First And Last
Monday, February 25th, 2013
For most of the last week, I’ve been able to avoid the constant barrage of reminders that I am a physically broken and structurally unstable human being. Aside from my strict schedule of prescription pain killers, some extra visitors at the house, filing for disability and tossing all my projects off to coworkers, the last week has generally seemed like a very extended and very lazy weekend.
I can go to the bathroom, make a sandwich and slowly make my way around the first floor of my house without any assistance. I’ve even learned how to change my pants and underwear with only the assistance of an extended reacher tool.
I can’t go up and down stairs without someone right by my side. I can’t bend down and pet Riley. I can’t shower myself. For the most part, I’ve been able to get past all of those things.
The time when my crippled state is really thrown in my face is when I am in bed. To keep my spine straight, supported and avoid excruciating pain, I’m only able to lay completely flat on my back. It is the only time I’m ever able to take my brace off, let some of the blisters heal and almost act as if I’m not broken. Technically, I have doctor’s orders to lay on my side, but that really kills my back muscles.
At night, when I’m unstrapped from my brace, I assume the position. Straight on my back, feet together, hands crossed over my chest and looking up at the ceiling. A position that could easily be confused with laying in a coffin, but for my own mental health, I pretend I’m about to go down a really awesome water slide. My pretending isn’t as effective as I’d like it to be.
When I wake up, once again staring straight up at the ceiling, I’m reminded of my completely vulnerable state. I can roll to my left, flail my arm around in the dark until my fingers fall on something that feels like a cell phone on my nightstand. I then roll onto my back, just to read all the tweets, facebook posts and instagrams that my friends aren’t posting at 3am. Or I roll to my right, hope that it is a reasonable hour, and poke Sam and wake her up. She feeds me my dose of meds and straps me into my brace. From there, I can sit up and have her help me put on my socks and shoes so I can safely make it down the stairs for the day.
She is my savior. My connection to my former 29 history as an unbroken and structurally stable human being.
Each day is bookended by one of the two most terrifying moments of my day. It isn’t the boogeyman or the fear of some horrible idea. It is the terror of being able to see, touch, hear, taste and smell a life that is radically different from everything that I’ve ever known. A terrifying feeling that taken to its fullest extent wipes away so many things I’ve loved, and others that I never even had the chance to be consciously grateful for. A feeling of being uncomfortably close to being a quadriplegic .
While I feel more independent, more human and more like “me” once I have my brace on and am able to put my feet on the floor, my level of excitement is capped by the knowledge that I’ll have to find the strength to face that same terror before I fall asleep again, and hope I dream about healing quickly and returning to being my normal, stable and structurally-sound self.