[Most of the following was written over a month ago and after writing it, I didn’t feel led to share. My head and heart were not in the right place. Now they are, so here you go.]
My most recent ‘tune-up,’ as I have dubbed it, was Friday April 7.
There was more to the pain that was keeping me from fully healing – my fibula was (is) still broken, I had little feeling in my right leg, by noon a sharp burning sensation began in my lower back and extended down to the tops of my feet, I was still walking with a crutch, and sitting for more than two hours had become virtually intolerable.
Some days, none of this held me back and on others, it was incapacitating. You know that gut feeling you get when you just know that some thing is the right thing? I knew that a decompression was my only option.
Prior to going under the knife, lucky for me, I was gifted the opportunity to get out of Florida and fly to Atlanta to celebrate and honor this brutiful [brutally beautiful] journey with one of my favorite people on the planet. The trip had been planned for a little while and thank goodness my tune-up didn’t interfere with the chance to board a plane in search of Ludacris, Bruno Mars and T.I., and take a break from the monotonous healing process.
Two-ish years ago I met Taylor when he was working at my home yoga studio in Charleston. The first couple of times I said hello in passing while internally I was gushing love for this human who I had been following on social media and when I found out he had moved to Charleston, I had heart palpitations so severe I almost died from excitement. During Taylor’s classes, the words he spoke formed synapses to my heart and soul. Every time I saw him, I told myself that one day we were going to be best buds. After one particular very sweaty evening asana, I walked up to the front desk and asked him if he wanted to get dinner one night.
A night out for sushi and the rest was history.
Many a margarita, acro yoga session, kimchi pancake, kombucha, Whole paycheck trip and laugh until we cry moment later – I can’t imagine my life without him. Tay has a way of expressing unbelievable compassion for both people and truth with the utmost clarity.
Grateful doesn’t even begin to explain my sentiments. With all that continued to transpire in my life, I needed to duck out of my reality and laugh. Tay made the trip happen and it was the best medicine. Aside from the collapse of I-85, which I swear I had nothing to do with, getting out of WPB and spending time with people I love was a successful reset button for my heart and soul. The below video is a stellar example of what the weekend looked like in a nutshell… add margaritas… and a ton of laughter.
For nearly two years, beginning when I first lost feeling and sensation in my legs, I have been struggling physically and emotionally, and in turn, I uphold this tendency to be super hard on myself. When feeling overwhelmed I flip a switch causing me to revert to survival mode. Society continues to create impossible expectations that my life has not abided by… ever. It’s hard. The days when I can do nothing but judge myself for failing to follow said expectations are the hardest.
This healing process is not linear and I don’t know one that is. Better yet, LIFE isn’t linear. Solidifying any kind of timeline has seemed moot. Deep within my heart I know that no one’s life is perfect. It’s not that I am not doing enough or being enough. And yet, I beat myself up. In giving myself a little bit of credit, there are days when I turn on self-compassion, embrace vulnerability, and ask for help.
Symptoms or situations that slow us down tend to make us think our bodies are betraying us or aren’t good enough. When our body sends flares up asking to be heard. Listen. We are trained to react and respond. And yet, today, in this fast paced life, we have a tendency to miss the warning signs.
After ATL, with surgery day fast approaching, I did my best to get my shit together. The morning Mom flew in, I was blindsided by the most intense vertigo I have ever experienced – to the point where I nearly told her to get a taxi from the airport to my place. Not only were standing and walking hard, it wasn’t exactly safe for me to be driving, either. Those couple of days before surgery were HARD. Aside from the mounting anxiety, my world was quite literally spinning.
My condition yielded little mental clarity as I attempted to navigate my pre-op appointments with both the hospital and Dr. Feldman on that Thursday. It made for one teary-eyed, emotional woman. The best news I got out of that afternoon was the clearance to take Xanax the morning of surgery [enter arm flexing emoji here]. There was question as to whether or not another decompression was going to help me. In listening to my body, I knew that something had to be done.
The morning of surgery, I set my alarm to wake me at 4am when I popped a Xanax and took the last shower I would have for the next, far too many, days. The nursing staff took exceptional care of me and while zoned out to my anthem of ‘Rise Up’ by Andra Day, two nurses tag teamed and nailed my IV on the first try. Both Tiffany [PA] and Dr. Feldman saw me before I was wheeled back.
Humming the same tune of physical pain, depression, surgery, anxiety and a seemingly cataclysmic path to healing gets old — really, really, really old. To the point where talking about myself caused me to become sad and at times angry about everything. If people checked in and asked, “How are you?” My response was typically a one word answer. Chances were that they didn’t care to hear EVERYTHING that I was feeling — how I wasn’t sure if the decompression worked and that I was so worried about how much longer the healing process was going to take it was consuming me. To top it off, I was nearing the end of my 35 visits for physical therapy for the year.
Something had to change and there was only one individual who had the power to make it happen. ME.
After emailing Dr. Feldman about how concerned I was regarding my level of weakness and my options for strengthening aside from walking, we talked on the phone to outline limitations and I set the new bar very high for myself. Hanging up the phone, I toddled over to my crutch and stuffed it in my closet. No more assistive devices to aid my walking. The next morning, I went down to the gym in my building and walked on the treadmill paying close attention to body mechanics and weight distribution between my legs. Over the next week I was in the gym and at the pool everyday. And I made another bold move cutting my nerve blockers down to a lower dosage at night.
Due to my dwindling number of visits, physical therapy at The Paley Institute was once a week. At my next appointment, I waltzed in, sans crutch and caught my physical therapist, Dayle, by complete surprise. Multiple times within the hour she said, “I am so proud of you.” I don’t always seek to be validated. This woman has seen me at my very worst, she knows my pain threshold and how hard I push myself. So, coming from her, it was welcome.
Fast forward another week to the next therapy visit. D and I were strolling the halls of clinic on our little walk-about when I spotted Tiffany in the doctors area examining a set of x-rays. Dayle insisted that she come into the hallway as I began walking away from the room. Turning to make my way back towards my dream team, Tiffany couldn’t quite believe what she was seeing; me walking with a smile on my face. Knowing my rule: hugs over high fives and hand shakes – I walked over and squeezed her. “You look so happy!” she said. And I know my smile confirmed what she knew to be true. I was.
Four flights of stairs later, I was side stepping down the hall when, who walked up but the man himself. D and I instructed Dr. Feldman to stop where he was and again, I walked my way down the hall. If I remember correctly, I’m pretty sure a, “holy shit,” escaped his mouth. And rightfully so. Big things for these little legs.
Humming a tune of joy and strength is a little foreign and I LOVE IT. You are your biggest advocate. Positive thoughts have to be met by positive actions. Go, do, be. You can, you are and you will.