Over the summer, I recorded several of my acoustic songs despite being in a wheelchair. I’m ready to start sharing them. The title of this post is from my song “In Every Smile.”
Below are vocal and guitar mixes:
More about this song can be found at this link: IN EVERY SMILE
It had been almost 3 months since breaking my ankle while hiking. The day finally arrived for my orthopedic appointment where I hoped I could start walking again.
Unlike a month earlier, I wasn’t upbeat. Instead, I was numb.
My daughter seemed far more excited than I. She kept coaching me to lift my spirits and said we would celebrate afterwards.
A physician assistant tapped on the door and came into our room. She glanced at my leg quickly and then at her computer screen. Without any fanfare, she said, “You’re cleared – you can start putting weight on your ankle.”
I asked about getting physical therapy and she said they’d contact me. Her parting words were, “Go slow.”
My daughter beamed and asked me if I wanted to try walking to the car. I told her I wasn’t ready. I was emotionally exhausted and her excitement made me sad because I didn’t feel the same way.
We came home and I rested a little. Before she left, I decided we could go outside and I’d give it a try. I held onto a walker and shuffled slowly as she clapped her hands. It felt strange to stand tall again after three months of sitting all day long.
I managed a slight smile as I concentrated on every step. She took a video for me.
I looked forward to ditching the wheelchair. And then came my revelation. I had thought I’d reached the finish line with clearance to walk again. But instead, I was just beginning a new marathon.
I walked gingerly to the bathroom that first night and was fairly confident I would be fine. But I wasn’t prepared for sore muscles. Everything hurt on both sides and each step was painful.
The following morning as I stood in the kitchen, I felt sweat beading up on my face. I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes. I went to get the wheelchair and sat down resigned.
Thoughts crossed my mind like “why wasn’t physical therapy scheduled sooner?” I wasn’t very good at advocating for myself while in pain.
Talking about pain inevitably led to my children suggesting pain pills. I explained that my pain was easily remedied by sitting down. I used packages of frozen peas while elevating my swollen ankle whenever I could.
The following day I went on my first outing in my car alone. I wanted to attempt swimming at the YMCA where I had a membership.
As I walked slowly inside, I was slightly self-conscious about my limp. It was more than a limp. It was a drunken looking shuffle and I tried not to moan out loud. I headed toward the childrens’ locker room because then I wouldn’t have to go upstairs.
I carefully lowered myself into the water and the sensation of sinking was amazing. I began to kick and paddle and was elated that I could swim just fine.
I swam lap after lap and on that first day back swimming and was reminded of who I was before my accident. My happy tears dripped into my goggles as I effortlessly moved through the water. This was my first exercise since my fall and I was thrilled that I could still do 30 lengths like I used to.
Showering after and getting home was very challenging. I was so sore I could barely stand at all.
I kept hoping the pain would lift. Unfortunately, it became familiar. Like a hot iron, it drilled right through my anklebone and out the opposite side. Was I supposed to endure this so I could strengthen it?
A few days later, I managed to get to the Y again so I could once again feel like my old self. This time I also tried walking back and forth in the shallow part of a lap lane. I had a normal stride this way. I prayed this would happen out of the pool and reminded myself to be patient.
A woman in the pool was watching me and asked what I was working on. I told her I had broken my ankle. Because my voice sounded shaky, she said, “You can cry, it’s okay.” So I did.
After I swam my laps, I shuffled to the locker room. The familiar pain tried to knock me out of my joy. I gritted my teeth and dealt with it. It was still worth it for me to swim.
I got dressed and an older woman began chatting with me. I noticed I wasn’t tearful this time when I mentioned I had broken my ankle.
She said, “At least you’re alive. My husband broke his ankle and one week later he was dead. We had good insurance, too. He developed a blood clot that stopped his heart.”
I told her I was so sorry to hear that. I didn’t know what else to say.
Two weeks passed and I was still fighting depression. It was so much like grief. I was very irritable from the pain and had little patience for anyone telling me, “I should be grateful that it could have been worse.”
When a dear friend regaled me with all of her broken bone experiences, my filters were down. I blurted out, “Is this a competition?” After that, I spent days worrying about whether I had hurt her feelings.
I finally had my first physical therapy appointment. The PT took measurements and I was given stretching exercises. When he offered me a cane, I refused.
