold so I have to just take “one day at a time”.
New Reality – Sunday – I decide to clean my bathroom, even though I am still unsteady. My knee feels slightly better because I am not doing so much bending and flexing during exercise. Even the backwards squats, holding onto something, irritates my knee. I go to the gym and work out in the woman’s section so I won’t be so noticeable. I am acutely self-conscious about my limp and having to use the cane. But I guess it would be even more embarrassing if I fell, hence the cane. Maybe I need to get a distinctive walking stick for some flare! I do the treadmill, some biceps, triceps, shoulders, etc. using light 5 lb. weights. I also try the thigh and hip machine on an extremely low resistance. I am careful not to do anything that pulls on my back at all. All of a sudden I notice my damn knee is back to being painful, probably due to my small squats to strengthen my knee. Again, I am very discouraged. I am laying low today in the house, writing and taking it easy. Yes I could go out again, but I decide to just chill since it is Sunday. It is amazing how I actually wish I were working tomorrow because I am losing my mind with boredom. I love to write but as always, I lack structure in my life, which I so desperately need. My goal is to actually get better enough to start traveling, taking pictures with a new digital SLR, and getting paid with the pics. I am a good photographer and this is what I want to do. But, everything in my life is on hold until this incredible numbness in my legs gets resolved. My left leg is not so bad and not weak, but my right leg sometimes does not even support me at all. I am walking in fear all the time, and so slowly that it makes me feel extremely old. But I have to stop looking at my past and reliving my former self. I find myself saying, “Oh, I used to run marathons and be in great shape. I used to work out every day for an hour. I used to look good. I used to have gorgeous shapely calves, etc.” That does me no good whatsoever. I heard Stacey say that she would tell people that she used to make 100K and have a beautiful spacious home. The reality is that she lost all that and now lives in a nice apartment. My reality is that I no longer run, my right leg is atrophied a little due to weakness, I cannot work out the way I used to and my body does not look the way I want it to anymore. I have to accept this and move on to the next phase in my life. Hopefully, and God willing, my leg will improve as the numbness subsides, but as of now, my life is changed. I do not know when or if there will be improvement, although I’ve been told there will be. I have to latch onto that prognosis and try hard to notice even the most infinitesimal improvements. I never thought that I would take so much pleasure in such small things, but maybe that is why this is happening. My mood can turn around in an instant with just one small improvement in my walking, my knee, less numbness. But, conversely, it can go the other way when there seems to be no improvement or even a setback. I have to learn to roll with the punches and realize that ultimately it is my attitude that will save me.
11/23/12 – Friday – I try something drastic this Friday morning; I go out walking again. I’ve been so scared to do this without a cane since my balance has been so off and my stupid right knee/leg, in its infinite wisdom, decides arbitrarily that it doesn’t want to hold my weight out of nowhere. But I seemed to be walking better last night and this morning. It is a Catch-22 situation; when I don’t walk or try exercising my quads, I don’t have the pain when I go from sitting to standing. Yet, if I don’t use my leg it gets weaker and weaker, with my quads atrophying as well as my calf. My leg then gets so weak that my knee stops healing and I never get better. I simply do not know what the answer is at this point. It is so frustrating because today I was proud and almost happy that I could somewhat walk halfway decently—-albeit on my right toe because of the uneven hips–but not too bad. Then I did some light squats holding on which do not put stress on the knees. Nevertheless, when I sat in my car and went to get out, BAM, same old shit. My knee locked up like glue and I had to wait until I could straighten it out (painfully) to walk at all. Some days I have hope, when I can walk without pain and then out of nowhere my hope is dashed when my stupid knee decides to not work again. So, should I do no exercise and not rehab my back, continue the further deterioration of my right leg through atrophy, or do the exercise and not be able to walk at all afterwards. I pray and pray for some kind of help and suddenly it seems to come in the form of simply being able to walk. I then feel like I have finally turned the corner and then there is the cruelest joke of all, my knee is back to being painful and stiff. Part of the problem is that my leg(s) are still stiff and numb. My knees are especially numb due to the spinal nerve still being inflamed. The continual numbness probably prevents my knee from healing properly. Since the biggest problem is my entire right leg, the knee never gets better. As always people have to comment on my limp and cane (when I use it) necessitating me to explain my problems. I am tired as hell of doing this. I am afraid to get up because I figure my leg will be so stiff I won’t be able to unbend it for a while. It is so sad and I am tired of all this. I go to Starbucks to have a pumpkin spice latte, YUM. That always makes me feel better temporarily. I go home and I feel really good—-the best I have felt in a while. All of a sudden my right leg seems to have strength and I can walk relatively well. Since I feel decent, I decide to do tons of cleaning. I then go over to Janet’s house for “Thanksgiving” and have a surprisingly good time.
