Give this paraplegic a wrist injury and watch the catastophizing begin.
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m really good at the catastrophzing game. I can go from All is well in my world to My entire family is dead in a ditch in the span of a few seconds. Or, more relevantly, You need to rest your wrist for a week to My independence is gone forever and my life will never be the same without pausing to consider a more realistic outcome. I’ve spent decades (yes, decades—plural) perfecting my anxiety skills and this little wrist problem was the perfect catalyst to put them into practice.
I suppose I’ve been angry that this seemingly small injury has impacted our daily life as significantly as it has in the last week. I’m angry that my husband had to take time off work because I can’t transfer in and out of my wheelchair without my wrist feeling like it’s going to snap. The thought, “If I wasn’t already broken, this wrist wouldn’t be a problem” plays on repeat in my head, only causing me to sink deeper into the low mood that’s been lingering for weeks. Needing help for things I’ve all but perfected doing independently has me reliving early moments of my recovery—bringing up emotions I really don’t have much capacity to deal with right now. But it also brings up a fear that has me questioning if I’m doing right by my body at all.
Pain management is high on my priority list. Massage, physio and chiro usually keep my pain at a livable level. What’s also on my priority list? Staying active, staying strong and not gaining weight that will make it more difficult to keep my body moving. But what if I’m not doing it the right way? Is there a right way or a best way to balance pain and activity so as to stretch your independence out as long as possible while also living freely in a way that makes you happy? If there is, it probably somehow involves giving up wine and chocolate which, I don’t think I can do.
In all seriousness, after allowing myself to rely on my husband and rest, my wrist is already much improved. A few more days sporting my new favourite accessories—an ice pack and a wrist brace—and I should be back to my regular working order. But then I’m faced with the question I really don’t want to answer: Am I doing myself more harm than good with my current routine? And if the answer is yes, what do I change? Do I give the gym a break and focus more on yoga, stretching and pilates? Do I rely more on my power assist when we go for longer walks to give myself a break? I honestly don’t know.
This injury isn’t the end of my independence—my physiotherapist assured me of that. I also know this won’t be the last time I need to rest my body or take time to let things heal. Even with that knowledge, I’m sure I’ll spiral down my catastrophe slide each time, momentarily convincing myself that my independence had a good run but that it’s all over. One day I’ll be right, but it isn’t now. Now, I have to come up with a plan—figure out a good balance—to keep my body strong and active but intact and un-inflamed. Any ideas?
I’m sure the solution for everybody is a little different between keeping in shape & protecting a body that has been through a lot. I know my disability is different than yours but with polio & post-polio the thinking over the years has changed from “use it or lose it” to “preserve it to conserve it”. Since we do everything totally with our arms, I’ve become keenly aware over the years that I have to protect them to protect my independence. The few times over the years (I’ve always been a wheelchair user) when one of my arms/shoulders/hands have had something going on it’s hit me hard that I just cannot function. I have to get help with everything I usually do myself – pushing my chair, transfers, dressing, working, etc. I know aging with a disability is taking a toll on me, but I can still get along and want to keep it that way as long as I can.
I didn’t start out with super strong arms to begin with after getting sick and in my earlier years I probably over-used a lot. I now kind of gauge how many transfers throughout the day….even though sitting on the couch to watch t.v. sounds better, it’ll still be 2 more times in and out of my chair. I’ve resisted getting an electric chair because pushing my manual chair is one of the few ways I can exercise but I’m totally interested in looking into power assist wheels like you have. Maybe that would be a way to continue longer. I try and eat as well as I can to not gain weight that I have to move around (agree with you that wine & chocolate are non-negotiable, though!). I just have to pick my battles.
I am sorry about your wrist and certainly know how something like that can cause crisis thinking in a split second. I’m really good at that too. However, you seem to be a strong and determined woman who will do the best for yourself and your family. Protecting the things that are important to your independence would be my suggestion. I’ve struggled against using more “adaptive” things through the years but have come to realize that they’re more my friend than not. You have such a busy life that just doing your day-to-day Mom & wife life probably is exercise plenty! Yea – don’t ditch the chocolate. Sanity is important too!
I will say I love reading your posts. You’re a great writer and I find something helpful in each of your entries. They might pertain to me and my life a bit differently, but I’ve benefited from your view on challenges and life in general. Your perspective is interesting as you’ve seen life from both sides of abilities. I always look forward to the next topic.
Good luck with your rehab – I’m sure you’ll figure out the best way forward. Stay safe & keep warm. After this freaky ice-snow storm we had in Texas a couple of weeks ago I have NO idea how y’all survive up north!
Everything you’re saying makes so much sense to me. I’m definitely trying to look at things differently and figure out a solution. Although I will always go for a couch transfer–even if I ask my husband to help me haha! As for the cold, I live in the mildest part of Canada for a reason. Very little snow here thankfully. I wouldn’t do well anywhere else.
Thanks so much for reading and following along. I really appreciate it.
I’m sorry you had to give up some of your independence and have your husband do a few things that you’re use to doing, I know how difficult that is to accept. I know because I am a little person (a.k.a. dwarf) and became paralyzed 4 1/2 years ago due to surgery gone wrong. I’m still struggling with acceptance/anxiety over having to basically give up all my independence because unlike you and many other wheelchair users, my arms are not long enough so I can’t transfer myself from my chair to anywhere. Sadly, I’ve gone from total independence, driving, a fulfilling 30 years career to basically nothing. I enjoy reading your blogs, thank you for sharing your stories.
That sounds like a huge transition you’ve had to endure. I hope you find peace as you work to come to terms with your changed body.
Thanks for reading and following along.