Later on, it dawned on me that my mother was the same way. She only began using a walker after a few falls. The following week, I accepted the cane.
I used everything I could to pull myself out of my depression. I kept reminding myself that this was temporary.
I did some Internet searching and discovered I certainly wasn’t alone because an ankle fracture was extremely common. However, the articles I read were depressing. After reading the list of “impacts of an ankle fracture after two years,” I began to wonder how temporary this pain really was.
I searched to see whether removing the screws and plate could alleviate ankle pain. This surgery was something I could have in eight months. Would I suffer this much until then?
I had little guidance about whether to endure the pain while walking or stop. My last physical therapist recommended a compression sock to help my swelling. I ordered some, but my foot became so unbearably painful that I had to remove it.
I was willing to try anything. A dear friend suggested a holistic remedy involving cut onions; I tied a plastic bag filled with sliced onions around my foot. After an hour, I pulled my smelly foot out. She lovingly texted me to ask if my ankle felt better, and I sadly wrote back that it was the same.
I decided to send a message to my surgeon.
A day after hearing back from my surgeon, I decided I wasn’t going to surrender to pain. I wanted to practice with my cane and go for a walk outside.
“I am Forrest Gump!” I repeated as I limped out of my apartment. I put on my iPod and the sunshine felt soothing.
Could I make it across the street with the green light while limping? I did, and I continued my trek to the path where I used to walk regularly.
As the pain drilled through me, I let my music and the sunshine distract me. I planned to make it to a picnic bench near the end of the block.
I sat down when I reached it. I was proud of my determination. I sent a text to my daughter and she wrote back, “Mommy, do you realize you walked a mile?”
After resting for a good amount of time, I was ready to go back. I went very slowly.
I looked up at the beautiful branches swaying in the breeze. The sky was clear and the weather cooler. I had missed the entire summer by being indoors and I decided that wasn’t a bad thing. I thought I’d run out of tears, but they were still streaming down my face.I was listening to my song “In Every Smile.” Even though I sang those words to my children, I could hear my parents saying those words to me.
Despite the hot pain throbbing on both sides of my ankle, I kept going. I thought about my mother and father and I heard their comforting voices. I could picture them on either side, holding me up.
I was going to be fine.
MY COPING METHODS
I have a course on Insight Timer called “Healing Grief Through Music.”
A lot of the concepts I used for my course came not only from my grief experiences, but also with suffering from dry eyes. I am following all of my own suggestions to help me with my broken ankle recovery.
Here are some of those really helpful concepts I’m trying to follow:
UP AND OUT
I chose my post title of “It’s Okay to Cry Awhile” because it is a great example of UP AND OUT. After living for decades in Zombieland, I try hard not to suppress or judge my emotions. I allow for anger, frustration, tears and general complaining in order to release those feelings. This gives me space to open myself up to more positive and healing thoughts.
THE MORE YOU LOOK FOR SOMETHING, THE MORE LIKELY YOU WILL FIND IT
If I notice only my pain, it becomes my focus. Instead, I look for signs of healing. Just like with grief, there have been many “firsts.” Certainly, this was my first broken bone, as well as confinement to a wheelchair. But looking at “healing firsts” has been very uplifting. Some examples would be my excitement taking my first steps, my first outing driving on my own, my first time standing in the shower, and my first trip to buy food at a market.
I am still looking forward to the first time walking without a limp. And dare I dream of the first time I will be able to play tennis again!
After over a year of relapse with biting my nails, I found a way to stop again about a month ago. To me, this is another sign of healing. I look at my hands and tell myself: You are worth it! You can do it!
I’ve told people grieving that sometimes healing is so slight it is hardly noticeable. I am realizing that with my ankle, too. A week ago I couldn’t stand in the kitchen without having to sit down after ten minutes. Now that it’s been two weeks, I can stand up longer.
This is something I remind myself of, even in my darkest moments. I am not alone and I have angels that are rooting for me.
Of course, my grief and ankle recovery are different. But even though I really didn’t have expectations of healing after losing my child, I stayed hopeful. With my ankle, I do anticipate healing.
There were two new things that I learned in the past few months. One was patience. The other was to be open to asking for help. My wonderful friends truly made a difference for me. When I was in deep grief, I was withdrawn. This time I was open to accepting all the support I was blessed with.
I end my post with some notes that I had taken when I was filmed for an inspirational video on how I coped with my dry eyes.