Physical Therapy Struggles

I want to preface today’s post by saying I’ve been extremely fortunate to have great physical therapists post-car-accident.

It has been a very long (almost 7 year) road.

My last (ninth!) surgery was just six months ago.

The challenges on my journey have been too numerous to count.

On Tuesday, I had a rough day at PT.

(Tears might have happened all over Paul Newman’s shirt.  Kudos to him for being so quick to hand out hugs and tissues.)

By Tuesday afternoon, hugs aside, I had decided to quit PT.

If you have followed me for years, you know deciding to quit PT wasn’t an infrequent thing in my early post-accident years.

It was a horrific time filled with horrific pain.

I went through surgery after surgery after surgery … followed by a few more surgeries.

I wanted to quit and run away from PT all the time.

“I quit,” I used to tell The Torturer (my physical therapist during my worst post-accident years) on a daily basis.

Sometimes I even stomped my foot when I said it.

“No.  No, you don’t,” he’d answer.

(I made that man work hard for his money.)

This Tuesday, however, I didn’t tell anyone I had decided to quit PT.

I wanted a few days to think about my decision.

And think I did.

I thought about what I was like the day (last October) when I first met Paul Newman.

I had regressed substantially from where I was when The Torturer and I parted ways.

I could barely move.

My pain levels were sky rocketing.

I remember Paul Newman turning his dazzling Paul Newman eyes on me and asking if I was willing to commit to teeny-tiny baby steps of progess without quitting and giving up.

(I said yes, of course.  There isn’t a woman alive who can say no to Paul Newman when he dazzles you with his full Eye Power.)

But, I put a qualifier on my affirmation.

I needed him to commit to not giving up on me, too.

I couldn’t bare to give my full trust to a PT again if they weren’t going to also commit to helping me  forever  long term.

We made a pact.

And, now it’s 8 months later.

I’m nowhere near “normal,” but my motion is better.

My daily pain levels are much better.

My pain flare-ups are less frequent, and (most often) less severe.

There is no question, I’m in a much better place than I was last October.

Thinking back to where I was when Paul Newman began treating me,

Made it clear to me.

I have nothing to gain by quitting.

In fact, my greatest fear is regressing.

I absolutely can not go back to where I’ve been.

It was a terrible place.

I still felt the tug of wanting to quit PT, but

I also realized I need to stick with it.

Maybe forever.

Even if I never move forward one more teeny-tiny step.

PT with Paul Newman keeps me from going back to Pure Hell, which was a very bad place to live for so long.

But then –

Yesterday, I spent some time with The Torturer.

It was a social visit to get caught up on each other’s lives.

We talked about … well, everything.

It was a very nice visit.

As we parted, he asked me to show him how much I can now lift my arm.

My arm had not been a part of our discussion during our visit.

I hadn’t expected him to ask me to show him my arm mobility,

(I’m sure it was impossible for him not to be curious after taking care of me for so long.)

I hesitated and lifted my arm out to the side as much as I could.

And in that moment, I felt like a total failure.

I know he didn’t intend to make me feel bad.

He was, understandably, curious to see how far I’ve come.


I felt failure.

How many times did I do this exact thing when he was my PT?

Am I even at the level I was when we parted ways?

I’m better than I was “after my post-Torturer regression.”

But, have I simply gotten back to where I was a couple years ago?

I could see it in his eyes.

I could feel it in his hug good-bye.

I’m so discouraged.

I’m a physical therapy failure.

And this is it, isn’t it?

The biggest challenge is finding the fortitude to continue when you just want to crawl in a corner and give up.

19 Responses to “Physical Therapy Struggles”

  1. Denise

    Maybe spending time with The Torturer is not such a good idea. You seem to have a very good, trusting rapport with Paul Newman. Focus on that. If it becomes a lifelong commitment, so be it. With all the changes going on in your life right now….empty nest….leaving your PT is probably not a good idea. Failure? I don’t think so. Look how much you’ve done with your photography in the past couple of years. Onward, girl!!!

    • Suzanne

      Thank you for the encouragement.
      No, I know I can’t leave Paul Newman.
      The poor man is stuck with me.
      (And? I don’t think he’d let me go even if I wanted to.)
      He’s good for me.

    • Suzanne

      Paul Newman made it very clear to me today that I am going nowhere ….!

  2. Jan's Sushai Bar

    You know, I’m more than a little bit pissed that The Torturer asked you to do that, then condemned you with a look. HE quit YOU – he has NO business asking you about, much less qualifying, your progress with Paul Newman. NONE at ALL.

    Don’t you DARE quit. Don’t do it!!

    • Suzanne

      Oh Jan, I love you.
      And, I love how faithful you are as a friend.

      You’re right, The Torturer did quit me.
      And that hurt a lot.
      (Emotionally … and physically due to the regressing I did once I “lost” him.)

