I need a bunch of strong guys to carry me around like this!
This week has been tough. Not because anything “bad” happened, but because this week I’ve had to learn how to accept my limitations. And let me tell you, that does not come easy for me. I’d like to think I’m invincible and unstoppable, and that through my sheer will and determination I can power through anything.
Sure, I’ve had evidence this isn’t true in the past. Like the time I came home from an Aveda sales conference, exhausted and scrambling to make up the lost time that happens after being out of town. During those years, in the pre-cell-phone era, I spent a lot of time pulled up to parking lot payphones. In a stressed-out stupor, I pulled up too close and at a weird angle to the phone-on-a-pole, and when I went to drive away, I ended up wrapping my car around it instead. I still chuckle and roll my eyes, remembering getting out of the car, convinced I could push my nearly two-ton car sideways, away from the pole. I tried really hard to do it too, until my muscles burned. Thankfully a nice man watched me trying, and instead of laughing at me, he offered to help me navigate the car around the pole without doing too much more damage. I drove away red-faced, thinking, “Who do I think I am? Wonder Woman?”
A lifetime of this kind of attitude has helped me achieve a lot, and be unafraid to take risks. In my consulting practice, this attitude has also helped a lot of other people power through adversity and self-doubt to make their dreams a reality. However, this attitude has also cost me a lot - physically, which I’m just starting to understand. Years of being a tough girl, shaking off injuries and walking off severe ankle sprains, has cost me a lot of cartilage as it turns out. I’ve been rough with my body, ignoring pain and gritting my teeth to keep moving forward. And now, the day of reckoning has arrived, and my body is saying, “¡No mas!”
To be fair to myself, I haven’t totally ignored the pain. I’ve tried lots of things to help me limp through. I’ve been to an orthopedist and got anti-inflammatory medications, and a Chinese medicine doctor for acupuncture and herbs. I’ve worn ugly orthopedic shoes and have had custom orthotics made to help position my foot to take advantage of the little cartilage remaining. I’ve iced it, worn an ankle brace, carry Biofreeze in my purse, and everything else I can do to keep walking. But I’ve noticed lately, especially in this cold weather, that what I’ve been doing isn’t working as well lately. Something has changed.
So, I bucked up and went to my doctor last week to talk about what else we can do. We decided the next course of action is to see a podiatrist who specializes in ankles. I helped Dr. Thomas Truong write a business plan and set up his practice, the Kansas Foot Center, many years ago and was quite impressed with him, so we set up an appointment to see him this week.
What Dr. Truong had to tell me was not good news. My ankle is “toast.” He did an excellent job talking to me about what my options are and are not. I’m not a candidate for stem cell injections that rebuild cartilage because I don’t even have enough to build on anymore. The hard truth is that bone is rubbing against bone every time my ankle moves, causing a lot of inflammation and pain. Of course, losing weight could help, and there are cold laser therapy treatments to help reduce the inflammation that I may try first. There are ankle replacement surgeries, but they don’t always help and wear out too fast. The only long-term solution is holding the bone is place, either with a rigid brace or surgery. In other words, fusing the bone together so my ankle won’t move, making it hard to walk without looking like a pirate with a peg leg, which does not make me happy.
I’m not telling you this story to get sympathy or to join my pity party. I’m writing this because I am really struggling with honoring my limitations and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one. Now that I’m taking more of a head-on approach and talking to people about it, I’m processing what that means. Here’s what I’m working on.
Swallowing my pride.
When I went to Chicago for Christmas, I knew that walking around O’Hare was going to hurt. Bad. When I flew home, my smart mother insisted I get assistance, which meant being pushed in a wheelchair to my gate. I was mortified, but I know better than to ignore my mother and it just hurt too bad to argue. Talking to a friend when I got home, she told me she is the “Diva of the Airport” and is happily enthusiastic about being wheeled around, helping me realize it may not be too bad. I’ve got to say, getting through security was so much easier, and by the time I got to my gate, I wasn’t completely exhausted. Still when I got to Wichita, I ignored the person with the wheelchair waiting for me, too embarrassed that someone I knew might see me, and could barely walk when I finally made it to baggage claim.
Swallowing my pride to admit that I can’t do everything is super hard for me. My parents tell me that when I was a toddler and they asked if I needed help with something I’d say, “No. I do it!” Obviously that stubbornness hasn’t eased, but I’ve got to find a way to it. Knowing how much it will hurt to do things and hard it will be to have a positive attitude once I get there, is keeping me away from events I would have energetically attended in the past. This does not work with my social butterfly personality and leaves me feeling a bit more isolated than I’d like.
Asking for and accepting help.
Not being completely self-dependent is also super hard for me. What has made it even harder to ask for help, are the times people haven’t lived up to what they tell me they’ll do. It disappoints me and affects the way I feel about that person, especially if I’ve always come through for them. So, if I’m really not afraid to take risks, isn’t asking for help just another way of taking a risk?
Accepting help isn’t just about getting help from people. It’s also about using tools that can help me be in less pain. For example, after an especially painful week, I’ve been using a cane to help me get around. I’m getting a handicap placard for my car so where I have to park doesn’t stop me from going where I want to go. Doing all this makes me feel especially vulnerable, and old, but the alternative stinks.
Take better care of myself.
Like most women, I’ve put other people before myself way too often. In a weird way, ignoring my injuries had a lot to do with not inconveniencing someone else. I’d like to think I’m getting better at learning to put myself first, but as I’m writing this, I realize that I still have so much to work on about saying “no.” This time of year is always tough for me, like it is so many other people I know – feeling overwhelmed and just raw. Since I’ve written about this before, I’m going back to some of my past blogs to remind myself of what to do, especially this one.
I’ve often said that I think it takes more strength to be “weak,” than it does to be “strong,” honoring our vulnerabilities. Because, no matter how much I ignore, or try to fight my limitations, the reality remains the same. My ankle is toast. Since I can’t turn back time, I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other as long as I can, with all the help I can get, and love myself for persevering.
Thanks for your support,