Finding balance isn’t easy, either literally or figuratively. I’m making do on the literal front thanks to crutches, a knee scooter, and improved muscle strength in my right leg and my arms. I worry every once in a while that I’m going to forget that my left foot doesn’t work and try to use it. I sometimes think to myself, Don’t step on the left foot. It’s weird, I know, but it’s what’s in my head.
Although I’m back at work and feeling mostly productive, I’m definitely not 100%. I tire more quickly. And though I don’t have a huge amount of pain, there are days when the foot twinges and I’m very aware of its presence and lack of function all the time. It’s definitely an obstacle and distraction. There are places I can’t go. I’m more aware than ever how much I enjoyed eating lunch with everyone and how important it was to see people at lunch informally. There are people I haven’t seen since I hurt myself because the only time I saw them was at lunch. The dining hall is up the hill and difficult to get to, so I have been bringing my lunch.
Technically, I can do most of my work easily without using my foot, but because I tire quickly some days, there’s work I can’t do easily because it requires more brain power and energy than I have. For example, I used to come home and spend an hour or so at some point finishing up a project, planning for class, reading interesting work-related articles, etc. Now, I can barely stay awake until 8. I usually have to put my foot up when I get home to keep the swelling down, so I’m already in a “relaxed” position. About all I can muster is an email or two. Seriously, it’s 7:15 right now and I could put my pjs on and go to bed.
But . . . sleeping is not exactly perfect. Even though I’m exhausted and sleepy, once I’m in bed, I struggle sometimes to fall asleep, or I’ll fall asleep and then wake up a few hours later and then lie awake for awhile, trying to get comfortable. This was worse early on than it is now, but I’m definitely not sleeping completely soundly every night. I can only sleep in two positions: on my back or on my right side. My preferred position? Yep, the left side.
And then there’s just the lack of control I have over a lot of things. I’m trying to do as much for myself as I can. I have two backpacks I use to carry things around, but you know, I can’t carry a plate of food in a backpack. I’ve managed to fold laundry and put it away, but it takes forever. Here’s how I put my clothes away. I’m on crutches. I take a pile of clothes and by pile, I mean like two shirts, and place it as far away from me as I can and as far towards its destination as I can. I repeat this process until the drawer is within reach. As you can imagine, this can take a long time. I swear it took me an hour to put away 6 sweaters and 4 pairs of underwear last night. On the one hand, I feel empowered that I’m not completely helpless, but on the other hand, it’s really frustrating when what should take 10 minutes take an hour. Don’t even get me started about cleaning up other parts of the house. I’m pretending it doesn’t exist.
Really, I’m not complaining. And I knew this was going to be a long process and I’ve mostly adjusted to not being very mobile. But I am sort of surprised at the lack of energy some days. My colleagues and students have been amazingly supportive. They always ask how it’s going, what my next steps are, what they can do for me. But they also respect my need to do what I can. I do ask for help, but I have also set things up so I don’t need it often. I have new respect for people with permanent mobility issues. As I was telling one of our school nurses, if this were permanent, I’d probably have to move into a house that is more functional, and I think my energy level would adjust. My body is trying to heal itself, after all, and that does take some energy.
I’m looking forward to taking that first step on my now injured (but healing) foot, looking forward to walking without the boot, then without the assistance of crutches. That may be months away, but it is what the future holds, and that’s a good thing.