      It certainly didn’t happen fast or easily, but he and I have made peace and stay in touch.

      I don’t think The Torturer had any bad intentions when asking about my arm – just understandable curiosity. He’s always been positive about me working with other therapists. He knows I love/am bonded to Paul Newman and think highly of him. And no, The Torturer doesn’t have a right to evaluate or judge Paul Newman, but I don’t think that was his intention either. I think his look was more of disappointment than condemnation. I think he hoped I was further along than I am. Although, I don’t think they’ve met personally – I believe Paul Newman and The Torturer know “of” each other and have mutual respect for each other professionally.

      Again, I love you Jan. You have been a huge support to me along this journey. I love your support and I hope I’ve given a little more info about the situation here in the comments section.
      : )

  3. Judi

    Just adding a big old AMEN!!! to everything Denise and Jan said.

    • Suzanne

      Oh, I am a lucky woman.
      I have the nicest, most faithful, most supportive readers.
      : )

  4. stacy g

    and I would rather have a little less or different movement in trade for less pain any day. You are doing really good on the less pain front and that is life changing!

    • Suzanne

      I have always said I would gladly give up all function if I could be without the pain.
      Paul Newman believes he can get me to a better place and I do trust him. Nothing about my arm/injuries/situation has been normal … and my recovery is not either. As long as there is progress, I’m happy. As long as I can look back a few months and know I’m in a better place now, I’m happy.

      • stacy g

        And before Paul Newman did you even know that your arm pops out of the socket and that is why it is soo dang painful? or at least part of why. He is really good for you and you need to give yourself a break!! You are doing amazing!! On another note today was a horse show at Coto. All of these little kids dressed up in their show clothes and lots of sparkly clean horses. I think the next one is Aug. 25th or something like that. It is a Sunday. Come by if you want, Actually, they had a few vendors this time. You could probably make some money selling the pics you take to the money town crowd.

        • Suzanne

          I knew my arm made popping noises sometimes and that it really hurt when it did.
          No, I didn’t understand exactly what it was doing or why until Paul Newman explained it to me.
          Yes, Paul Newman is good for me. (Just don’t tell HIM that or his ego will get out of hand!) : )
          I’m pretty sure women have been oohing and ahhhing all over him his entire life. I don’t want to join the crowd!
          : )

          The horse show sounds like fun.
          If you think of it, remind me as it draws closer.
          I’m so overwhelmed with all the pre-college stuff until mid August … I’ll probably forget!

  5. Kathy

    It hurts like hell to go to PT. especially after you spent a significant amount of time not going to PT. you regressed…just like not going to the gym for the same period of time…it takes a while to get it back. But no matter how normal that is The Torturer made you feel like a failure.

    Don’t let him. At some point you’ll be able to thumb your nose at that failure-feeling because Paul Newman is so good at what he does. He didn’t let you down and you are not letting yourself down. Besides, isn’t it easier to do your crazy photographer moves when you’re not in pain?


    • Suzanne

      Thank you.
      I think the failure feeling was more inside of me than anything The Torturer did.
      I sincerely believe his intentions were good.
      (See above comments.)
      This whole journey has been agonizingly slow … it is often difficult for me to see the progress without really stepping back to appraise it.
      Yes, Paul Newman is very good at what he does.
      And yes, my whole life is easier with less pain … especially camera-related work.

  6. Erica

    I’m sure the Torturer felt like a failure because of the way he ended things, especially if he reads your blog and knows the consequences of his actions. Maybe that is what you saw in his look.

    Focus on Newman’s eyes, his sense of commitment and humor, and your steps forward.

    The Torturer is nothing but a friend now and should not have asked you to lift your arm. If any other friend or acquaintance had tested you like that, you would have walked away.


    • Suzanne

      I’m sure The Torturer has some regrets. There are things I’d do differently now, too.
      We have both tried to work past that and I think we have.
      (We wouldn’t have tried if we didn’t both feel we had a friendship worth trying to save.)

      I do focus (a lot!) on Paul Newman’s eyes.
      It makes it very difficult to think or breathe.
      And yes, he is committed to making me better and he does have a great sense of humor which is very compatible with my own.
      All of these things keep me going ….

      People (friends and total strangers) do ask me to lift my arm, to show my scars, and/or ask all sorts of personal things. I’ve grown very used to it. I lead a public life and it comes with the territory. It doesn’t bother me, and (although I wasn’t expecting it), I wasn’t offended by The Torturer’s curiosity.

  7. Michelle

    So glad you took the time to quietly sit on your decision to quit. Sometimes we just need time to evaluate what is going on, and when we verbalise a decision we don’t have the freedom to do that. Other people feel the need to put in their two-bob’s worth so that colors our decisions. Anyway, I’m glad you didn’t quit. 🙂


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