The Little Prince and Chronic Pain

As I held my newborn grandson, I smelled the top of his head and mouth. My fingertip lazily traced the outline of his ears and chin. Then dipped into the velvety curve of his neck. I released him from his swaddling blanket and  listened to him coo while he stretched. I counted his fingers and touched his newborn hand to my aging face. I was a grandma and I was reveling in the excitement of it. I kept undressing him so I could look at his little toes. They were still bright red and I had to be gentle with them because of the needle sticks he was receiving to check on his blood sugar levels.

Meggie kept giving me grief for taking off his clothes. She even said he didn’t smell like anything, but I disagreed. I couldn’t put into words what I was feeling, or what I could smell. There was a freshness to the top of his head, and the faint smell of Enfamil formula on his cheeks. He smelled new and his little hand clutching my fingers gave me the promise of better times ahead.

I visited my new grandson and his parents while they were still in the hospital. I had just been released myself after having a third reconstructive surgery on my right ankle. I was kind of hoping that the baby would make his appearance before my discharge, but this being my daughter’s first birth, he decided to take his sweet time. I had just settled into my private room at a physical rehab center when my son and his girl picked me up to meet our new family member.

While I was holding him, I thought about the last year and what I’d been through. The accident, the surgeries that didn’t work, and the chronic pain that had been plaguing me. There was so much depression that I had experienced. I cried every single day, but on the days that Meg needed me, I stayed as focused as I could on her, and her needs. It helped me want to stick around. There were so many times I wanted to give up and die.

I can hear you asking why? It’s only some ankle pain, how can you not live with it?

I want you to understand something, everyone with chronic pain has their own experience to deal with.

If someone in your life is dealing with it and they say they’re okay, they are not telling you the complete truth. They don’t want you to know how badly it hurts. And how tired they are from dealing with it.

Every. Single. Damn. Day. Of. Their. Lives.

The depression I’ve felt in the last year has been suffocating. You can not even fathom what I’ve felt, nor do I want you to even try. I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy. I pray for normalcy every damn day that I wake up breathing. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping this latest surgery brings me closer to it.

I wanted to go to sleep at night and not wake up wondering what my pain number would be when I stood up to walk to the bathroom. Most nights I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up at all. A crucial bone in my right ankle was dying, but I felt like the woman I was before the accident had already died. Unbeknownst to me, there was a little prince that was going to be born just after my third surgery that would totally change my mind.

I held him in my arms on May 15, and realized that yes, he was the reason I was still here. And he was the reason I couldn’t give up. I needed to be in his life, so I could smell the top of his head, and trace his perfect little ears with my fingertip. I also needed to be there for my daughter when she was struggling with sleep and new motherhood. I couldn’t have done any of those things had I given up.

The Little Prince is home with his parents now and they are all settling into their new normal. This Queen is back home in her second floor apartment and healing nicely. I’m so thankful that I didn’t give in to the sadness that came from the pain. Who knows, maybe my grandson and I will teach each other to walk.

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Superwoman is Dead

superwoman-tatoo-on-the-shoulder

 

Curled up in bed on my left side, I opened one eye and viewed the Life Manifesto hanging on my bedroom wall. I struggled to discern the words in the dimness of the coming morning . ‘Life’ the largest word on the canvas, filled my vision as Eddie the Wonder Pup glued his body to mine. I reached behind me and gave his back a soft pat, his crooked tail began to beat against my crippled right ankle. I dreaded getting out of bed. Not because of chronic pain, because there’s always that. No, it was the chill of winter in my bedroom, that made me want to stay snuggled under two comforters with a little baby puppy by my side.

The promise of daylight was beginning to spread across the manifesto on my wall. I could now read the line ‘Life is Simple’, and I shivered. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the line I read or the chill in the room. In the last 16 months I’ve learned how complicated life can be. I ended a 24 year marriage, had a horrific car accident that’s left me disabled, and the job I’ve been doing for the last 14 years has been dissolved and moved to another department.

I shifted my weight on the mattress enough to wake my drowsy fur baby and he moved from my side to begin poking at me with his paws and kissed my ears and face. His eyes smiled as I stretched and lifted the covers from my body. He kept jumping on me and biting at the a few errant strands of hair that had fallen from my hair tie during the night. He knew what he was doing was bad, but he also knew his cuteness would let him get away with it. I slid my yoga pants and slippers on, then Eddie and I headed to the living room to grab his leash.

As I stood outside Eddie relieved himself while I continued to shiver. The wind cut through my rebuilt ankle, and I thought about all of the people that have told me how much worse my situation could be. Though I do agree with them, I alone know how much the last ten month have just plain old sucked. Each time I work with my PT or try to walk more than the length of sidewalk outside my apartment, I’m reminded that the minutes, days, weeks and months have sucked swamp water, wind, and a big old giant ass!

With this final angry thought, I unlocked the door to my apartment building. After entering my unit, I set about the tasks for getting ready for my day with my right foot dragging. I worked hard to shift my weight to the right side of my body while I stood in the shower, brushed my teeth, and did my hair. Though it was painful, I knew the more I stood on it, the stronger it would become. My surgeon and PT have both told me that I’ve healed and progressed more than they thought I would. Superwoman may be dead, but I have been bound and determined to work hard. I’ve fought through pain, depression, suicidal thoughts, and hopelessness, but I still haven’t ‘got’ this. And if one more person tells me that I do, I might lose my shit.

At work I checked the photo stream on my phone and grouped together all of the images of my accident, surgery and early recovery. I wondered, should I delete them or save them for posterity. The post surgery images made me feel sick because of all of the blood, swelling, discoloration and railroad track stitches. I decided to speak to a dear friend about the photos, and get his take on what I should do with them. His advice, look at them one last time and delete them. Let go of the last chapter of the experience and move on. I haven’t deleted them yet, but I swear I will.

There is this shyness to me now, and a realization that being a manic pixie girl doesn’t always pay off. Sometimes it’s good to let the grass grow beneath my feet, and feel the grounding force of a foundation where I once didn’t want one. For even in my slowness, there is a passion that burns within me. A smoldering ember where a wild fire once burned, and it emits heat all the same. I’ve often heard that the embers burn hotter because the fire is contained in the core. It doesn’t burn out easily like that of the brilliant orange flame that can die quickly, even though that flame dances with an unadulterated exuberance.

I’m not afraid of death, and I wasn’t before my accident and the death of Superwoman. After the car accident, I’m even less afraid. No, I didn’t have a near death experience, but I experienced extreme shock. I nearly drowned in the abyss of it, and I can tell you I welcomed the feeling. If it had been my time to die, I would have gone without a fight. I wouldn’t have railed against the dying of the light. There was such peace in that cocoon in the early hours of my accident, that many times during my recovery, I wanted to go back to it.

Even as I continue to heal and realize that the old me is dead, I often wish to return to the cocoon, never to emerge, because I hated the moth I’d become. The one that kept flying to the light and dying each time it was zapped and suffered a setback. I miss the butterfly I once was, and it pains me to know she won’t return. As I endure ongoing recovery, I know I’m going to emerge from my chrysalis. I won’t ever be the same, but I will be beautiful again. And I will dance, live, love and fly…again.

**This will be my last post about recovery and chronic pain. 2015 is already a better year. It’s time to stoke the embers, and write with passion again.**

 

Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies
Oh, he don’t know so he chases them away, yeah
Oh, someday, yeah, he’ll begin his life again
Life again, life again