11/22/12 – Happy Thanksgiving, I guess. It is traditional for me to start out running in the morning but that is not happening today. So, I decide to walk on my treadmill, upstairs. I ask “permission” from my tenant upstairs and she agrees. But for some reason my knee and leg are very painful and stiff today (more than usual) so I abandon that idea. I am already discouraged so I go to a 12-noon meeting. I was not planning to go anywhere today since Janet’s Thanksgiving celebration will take place on Friday. I didn’t want to have two pig out days in a row. But everyone at the meeting convinced me to go to the AA festivity at Baker Avenue. It was decent but I would’ve preferred going to the Jet’s house. I still have no idea when I am supposed to grace the Jet with my presence on Friday. When I come home I do chores and start to get more and more agitated and upset, complete with crying, at my (you guessed it) knee’s lack of progress and even regression from the day before. That’s when I luckily decide to go to the Evans meeting at 8:00. That is a good decision because it gets me out of my head and saves me, as it always does. For some inexplicable reason, my stupid knee is not too bad. I jump on that good feeling and it helps me for the rest of the night. I am freezing in bed due to my numb legs; something that is a recent occurrence. David calls me to tell me that everything was really nice at his cousin Teresa’s house for Thanksgiving and that Joe looked good. It is a shame that his son, Aaron, could not be there with the other kids. Henry, of course was a big hit because he is super duper adorable. I am feeling glad about Joseph being part of the family for the day yet I am sad again about being apart from my family. I begin to think that moving so far away was a curse, but that was my decision so I have to live with it.
It is amazing that so many people take for granted being well and feeling well. There is nothing more humbling than having a debilitating illness or injury to bring you back to earth. I have been one of those athletic people who would look at someone struggling in the gym or out just walking slowly, without trying to understand that each person has a story. I have been struggling for many months with debilitating back pain and severe degenerated right knee. My back and knee pain was so bad that I would have to hobble from bed into the bathroom each morning, walking like I was 85. The constant, unrelenting pain and soreness also affected my state of mind, causing depression. It is so hard to look at the bright side of things when you are hurting over and over and life looks so bleak. It was so humbling and embarrassing on my trip to Guatemala. On the plane I would start to get anxious when we were about to land knowing that my back and knee would be so stiff that it would take a while for me to unbend. Getting up and carrying my luggage out of the plane was torture. I always thought of myself as this physically fit specimen and now I felt like a cripple, limping down the aisle. Things that I used to take for granted, like climbing down the steps of the airplane (in Augusta for some reason you have to climb down these stupid steep steps to get off the plane) caused me so much anxiety—being so afraid that I would fall or need assistance. When you are physically well, things like that don’t even occur to you. Now things that were never issues were now major concerns. Once in Guatemala, I was in constant pain, living on Ibuprofen. It prevented me from going on walking tours and, coupled with me being lonely, I was miserable. When I went on a tour to Panajachel I had to constantly climb in and out of the boat that ferried us from village to village on Lake Atitlan and that was pure torture. Once if it had not been for two guys holding me, I would have collapsed, due to my knee totally buckling under me. Back in the States, it did not get any better and I have since had knee surgery (much more extensive than I thought it would be) and have also had epidural steroid injections to my back. I want to travel now, but I was unable to plan for anything due to the constant uncertainty of my physical condition. Whenever there is a life altering event, whether it be a loss of a job, illness, death, divorce, you always look for a reason. The thing is that I feel there are no coincidences in God’s world and it may not be revealed until years later or weeks, you do not know. I am slowly starting to feel better but being so debilitated gave me real empathy for others. When I see people hobbling slowly across the street I know that there is a story behind it. I have a friend who suffers from MS and is on disability. She is estranged from her family who is totally unsupportive, yet she still perseveres. Another woman I went to school with just finished battling stage 4 uterine cancer, having gone through hell with chemotherapy, major surgery, colostomy, and having to rely on others since she lives alone. Then I look at myself and realize that maybe it is not that bad. Of course, when you are feeling better it is easy to look back and say it was not so bad. I am still having problems with numbness in my body, but maybe this is God’s lesson for me; be grateful for each day that you feel well and don’t take it for granted. It has given me a better understanding of other’s problems and pain, physically and mentally. Nobody has a perfect life, although sometimes it seems that some people do on the outside. It has also given me more of an incentive to change my life because I can appreciate that there are no guarantees that you will be around tomorrow or even later in the day. We take for granted that we have an infinite amount of time to achieve that elusive happiness and that is not true. My friend Janet is now in France with her husband, one among many trips they take. They are living now, not putting off what may never happen if they waited. Being so ill has put a time frame to my plans. I know that I absolutely cannot continue to live a life doing what I don’t want to do. I ask myself sometimes, “when are you most happy.” The answer always comes back, “when I am not at work.” It is time for me to move on to the next phase of my life. I am so consumed with making money due to my upbringing (compulsive gambler dad) when money went flying out the window and life was insecure, that now it is my main focus. Yes, money does buy things I like, but continuing doing what I don’t want to do is killing me over and over. One day I will wake up and it will be my last day on earth and I will die never having taken the big risks and living a life of my dreams and how sad is that?