31 Going on 70

I celebrated my birthday last week. My 31st.

In many ways, it was nice for me.

My friend at work brought in an ice cream cake for me the day before my birthday, and we all ate ice cream at 10 o’clock in the morning (because the morning is our afternoon). It really brightened my day, even though it was such a short amount of time, it meant a lot to be around people I care for, and that care for me.

When I went to my PHP program on Monday, one of the women gave me a bag of fancy dark chocolate caramels. Most of the people in program know me for two things: my love of dinosaur chicken nuggets and my affinity for chocolate. Since I stopped smoking a few weeks ago, I replaced my cigarettes with Hershey’s chocolates, willingly provided by the director of the program. It was so nice (and a little embarrassing) to be recognized for my chocolate addiction, and I was so surprised that someone would think to do that for me. My face must have lit up, because people commented that they had never seen me that happy before.

It’s the small things that really get me. It’s weird, because in some ways, I don’t want to be recognized, acknowledged, or even noticed on my birthday. But in other ways, I just wish I could enjoy a day that so many other people get to enjoy. I realize a lot of my issues are tied up in trauma. There’s also the fact that my friend died on my birthday 11 years ago, and it feels wrong to celebrate anything happy on the anniversary of his death.

But I made it through. I took it all in. I didn’t break down. I kept myself busy between program and work, and that was probably for the better. Silence and being unoccupied are usually what lead me down the black hole.

Then life happened. The birthday fun was over and I found myself sitting in the ER two days later in excruciating pain. My knee gave out and I fell. Hard. I just wanted to make sure nothing was broken, as I am the girl who broke her foot walking across the street. I thought I was making a wise decision going to the hospital that night. The doctor came to see me, asked me about my history, and sent me for x-rays. Nothing unexpected.

And then the doctor came in with an odd look on her face. I couldn’t tell if she was perplexed or concerned (or maybe both). She asked if I was sure I hadn’t been in pain before this. I told her no, but that answer wasn’t exactly the truth. How can I explain that I learned to block out pain? How can I explain that I learned to deal with pain in order to survive? How can I explain that I learned to believe that pain was my normal? I couldn’t. So I told her no, because the truth seemed too impossible to explain.

I’ve never seen this degree of damage in someone your age. You have severe arthritic damage to your knee. I’m referring you to a orthopedic specialist for more testing and treatment.

I…just went there because I fell. I didn’t break anything, so I guess that was good. It’s most likely a sprain, possibly a ligament issue, but the doctor wasn’t even concerned about that. She was concerned about the old damage. I’ve never seen this degree of damage in someone your age. Those words stuck with me, because they’re words I’ve heard before. I didn’t need to hear those words again. I didn’t want to hear those words ever again.

In all the ways I am trying to improve my mental health, my physical health is deteriorating. I was just starting to cope with the emphysema, another thing they don’t see “in someone your age.” It took an entire year to get to a point of really acknowledging it. I ended up in the hospital several times and it all became real. I was told in my last hospitalization that I had bronchiectasis (non-CF type), another form of COPD. As if emphysema wasn’t enough, they want to throw ANOTHER diagnosis at me. Blow after blow. 

I don’t want to go to any more doctors. I don’t want emphysema or bronchiectasis or a fucked up knee. I’ve had enough shit in my life already. It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. I was supposed to get out and get better, not become free and lose my health. I can’t handle any more diagnoses, any more problems, any more hospitalizations.

I’m not really sure what state I’m in. It isn’t shock, because really these are things I should already know. Is it grief? I don’t think so. I’m not sure I have the right to grieve. These things are my fault. If I didn’t smoke, if I went to the doctor more, if I didn’t block out the pain, maybe I wouldn’t be 31 years old with problems I should be having when I’m 70.

How am I supposed to feel? What am I supposed to do?

Spurs, spurs, everywhere

I went to the podiatrist today.

It’s very hard for me to actively seek medical care. I think there are a lot of factors involved in that. I don’t have normal pain experiences. There are times when I am able to block out the pain completely, which does no good because the damage is still being done regardless of whether or not I can feel it. When I do feel pain, I have trouble admitting it. Pain usually leads to more pain.

