Someone close to me confronted me recently. Her intentions were good, and to be honest, she didn't say anything I haven't heard many times before.
"At what point," she asked, "Will you accept the fact - this is as good as it's going to get with your arm?"
… Silence …
She added, "You have to accept this is it. This is the way you are now. You can't go to physical therapy forever."
I know she cares greatly about my well being. Her intentions are nothing but heartfelt. As I listened to her – mentally I ticked off, one by one, a list of other friends and family members who have said nearly the exact same words to me since my car accident three and a half years ago.
"Move on with your life," one friend said.
"Forget about it now," said another.
Forget about it?
How can I forget my arm dangles uselessly at my side?
My right, dominant, arm at that?
(If you think I should forget about it, or move on, I'd like to suggest you have someone tie your dominant arm down at your side for 24 hours. Then come back to me after a normal day of activities and tell me if you've changed your mind.)
How can I "forget" I'm in pain every single moment?
Some people questioned why I underwent surgery number two. Others questioned why I would subject myself to a whopping total of six surgeries.
I've been searching my heart. I've been searching my soul. I've been questioning my level of acceptance, as well as my level of denial, of this limitation my body now has.
We all know, we can't truly understand anyone else's experience without living it. During the first two and a half years post car accident, I simply had no options. The pain was unbearable and I would have done anything – anything at all – to make it stop. Getting my arm to work was secondary … just please, please, make the pain stop.
The pain will probably never stop.
I know that now.
I also know, with the help of an excellent surgeon (Dr. Schobert), and over a thousand hours of physical therapy, I can now manage my pain to reasonable levels most of the time.
I can live my life with pain like this. It isn't ideal, but I can do it.
I couldn't live my life with the pain I had those first few years. My teeth never unclenched. It, literally, hurt to breathe. All I could ever think of was, "Make it stop."
I am getting better.
And yet, I question myself too.
"Maybe it's time to give up," I think.
"How much longer?" I periodically ask The Torturer.
"You're still improving," he answers. "You're regaining function. You can do things now you couldn't do just a few months ago."
My camera, my love of photography, immediately springs to mind.
I can hold a camera now. Granted, I primarily support it with my left, functioning, arm – but I couldn't have used that very same camera six months ago. Indeed, I've learned the hard way, I can only shoot photos for short periods of time or I will pay for my efforts with skyrocketing pain.
But I am taking photos again.
I am getting better.
What many people don't understand is, because my arm doesn't function normally, all the surrounding muscles are also affected. My neck, my back, my chest … those muscles all interact with my shoulder and arm. Without movement, they wither and die causing me great pain in the process. The Torturer moves my arm in ways I can't, which in turn works those surrounding muscles. Without his help, I suffer so much more.
Did I just admit publicly The Torturer helps me?
Shhhh … don't tell him – I'll never hear the end of it.
All of these thoughts have weighed heavily on my mind lately. Round and round my mind has gone – questioning, always questioning, if I'm making the right decisions in managing my "disability."
And then …
And then, yesterday, for the first time ever … as I lay on my back at PT, I was able to lift a three pound weight over my head. Not once, not twice – but fifteen times. It wasn't easy and yes, it really hurt.
And then – I did it again, another fifteen times.
I don't think The Torturer could believe what he was seeing.
My heart is bursting with joy.
I am getting better.
© Twenty Four At Heart