It was all so innocent. I was playing racketball with my wife when I jumped up in the air and then came down hard on my left ankle. My wife told me that she had never seen such an animalistic look on my face before. For me, one minute I was up in the air, the next I felt this shooting pain in my left ankle and it hurt like hell. I limped off the court, tried to shake it off and couldn't. I was in pain. Lots of pain. My injury took place while on vacation last week. After going to urgent care, I had my leg wrapped up, given crutches and told to get see a specialist and not put any weight on my foot.
I'm a father of two, a runner and work full-time. The slow realization of my being temporarily disabled started to sink in. My wife and kids went to the boardwalk and I had to stay at home putting ice on my ankle and keeping it raised. When we came home from vacation, I realized that I couldn't do the simplest things: Carry a glass of water from the kitchen to the living room, cook dinner, do the wash, mow the lawn, go food shopping or even take a shower. My appointment to see the ortho specialist is later this week. In the meantime, I'm learning to relax, let go and adapt. And to be honest, I suck at all of that.
I'm the type of person who is up early, running 4 miles or writing each day and then heading off to work. Telling me to stay off my foot and then truly finding it challenging to do the simplest of things has been difficult for me. I just helped putting the kids' clothes away but balancing things on my head and around my neck so that I could use my crutches to get into the next room. Last night I hobbled outside with my crutches to cook chicken on the grill and I was more tired by the full day of upper body exertion than I've been after running 10 miles.
I've also had some time to reflect: For people who have a permanent disability or are sick and unable to help themselves, I look at my own situation and realize that I have no clue as to what true hardship is. I have taken for granted my ability to walk, run and get lots of work done. Now I'm being forced to slow down and re-evaluate where I can (and cannot) help. And worse, is that I have had to ask to help from my wife and kids. I grew up in a family in which the men (my grandfather and uncle) really didn't help out around the house. The women did all the cooking, cleaning, wash, etc. I vowed to not be that way and I will cook, clean, take trash out, put kids to bed, clean up after sick kids, whatever. It doesn't matter. I will do the job because I believe that it takes two to raise a family and run a household. Honestly, it takes a village because without help with the kids my wife and I wouldn't be able to get to work.
I have been trying to focus on the positive (thankfully there wasn't a fracture), but I do not yet know how severe my injury is and I wanted to write about this experience for myself but for others. I really don't know what tomorrow will bring and I am currently unable to do many of the things that I have taken for granted. I have some options: I can become negative, angry and frustrated or I can accept the help being offered to me and ask for help when I need it.
I expect that I'll be unable to run for weeks (maybe months). At this point, I simply want to be able to walk again. I do not like feeling helpless and I can understand why people with disabilities do not wish to be treated special. I like being able to do things for myself and to help others. But accepting help or asking for help, that's a whole different story.
It's difficult for me to ask for help because I see that as weakness and I also do not want others to think that I am taking advantage of them. I like to help rather than be helped. But for now, that's not possible. On Friday, I was watching the Today show and saw an interview with Amy Van Dkyken-Rouen. She is a two-time Olympian who has won 6 medals in swimming. About a month ago, she was in a near fatal ATV accident and is now paralyzed below the waist. Yet with all that has happened to her, she has chosen to remain positive and is working hard to relearn the skills she needs to be able to live her new life without the use of her legs.
I heard her story and compared it to my injury and several days of crutches and reflected on how fragile life is and how special. It also helped me put in perspective my small injury. There are times in life when we are at the top of our game and we feel invincible and then there are times when we fall (literally) and are injured and need time to recover. I hope that my injury will be one that I will heal from soon so that I can walk and run again. In the meantime, I'm trying hard to accept my condition and the help being offered to me. I am grateful that I do have family to help me, but I wish to make certain that I can repay them in kind in the future.
I'm scheduled to get up early and start writing my next novel tomorrow and I wanted to take this time to write this out so that I can capture in time when I was scared, tired and injured. I hadn't prepared for how difficult it would be getting around up and down stairs on crutches and how tired I've been at the end of the day (and how sore). When I write tomorrow, I'll have to relocate because I tend to sit on the sofa cross legged. I'll not be able to do that tomorrow and will need to write elsewhere early in the morning before anyone is up. I don't know how tired I'll be, but I was hoping to get some writing in before work. I don't know how long it will take me to write this next book and I surely didn't expect to be injured and have other challenges.
I wish I had something more insightful to share, but I wanted simply to show weakness, fear and to face it. I'm often told how impressive it is that I do so much, but I think it's just as important to share my darker moments and times when I fall. I am hurting, tired and worried. I admit and embrace that. We'll see what tomorrow brings.