This time last year I wasn’t allowed to walk without crutches.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to put on my shoes without sitting down. I slid one chuck onto my left foot, and didn’t quite get the heel on. That happens to everyone, right? Well, I stomped my foot down, annoyed that I hadn’t gotten my shoe on with the first try. And then I laughed at myself- a year ago, I wasn’t able to put on my shoes at all without sitting down, let alone walk at all.
This time last year I was recovering from a femoral stress fracture. I literally had the worst sort of fracture, in the worst possible bone, in the worst place. A fracture that just couldn’t seem to heal itself. And the doctors still haven’t pinpointed the reason (though I’ve been assured the odds of me having another one are relatively low, so that’s something).
Using crutches for any amount of time is pretty terrible. When the doctor first told me I would need to use them for at least 7 weeks, I literally broke down crying in the exam room. I later joked to my my mom that I was “mourning for all the things I was going to miss during my last semester of college” (I also told her that I wished I had been accepted to Hogwarts more than ever).
In the coming days I realized not only would I be missing out on a whole lot, but everything I did on a day to day basis would get ten times harder. From sleeping (tossing and turning & sleeping on my right side = bad news) to eating (before chowing down generally one has to move the meal from the kitchen to somewhere to eat it). Oh, and of course this was the one and only year I’ve ever lived by myself.
Had I known then that it would be almost eight months before things felt remotely normal again I might have totally lost it.
But I didn’t. If I could go back and have it not happen I would in a heartbeat. But I can’t, and when it was all said and done- I learned more from the experience than I ever could have imagined.
We take the most basic things for granted- Walking is awesome. Case in point.
People want to help- Whether they have been on crutches themselves or not. I had classmates take me shopping when we were supposed to be doing a project. I always had a ride to my friends’ houses. No stranger ever let me attempt to open a door by myself if they saw me struggling.
When you reach your limit you have two options- You can either laugh about it or cry about it. Most of the time it’s better to laugh. Cliché, but life is too short. That said, sometimes sobbing until it hurts is healing too.
Escalators are doable- but absolutely terrifying. Avoid them whenever possible.
Sometimes distraction is the best medicine- I’m all for dealing with your emotions etc. etc., but there’s a time and a place for it. When I was teetering on the laugh/cry scale, I turned on Netflix and broke out my pastels.
Small talk becomes way easier- For some reason when you’re on crutches, everyone feels the need to talk to you, but it’s almost okay because always have something to talk about. And people generally want to wish you well.
You are more resilient than you think- The thing about resiliency is that you don’t know how much of it you have until it’s tested. I developed a system for everything – opening doors, carrying things from room to room, hell- showering. My arms got stronger and allowed me to keep doing more things than I ever expected.
A lot of mundane worries kind of fade away- You just constantly have bigger fish to fry. I hate to generalize, but in my experience women tend to overanalyze everything. I always have. But since this experience I’ve found myself doing it a whole lot less. At the time, there are just no extra space in my brain for it. When I finally got through the surgery, the riding the bus with crutches, and the months of physical therapy I found that I didn’t slip back into my old habits. Sure, I still overanalyze a lot- but significantly less than I once did.
There are some amazing people in my life- My sister conquered her fear of driving in city without any hesitation so she could drive me where I needed to go. Kyle did my laundry for months. Kyle and our friends Eva and Alex moved all of my stuff across the city when we moved into Abbott, on the hottest day of the summer. I am incredibly grateful to all of them.
When I think back on last year- I try not remember the times I got stuck on campus because the shuttle forgot to pick me up or the time the x-ray tech made me crutch all the way across Presby Hospital to pick up a single document. I think of all these things I learned I think of all the wonderful people who were there for me when I needed them most.
Ok, and I also think about all the positive karmic energy I had to have built up from surviving this shit. This summer has to be awesome, right?