It wasn’t very far – ten to fifteen feet at the most. I could probably get there, but instead I froze.
A few hours earlier I’d walked unassisted to the kitchen to grab a banana and found myself reflexively stopping to clean up the counter. The simple act of wiping up kid crud made me feel normal again. But then the swelling returned and with it the tingling… Then the weakness… I tried to call for help, but the vibrating cushion let me know that the receiving phone was wedged into the couch and nobody would respond. I was alone and unable to reach for the sturdy walker I’d grown to loathe.
A month ago I never would have imagined I’d find myself stuck on the couch, staring across the room at an assistive device. My vision blurred and hands trembled from the aggressive doses of medicines coursing through my body to control the inflammation compressing my spinal cord. As I moved my legs over the side of the couch, I stared at the floor and fought back tears.
“Is this what my life is going to be like? When will this end? How much longer will I have to take these medicines that make my heart race and face swell? Will I ever surf again? How am I going to manage transitioning to work when I can’t sit up for more than a few minutes? What if I become too weak to walk and people see? Will they judge me? Will it scar my children to see their mother like this?”
As I looked down I realized I could feel my toes on the smooth floor and knew I wasn’t paralyzed – I was only paralyzed with fear. I transitioned my weight to my feet and felt my knees buckle underneath me and decided that it would be safest for me to wait for someone to return. I was going to be okay. In that moment I was just weak – not only physically, but mentally and spiritually.
Reclining back onto the couch I recalled snapshots from adventures I’d had. Fearlessly climbing up rock faces… Trekking through the Alaskan wilderness… The feel of my fingers gripping the smooth concrete platform as I slowly pressed my body into a handstand and threw myself off the edge, forcefully flipping into the water five meters below with grace and precision. That’s who I was.
Surrounded by pillows and ice packs, I closed my eyes and prayed for strength. Moments later, the familiar pitter-patter of little feet came through the door and I realized I was no longer alone. “I’m so sorry… I’m so embarrassed to ask… But please help me – I’m too weak.” My husband brought me the walker and helped me make my way to the bathroom. Edging down the hall, I found every step easier than the other. I was able to summon the strength – I simply needed guidance, reassurance, and someone to catch me if I should fall.
Settling into my favorite nook in the kitchen, I allowed myself a moment to escape from reality and check out what was happening in the world of social media. The first thing that popped up was an image with this quote underneath:
Reading the words, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been slapped in the face by a truth bomb. Point taken, God. These words of encouragement had come from the Instagram feed of a stranger leading a company focused on improving health and fitness. Before this latest trial I’d planned on participating in one of Vitality Pro’s fitness camps, but had since started to question when or if that would ever happen. Meditating upon those words stopped the steroid-fueled roller coaster in my mind and brought me back to myself.
Life won’t always be happy go lucky. There will be trials and tribulations. God promises it.
Every day I get healthier and have longer periods of mobility… Yesterday was a really good day and tomorrow I will finally begin physical therapy. As for today? I woke up steadier on my feet than I’ve been in weeks and decided I’m going to kill it (at least for a few carefully-planned hours).
I have no idea how long it will take for me to fully recover (and wean off all the medicines), but I know that I will overcome. Pretty soon I’ll be leaping on ledges and following through with the plans I’d made – perhaps just with a bit more of age-appropriate caution. My hope is that the lessons I’m learning will stick with me for life and that when I reflect upon this time I will choose to say “Yeah, that was a rough month, but God sure did teach me a lot. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me next.”
p.s. – There’s only eleven days left to buy a cute t-shirt and raise money for rare medical conditions. Let’s all work together to find the upside of the rough spots in life and support the Ehlers-Danlos Society while we’re at it. While the injury I’m recovering from is not a direct complication from an underlying connective tissue disorder that I have (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), freaky inflammatory and allergic responses seem to be more common in the 1 in 5000 that are affected. There’s still just too many unknowns and research to be done and the Ehlers-Danlos Society is a non-profit guided by medical experts committed to finding answers. Get your shirt to support their mission and spread the positivity while you can! (Select the image below or click here for more info)