My mother was never big on doctors, and I think some of her attitudes have carried on in me. There is also an underlying connection between doctors and the abuse my mother inflicted on me. She would use doctors and my illnesses as a cover for abusing me. Because of that, I did (and sometimes still do) associate doctors directly with the abuse. It’s a hard connection to deconstruct, but we’ve been working on it for a while now.

Regardless, I made the appointment and went.

The appointment wasn’t without problems. When I got there, I learned that my PCP never sent the referral. I called three times last week. I called Tuesday and left a message on the referral line. I checked with the podiatrist on Wednesday and they hadn’t received anything, so I called my PCP again and left another message. Still nothing. I called Friday and waited to speak to an actual person. I told them that I already called twice and they hadn’t done anything. The office person took all of the information again and insisted that she was sending it right out.

It turns out she didn’t send anything out. It was ten or so minutes before my appointment, I had taken two buses just to get there, and now I didn’t know if I would even be able to be seen. I had to sit there and seethe a little. The podiatrist’s office was able to get through to my PCP and was told they would fax over the referral right away. Like I haven’t heard that before.

The fax came through as I was being prepped to be seen, thankfully. I was still a little angry but I was able to keep myself calm. The doctor seemed really nice, and I felt comfortable right away. He asked about my pain concerns, and about my previous surgery. I had also noted on my forms about my foot fracture last summer, and he asked about that. He asked how I managed to fracture my cuneiform, as it’s a rare bone to break. Story of my life. Rare, weird shit always happens to me.

The range of motion in my left foot is considerably minimized. It is extremely painful for me to pull my foot forward towards my leg, enough so that I can’t even put my foot in a normal regular 90 degree angle position. The doctor pressed on some different areas of my foot; most were okay except for the spot on the bottom of my heel.

He didn’t want to address my right foot just yet. He acknowledged the visible growth on the top of my foot, but said a lot of the pain I am experiencing in that foot may be because I am compensating for the debilitating pain in my left foot. So we are going to focus treating the left and see if there is any improvement in the right.

I had a few x-rays taken of my left foot, each taken in a different position. I waited as the doctor pulled the images up on the screen. I noticed something off right away. I had so many x-rays and MRIs done on my feet in prior years that I knew what to look for. As clear as day was a large bone spur, resembling a claw, growing out from the back of my lower ankle. As he scrolled further down, there was another spur, growing out from the bottom of the heel of my foot. It’s not nearly as large as the one on my ankle, but the location of it makes it all the more painful. There is also regrowth on the top of my foot, where two of the spurs were removed just over two years ago.

If you’re taking count, that’s four spurs. On one foot. I’m sort of thankful the doctor didn’t really look at my right foot. I don’t know if I could have handled knowing anything more.

The first goal of treatment is pain relief. The doctor gave me a shot of cortisone into my heel. He also wrote me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. I go back in two weeks for another injection. There is not much the doctor can do right now in terms of physical therapy and other treatments until he can determine how bad it is. Right now, the pain and inflammation is too great for me to even move my foot properly. Once some of that is relieved, I will have to do some physical therapy, stretching, etc. and wear a boot (for those that missed out on the early posts of my blog, I hate boots. I ended up taking my knee-level boot off one day out of frustration and throwing it in a dumpster, just one month after I had fractured my foot). So yea, I’m not thrilled about that at all. At least I have two weeks before I have to deal with that shit. Oh, and the doctor is also going to set me up with orthotics. Yay.

I made it through the entire appointment. I’m not sure that it was all me, but I’ll explain that later in another post. For now, I’m just exhausted and need to sleep. Hopefully the cortisone will kick in soon and I can walk on my feel again.

Tears on a Thursday

I cried a lot today.

I cried at six o’clock in the morning. I had just woken up and I already wanted to go back to sleep. The amount of effort and energy it takes for me to get out of bed and go to the bathroom is draining.

The pain in my foot is excruciating in the morning, to the point that I cannot put any weight on it. I cannot even balance myself without holding on to something; as soon as my foot touches the floor, I am hit with enough pain to topple me over. One morning, I fell over and managed to at least fall into the wall, so I was able to push myself back to a standing position.

