17 August 2014

The things you learn

I was in Starkman's today, which is a medical supplies store at Bathurst and Davenport, getting forearm crutches. The woman who helped fit me commented on how happy I was, and though I replied I was miserable, I got the feeling she didn't believe me. Possibly the grin on my face (at being able to move around more freely and in an upright position) made her think otherwise. But it got me thinking that the image I project during this injury isn't at all the same as on the inside, and this is what it's like. 

1. Each day is inconceivably and brutally hard. It's inevitable that everyday I'll run into something stupid and small that reminds me of how not in control I am. Sometimes it's getting tangled up in a towel, dropping my phone, and picking it up to find huge cracks on it, and other times it's hitting my affected foot in the same spot five times in a damn row on the same damn thing in the house. 

2. The term 'mood swings' is folly in the park. I have spent six weeks and two days in varying states of anger, bitterness, vengefulness and blame, and it's over the stupidest, smallest things. Someone holds open the door for me when I was trying to figure out how to do it myself? Anger, instead of gratitude, that they got in the way of my self-perceived progress. My phone stays silent when I'm on tenterhooks about a specialist's call? Nobody can do their job properly and I'm caught in the middle of a three-ring circus. Even at the time I know it's irrational, but it's like watching a movie with someone else in it. 

3. The smallest achievements feel like Nobel-worthy victories. A few weeks ago, I crutched home 650m, which seemed about as doable as climbing Everest without oxygen. Pre-injury, that was a nothing distance and I'd be ashamed to get in a cab. Now? I did the most amazing thing in the world, and I know what it feels like to be a baby taking its first steps. 

4. The world is full of generous, caring, kind and compassionate people. Nobody likes being pitied, and that's always on your mind when you're physically a step behind everyone else. But there's a difference between being pitied and being shown compassion, and the outpouring of kindness from everyone, both strangers and non, has been so incredibly touching and heart-warming. I really do get to see the best in humanity. Just tonight, a streetcar driver told me to take my time, freed up a seat up front for me, stopped at a non-designated stop, and offered me help in getting off. Touched. 

5. There are still a couple of rogues who stand out. With this injury, I've had the unfortunate experience of a couple people using my injury as an excuse to cover up their douchebageyness. You know, if you want to kick me, you really don't have to wait until I'm down. That's just cruel. 

6. The Internet is a wonderful thing. Since the injury, I've found two amazing sites where I can talk to compete strangers about the same bad break (pun intended?) and just let myself, warts and all, be free: I can rant and rave, encourage, support, complain, ask questions, get advice, and learn of others' experiences. As kind as the world around me has been, there's something to be said for commiserating with those who are exactly in your shoes. 

7. No matter how old I am, I still can't resist living on the edge and breaking a few rules. No need to go into detail here. 

8. Life becomes extremely unpredictable. Part of my day job is to review events, and that's just about ground to a halt. I hate it. I got very nicely used to a busy work calendar of theatre, concerts, shows and press conferences, as now everything comes down to practicality instead of availability: is there I can sit on when standing for seven minutes starts making me antsy? Is there a second chair for me to put my leg on? How many flights of stairs are to tackle? Is there a backup elevator or escalator just in case? If I'm tired, is a mobility scooter available? Will there be a big crowd where I'll have to be on guard to navigate through? Does the event end at night when darkness becomes a factor? How many cabs do I want to take before it becomes too expensive, and how do I be an asshole back to them for taking advantage of me with my injury? If I opt not to take a cab, do I really want to test myself on a streetcar and subway during rush hour? And...just because I can make it there, will I be okay the other half, of making it back out? 

9. I feel like a shit for cancelling. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people book themselves for something and then back out, and this applies to me. I hate cancelling on anyone or anything, as I feel I gave them my word and now I'm taking away some of that honour and credibility. In the past six weeks and two days, I've cancelled on more friends, family and events than I ever thought I would, and I feel like less of a person every time I do so. The point above makes each day so unpredictable, I have no idea until the day of if I'll be physically okay to go still be a go. Luckily, or because everyone has great manners, they've all been incredibly gracious about it, but in a way, that makes me feel worse. I've let too many people down, and I feel awful about it. 

