Pain. Wake up. Stand up. Pain. Walk, sit, squat, kneel. Pain, pain, pain, pain. Get into a car, get out of a car. Pain, Pain. Sit for more than ten minutes, stand up for more than ten minutes. Pain and pain.
This was my life from November of 2009 and onward.
It was a stupid injury. I drove a truck (18-wheeler) with a tight clutch all night. Limped for about a week. Two days before I was going to see my doctor, I was getting back into the truck when the door slowly drifted closed. My left foot big toe brushed the door and turned my sore leg. POP!
The pain was incredible, like getting hit with a two by four.
They said ‘mal-tracking patella.’ I say popped knee cap. Everyone I tell says, “no big deal.”
Either way, what it translated to was that every time I straightened out my leg– POP, the knee cap shifted and I got pain.
It meant that when I walked on it, the leg and knee hurt. It meant that I limped, making the other leg get sore. It meant that every little misstep or unintended twist or accidental bump was like a renewal on my pain subscription. Later came the back and wrist pain (having to push up from any position takes its toll on the carpal tunnel thing).
Two surgeries and four different multi-week sessions of worker compensation paid for physical therapy later, and I was not better. And now I was out of a job. You can’t drive a truck, they said, we have nothing for you.
I am not the type to ask for or accept help from others. I was the “I can muddle through this and make things better on my own” type of person. Damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead.
But the bills were piling up, my pay had been drastically reduced (about $200 a week) for the year and a half while I was trying to get better. And the settlement money was barely enough to cover the really behind bills. And I found out that if you settle, there is no unemployment insurance to fall back on. So I looked for help and found the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department.
It is a four week program, where they test you and assess you, both physically and mentally. And they work with you to determine the extent of whatever disability you have and help you determine a future where you can work and contribute and stop feeling like such a drain on everyone. It is a program that helps people with work related injuries, life related injuries, mental and physical disabilities (like muscular dystrophy, autism, spinal cord injuries, and the list goes on).
They teach you how to deal with your limitations while not thinking along the lines of limitations.
And this has been the most important lesson I learned while working with these wonderful, caring people. Since November of 2009, I had been living with my disability. But what I had to understand and learn was that I needed to start dealing with my own limitations. I had been in denial, even as the doctors and therapists were telling me that there was nothing more they could do. I was working from the self imposed assumption that I was going to get better, and then things would be able to go back to normal.
What I realized while going through the program, almost in an epiphany moment, is that I needed to change my view of what had happened to me. I needed to see my injury as the life changing thing that it was. All the while seeing that I was not alone in this. There was a community of people, some with lesser degrees of disability, others with more severe problems that I couldn’t even fathom how they could cope with. But a community nonetheless.
I now understand that I will not get 100% better, but I will learn how to work with what I have. I now understand that I will never play basketball or football with my grandsons the way I had envisioned, but I can do it in ways that include my new knowledge of my limitations. I now understand that even though I will have limitations it doesn’t have to define me or what I do, but I can work within those changes in my life to still live a full life. I now understand that by dealing with my injury instead of just living with it, I can now actually live life again.
I know the pain will never fully go away, but I now know ways of limiting the pain. And I now know what it means; it means my body is telling me “you can’t do it that way anymore.” But that doesn’t have to mean I can’t do it a different way. It is almost like driving down a road you have taken to work for years and coming upon a collapse in the road. Instead of complaining that I can now not get to work, I have discovered an alternate way to get there.
They say not to let your disability define you. But I have found that this is not exactly the best thing. Your injury will always define something about you, however it doesn’t have to define who you are. It will only define your limitations; limitations that are only a challenge for you to discover a new road to take in life. For some it will be simply a new way to walk or a new way to lessen or avoid pain. For others it will be a change in career or mobility or a complete way of thinking. For all of us dealing with injury or disability, physical or mental or both, we are all different. But we are never truly alone. It may seem that way at times but we just need to reach out and ask for help, even if we’re not used to doing that.
It is a change in view, a change in the mechanics of living and, above all, a change in attitude. As Janney, one of my instructors who views life from a wheel chair due to cerebral palsy, always says, you need to have a positive attitude and at least fifteen good belly laughs a day.
I got my laughs in today. Did you?
About the Author
Charles B Reynolds has been blogging for four years, writing news, commentary, poems and recipes for just as long. He has been working on several books in several forms and formats for way too many years to like thinking about. A former genre writer from the 1990’s in the small press realm and romance writer on the internet, Charles is married to a wonderful woman who is also a writer and editor. He has three super talented children and two amazing grandsons. One thing he would say about himself that many people would be surprised is that he nearly ran as a write-in Independent candidate for the 2008 Presidential race. But his decision was vetoed by the family, who love their privacy too much to let the media hounds in. Outside of writing, Charles has a wide variety of interests, from history to composing music to enjoying a swim with his grandsons.