Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Slowing Down, Sucking it Up, and Not Dwelling in the Dark

If I ramble, I blame the pain pills.

Sunday night I was testing to get to the next skill level in roller derby. I already knew I wasn't going to pass (that's not naysaying, just truth speaking), but the one thing that I thought I could make if I pushed myself was my laps. I needed to do 25 laps in five minutes. As we were doing them, I could hear my teammates cheering us on for the last few laps. I have no idea if I would have made it or not, but in what had to be the last lap or two, I crossed over with my right foot, slipped, and came down with all of my weight on my left ankle. It was a simple fall, one that I could have taken while running or even walking, and I knew immediately that something had snapped. I pulled myself off the track so that I wouldn't trip up the other people still testing, and I waited for help.

My teammates rallied in the most amazing way, and after one gave me a ride to the hospital, I found out that I had fractured my ankle in three places with a pretty serious fibula break that would require surgery. One of the other breaks was not going back into place easily, so it had to be splinted and then re-splinted a total of three times (ow).

Early on, I was cracking jokes with the ER docs and mentally rearranging my schedule. "I can drive myself home," I thought, as I turned down narcotics so that I could stay clear-headed enough to do so. "I'll still make that meeting tomorrow," I said to myself as I realized that my phone had died and I couldn't let anyone know I wasn't coming. 

Over and over again I got told how positive my attitude was and how well I handled things. I think that's true from what I put forth into the world, but it's also not the whole truth. As soon as I realized that no, I couldn't drive myself home because they were admitting me and that I wouldn't be able to tell anyone I was missing the meeting until about an hour before it started, I panicked a bit. Later, my thoughts started to go dark. I am a very active person who works out every single day. I was at the tail end of a challenge to walk 15,000 steps a day for a week, and the only one I didn't get was the day I broke my ankle. I'm signed up to run a half marathon in October, and now I won't be able to train for it. I'm going to the beach in July, and I will likely still have a boot on my foot when I go. I have a three year old, and I live in a house with a narrow staircase where the only bathroom is upstairs and the kitchen is downstairs. I started looking at my calendar, and I needed to cancel (on a week off from work) no less than six fun dates and errand-running appointments. 

There were a couple of moments where I didn't feel like being positive or cheery at all. For a minute or two, I wanted nothing more than to wallow in how very, very sad I was that my life was (temporarily) derailed. 

But I couldn't stay there. The floods of offers for help came pouring in almost immediately, and even though I didn't know what kind of help I needed, the requests made me smile. My calendar was so full of things to cancel because I lead a full, happy, meaningful life. All of those things can and will be rescheduled. Yes, getting upstairs sucked (I had to climb up backwards without letting my left foot touch the floor) and yes, getting to the bathroom is basically the equivalent of doing 60 pushups on the walker, but I have an amazing husband who took off work to help me get things set up, and I will get through this. 

Darker still, were my thoughts surrounding the impending surgery. I have never been put under anesthesia. I gave birth without any pain meds, and when I had my wisdom teeth removed, I opted to have them all done under local anesthesia because I am terrified (irrationally so, I know) of getting knocked out. I am so terrified that once they told me it had to be done, I laid alone in an emergency room with tears rolling down my cheeks. 

But that's when I realized just how much my perspective has spun. 

If I'm afraid of anesthesia, it's really a fear of death, of getting put to sleep and not waking up, of losing the life that I live. 

There was a point in my life (one I don't talk about much here) where I basically saw things in exactly the opposite way. I saw everything in its worst possible light, and something like breaking my ankle would have sent me into a dark, long, all-consuming depression. Having someone put me to sleep wasn't a fear because I didn't see anything worth missing in the first place. 

I'm sad now that I'm not sure how I'll finish finding all of the St. Louis birthday cakes with my daughter. I'm sad that I'll probably have to walk most of the half marathon I was hoping to run. I'm sad that I'll likely have to start over with learning to skate for roller derby. I'm sad that my husband has to do double duty at home until I can get up and about again. I'm sad that the meetings for a project at work have to be postponed until I can attend. I'm sad that I can't go on that playdate to the park or meet up for lunch this week. 

I am sad, basically, that things have been paused because I love my life so much when I'm living it. And those things aren't going away. 

I joke that I have two speeds: fast forward and pause. I rarely do things slowly. For the next couple of months, I will have to, and it will frustrate me. I will get down in the dumps about the things I cannot do, but I will also find ways to do other things. I will get disappointed in the accomplishments that go undone, but I will be fine. 

When I make a conscious choice to give public voice to the positive thoughts and not the negative ones, it can feel a little dishonest. So let me say now to all those who have remarked on how positive I am and what a great attitude I have: that's not always the case. I get pissy, mopey, and scared, too. But I have learned that while it is okay to give those thoughts a little voice, it's not okay to give them legs. They will run all over you until you've forgotten why you're working so hard in the first place. And that's something I hope to never forget again. 


  1. Ouch! But you already know that. So sorry for your pain. Take the slow motion time in with a smile and know that your life is not on hold. Forward is the only direction we get.

    And those are my well meaning cliches. Heal well.

  2. Oooof. This - "Having someone put me to sleep wasn't a fear because I didn't see anything worth missing in the first place." - is such a familiar (thankfully also past) place.
    Yay for having such a full and fulfilling life. Yay for having that moment of recognition of how different it is to love your life.
    Sharing your sad for having to pause so many adventures, and sharing your joy at the fact that you've created a life filled with so many adventures.