10. The closest ones get bitched at the most. The second point, the one about mood swings being a laughably light term, has never been more true than with the ones closest to me. I know I've been an absolute shit with the ones who deserve it the least, and that makes me feel like even more of a shit. They are the ones who have, and will, carry me up and down stairs, give me the bed while they sleep on the couch, drop me off at appointments on their workday, let me wear shoes in a non-shoe wearing home, say nothing when it's the fifth week in a row I'm using alcohol in a desperate attempt to fall asleep, ask me to spend five minutes with them, tell me stories about their day like nothing's ever happened, not say a word when an assignment is late for the third day in a row, and email or text just to say hi and that they're thinking of me. With my mood swings and hourly struggles, I don't deserve any of their kindness and yet, there it is. Why?

11. Sleep is an elusive beast. From the time I was born, I was never, ever, a person who really put a premium on sleep. It was something other people did when they didn't want to be accomplishing something, but not me. I had things to do, places to see, and races to run. I didn't always get the sleep I needed, but that was okay. I felt okay. With the injury, though, I've felt as upside down as Alice in Wonderland. It would take me hours and hours to fall asleep, and then I'd only stay there, stay in that blissful state, for a few hours before waking up again around 4. I'd then spend several more hours awake before dozing off again, only to feel like a zombie once I finally thought that I shouldn't really be sleeping any more because hell, I've got work I'm behind on and it's not going to do itself and I may have a bit of a long leash now but it'll shorten in an awful hurry, and I have to get up. But I don't want. That's finally starting to lift, and it feels amazing. 

12. Really, really weirdly, I feel incredibly alive and like I have a purpose in life. I'm not religious and don't believe in a god, but I feel more like I'm living my character and personality now than I was pre-injury. Before, I was a lazy sloth who sat in front of a computer all day, which was completely opposite to my hugely energetic nature. I was excited and consumed by work, but I also knew I wasn't fulfilling a primitive part of myself. Now, I have to use all my physical, mental and emotional energy into everything I do, from showering to doing laundry, all of which were previously mindless tasks, and I feel so much more in tune with who I intrinsically am. I'm working for something, I'm exerting serious effort, and I'm achieving tangible goals. 

13. I don't know that I'll ever be able to cede control. I'm not a controlling person, but I like being in control. I like knowing what the situation is, I like knowing what my role is, I like knowing how my actions will affect the outcome, and I like knowing what all the possible plays are that will lead to all the possible outcomes. All of that's been thrown completely out the window now, and I have no say in anything. It doesn't matter if I walk or stay off my leg, that bone will heal when it's damn well ready to. And it sure as hell doesn't matter if the TSX bell will ring or EdgeFest3 will take place, if I'm not physically able to handle it, they won't wait. 

14. Desperation means trying anything. I wanted, needed, to get around, and I was going to test out anything that held even the vaguest possibility of working. One leg on a skateboard? Okay! Worked until I realized I had no idea how to both stop and turn. Rollerblades? Sure, I'd just put one on my good leg...and tip over backward trying to stop. Kid scooter? Okay, but did it have hand brakes? And did I really want to invest hundreds on an electric kid scooter that may or may not work? Bicycle? I've pedaled with one leg before, but a) how am I going to push off and give myself enough momentum to keep going, and b) where will I store my crutches? Not much more than that to make me feel hopeless and in despair about my situation. 

15. Time moves achingly slow. I got injured, and the recovery timeframe may as well have been the whole Cenozoic Era for all it mattered to me. All I heard the doctor say was, 'you injured yourself badly, and you won't be able to walk for the rest of your life, and it'll be horrible and slow and you'll never use your leg again.' That's not true, of course, and six weeks and two days has already passed, but each day feels like a year and it seems like 'normal' (whatever your normal is, for those who remember that TV commercial) will never get here, there. 

16. But...time does pass. I can't remember how many times I've written 'six weeks and two days', but there it is in black and white. When I was writhing around in agony on Bathurst Street that night, begging the paramedics to give me something for the pain, I couldn't have ever felt there was a day, nay, a time, when I'd be so focused on something else I would realize a whole day went by and it was actually a week anniversary of the accident. And for all the horrible hours I spent in the hospital (I still refuse to wail and act like a sucky baby just to get attention; come on, it's pathetic, and you're ruining everything for people who really need help; also, I could have let myself fake pass out from pain in the ambulance but I abstained because you only cry wolf when there's one eating your sheep), all those hours when they ignored me and my pain and treated me like a vagabond crashing on a bed, I just didn't have it in my mind to think that I'd be at shows and theatre plays a couple weeks later. But the hours melted into days (thank you, Percocet) and the days became weeks, and I'm almost at the stage of getting my cast off for good. This time, I really will hold fast to my silly values and just absolutely refuse to have another gosh dang fibreglass leg cast put on me. Ain't nobody got time for that!

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