This is the 6th post in a series about my recovery from complications from back surgery in August. And I apologize in advance. This post is likely to be a bit rambling. Honestly, I’m still not even sure I should publish it, but here it is.
Inspiring. Brave. Amazing. Bad ass. Hero. Positive. Upbeat. Strong.
These are all words — beautiful, flattering, humbling words — that people have used so many times to describe me as they’ve followed my journey through this struggle to get feeling back in my legs and feet and work on learning to walk again. It fills my heart when people say these things. It causes me to strive to be worthy of such kindness and praise. But if I am being brutally honest, I am not always those things. There are so many times when I am living in some pretty dark places in my mind. I just don’t show them very often.
Before this happened, I loved my body. It wasn’t skinny but it was strong. I could do so many things. This body trained for and ran both a half marathon and a full marathon. This body made it through power zone rides on the Peloton. This body survived speed punches and power punches in 90 degree heat during boxing class. This body did a 2 minute plank. This body hiked for hours on the Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon. This body may not have been much to look at, but it was strong and I loved my body so much because of what it did. And it did those things because I told it to do those things. I dictated my own limitations, which were none, as far as I was concerned.
Now, I don’t like this body. There are some days and some moments where I hate this body so much. There are days where I feel absolutely trapped in it. (Yes, I know that there are people in much worse condition than I am, but that doesn’t make my feelings any less real to me.) All of the things I listed above: can’t do them. I can’t even just go for a walk or go for a regular bike ride. I can’t just get down on the floor and do a sit up. I can’t lie on my side and do a leg lift. Yet everything I do is an effort. Sitting up in bed, rolling over in bed, sitting down on a toilet, getting up from a toilet, coming down the stairs, going up the stairs, walking with the walker, walking with the cane, standing, squatting, stepping to the side, stepping backwards, bending over, getting in a car, getting out of a car, putting on shoes and socks, taking off shoes and socks, putting on pants, shorts, or a skirt, taking off pants, shorts, or a skirt, a million little everyday things that millions of people do without thinking about them. Because everything is an effort, I am always huffing, puffing, tired, and sweaty. I never feel fresh and clean, even right after getting out of the shower because it is an effort to stand to shower and sit down to dry off. Because of this, I always feel yucky so I never feel like I look good. On days I have therapy, I don’t even do anything with my hair except dry it, and I don’t put on any makeup. I feel frumpy and dumpy and sweaty. Because I can’t exercise the way I used to (and also because my eating habits have gone down the toilet and I’m on a medication that can cause weight gain), I feel and look fat. So, in summary: weak, sweaty, frumpy, and fat. Which makes me hate this body. And because I hate this body, I can’t seem to see past the weak, sweaty, frumpy, and fat. Which makes me hate this body. You see the vicious circle. The negative self-talk in my head is relentless. I try to hear the words I mentioned at the start of this post — I’m inspiring, brave, bad ass, a hero, positive, upbeat, and strong. I try to remember where I came from — not feeling my legs or feet, not moving them, not able to wiggle a toe, stand, or walk. I try to realize I’ve come so far in a short amount of time. I try to remember that my doctor says I am progressing at a tremendous pace. And sometimes I can push out the negative self-talk with the reminders. But there are still a lot of times I can’t. And it breaks me.
I will never be able to thank so many people from literally around the world for the love and support they have given me and continue to give me. If I never had any of those people, I would have never been able to start this recovery, much less keep going with it. When I have a good day or hit a milestone or do something I couldn’t do a week ago, I can’t wait to share it with everyone. It buoys me up during the times my body stops me from doing what my mind is trying so hard to tell it to do. Just know that my smile, my happiness, my excitement, my joy are all real, but if you look closer, it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears.
P.S. If you are tempted to suggest I seek some professional help to manage my feelings, rest assured I have also recognized this and have taken steps to keep my emotions manageable.