Since then, I’ve managed to slide out of bed and onto my desk chair every morning, roll myself all of the way over to the door, open said door, and take about three or four minutes to pull myself up and slide myself into the bathroom and onto the toilet. Sometimes I don’t even make it to the bathroom on time. That is how pathetic I am right now. I am 30 years old and can’t even manage to walk to the bathroom on time.

I couldn’t tolerate the pain anymore this morning. As I rolled myself back from the bathroom to the bed, I just started crying. I couldn’t stop. I just wanted the pain to go away, but I knew it wasn’t going to. I just have to deal with the pain. It’s what I’ve been doing all of my life.

After a while, I managed to calm myself down and stop crying. Then my mind started going into anxiety overdrive. What if I go to the doctor and it’s not a simple fix? What if I’m not able to work? I’m really fucked. Then I started crying again. I called several doctors in the last week trying to get an appointment. Every doctor I was calling had the earliest appointments at over a month out, until I finally found someone who would take me next week. But I am still so afraid to go.

I feel that this isn’t going to be an easy fix. I’ve had some really fucked up foot issues, including massive multiple bone spurs at the top of my foot. This, however, is by far the worst foot pain I have had in my life. That worries me. I needed surgery for something that was far less painful than this is, so what does that mean? Another surgery? How am I going to live if I can’t work? Disability takes (in the shortest) a month to get. I can’t financially handle not working. So I just kept crying, imagining all of the possibilities, imagining all of the horrible shit that could come from this.

I actually cried myself to exhaustion. I tried to distract myself from the anxious thoughts and I ended up falling asleep, which was probably a good thing anyway. I woke up and still didn’t want to do anything, but I knew I had therapy in the afternoon and had to get moving. I took some more pain relievers, wrapped up my foot, told myself I wasn’t going to cry anymore, and hobbled my way to the bus stop.

My therapy session started out alright. I knew the focus was going to be on my graduate school conundrum. I told my therapist before that I was likely going to drop out, as much for financial reasons as for the drama surrounding the anonymous reporting. I told her again that I just didn’t think it was going to work. I didn’t think through all of the financial shit before I jumped into starting this grad school. It’s not cheap, and there are less expensive options out there, although the quality is likely lower as well. But I really don’t have any other options.

I don’t remember exactly what set it off, but I felt the tears coming. I tried holding them in and that lasted for about thirty seconds; then I just started crying. My therapist noticed and asked me what was going on, and how I was feeling right then. All I could say was “nothing”.

My go-to answer, as usual. I don’t have feelings. I’m okay. Nothing is wrong. Why can’t my therapist just go along with that? Why must she insist that I connect with these feelings?

Then it all came out. “I made a huge mistake coming here. Why did I think I could make it by myself? I should have stayed. I wouldn’t be in this mess if I had just stayed.”

“You’re not being physically and sexually abused here. If you had stayed…”

By that point I just started drifting in my own head. I know what I escaped. But that was my normal. When you’ve been abused for so long, it just becomes your normal. I’m not sure the damage could have gotten any worse had I continued to endure it. When faced with overwhelming challenges, we go back to what we know. And that home is what I know.

I started having short flashes of memories from the recent past, reminders of how I made myself numb to what my mother was doing to me. Then I started to cry even more. What is wrong with me? I know what I went through and yet I still ask myself why I left, I still want to go back in time and forget I ever left.

My therapist told me that if I had stayed, it would have killed my spirit. “My spirit is already dead. That wouldn’t matter.”

“I don’t think that’s true. I still see the spirit in you.”

That’s not spirit. I don’t know what that is. After all of the shit I have been through, how could I have any spirit left? Shit, I don’t even know how I’m still living.

I think I cried for most of the session. By the end, I had a hand full of used tissues, neatly folded into little squares. I’m not sure why I kept on crying. I really try to keep that under control.

Perhaps it’s the physical pain I’m in. Perhaps it’s the sense of hopelessness once again creeping up on me. I don’t know for sure, but I do think I’m dehydrated now.