I’ve Lost My Identity
It’s nearly 6 weeks to the day since I first ruptured my Achilles.
Not that I’m counting, but I most definitely am actually 100% counting. Don’t judge me. I have all the time in the world to nut out a few numbers sans calculator. Ask me how many days have passed since December 14th?
Couldn’t tell ya (forty).
Weird to think that if I hadn’t re-ruptured it on Friday January 13th (spooky), I’d very nearly be out of the recovery timeframe and into the rehab part where I get to, you know, actually walk and stuff.
I had surgery last Tuesday. On Thursday, I’ll go in to the hospital to get fibre glass case number 2, which will be stuck on my leg for the next 3-4 weeks (any votes for another camo cast?). After that time, I’ll then go back into a moon boot for another 3-4 weeks, but won’t be able to bear much weight, if any, depending on how it heals.
So let’s say, 8 weeks from now, I’ll start physio. First, I’ll try to regain the movement in my foot. Slowly, as the muscles make sense of themselves, movement will become flexibility. Eventually, I’ll be able to bring my entire left leg into the play and will work to re-build strength. Balance. Co-ordination. Until at some point, I’ll be functioning at 80% my ‘normal’ self.
80% of my normal self might mean I can drive. I can ride a bike (cautiously). I might be able to wear heels. I might be able to go for a run on the flat. I may even be able to walk up and down stairs leading with my left leg.
And when I say ‘at some point I’ll be functioning at 80%’, I mean at least 6 months down the track, which will be 8 months down the track once I’ve included cast time.
So, all going well, once I’m back to 80%, it’ll be September.
Not that I’m counting.
Two days after surgery, I flew down to Wellington so I could be looked after at home. And when I say to be looked after, I mean it. The pain after surgery has been so bad that I can’t be upright for more than a couple of minutes before I have to sit down again with my leg raised.
I have been so, so lucky to have my mum at home to make sure I do things that keep me functioning as a human being, like, you know, eat and drink. Don’t ever take family for granted.
But slowly, slowly, this whole time frame is starting to sink in. I’m not even a week in to round 2. And already, I can feel the old foe, Despair, lurking about the place.
It leers at me from the corner bar as I struggle to open a cafe door. It’s there, giggling, as I try to put my crutches in the back of a car and hop into a passenger seat. It inhabits the eyes of people who stare at my cast first and my face second without realizing the stigma they inflict.
Good old Despair, always near, but never close enough to touch, because I think I’ve found some ammo that I’m trying to keep top of mind as I battle this injury physically, as well as mentally.
And this is a tactic I always employ when my emotions are starting to get the better of me.
I work out the why.
If I think about it, I’m not ashamed of being injured or having to wear a cast or having to be on crutches. I’m not embarrassed by any of that. But being injured has meant that I’ve lost certain parts of how I identity as Lucy O’Connor.
Typically, I’m a fiercely independent person. But not being able to drive, walk, bike, or run means I’m not on my own time. I can’t just charge to the supermarket or nip out to the beach or get some escapism at the opshop. I either have to taxi, wait for someone who’s already going, or – agh – ask someone to take me.
Typically, I thrive by being on the go all the time – running errands, going to meetings, catching up over coffee, socializing the evenings away (see: Pinot Noir) – but I’ve really had to slow down. I’ve had to cancel plans. I’ve had to put the injury first and how I want to live my life second.
Typically, I thrive when I’m managing several tasks and have deadlines with fast turnarounds. But now, I can only literally do one thing at once. No seriously, if I make myself breakfast, I have to choose whether to carry the toast or the coffee cup to the table first. I feel useless. I feel needy. I feel like I’m letting people down.
Typically, fitness is a big part of my life. It’s what I do to clear my head, to keep on top of my health, to feel sane. Since the day I was born, I’ve always been a highly active, energetic, zippy human being (you’re like what?!!). But now, I have to sit. Still. With my leg up. Because I have to let the wound from surgery heal. I have to let the fibres in my Achilles make sense of where they’ve been sewn. I have to do nothing else, but heal. Or I could muck up everything.
Typically, I love to style myself in whatever the eff I’m feeling. But, with a leg cast, my wardrobe is limited to short shorts, short dresses, short skirts and sneakers. I’m sporty chic for the next 8 weeks, and I don’t always wanna be sporty chic! I know that clothing and style should be the least of my worries, but when you’ve had a taste of what it’s like to wear Japanese pants as a jumpsuit, it’s hard to go back to a limited wardrobe.
An injury is a shock to the system physically, but it’s possibly an even bigger shock to the system mentally. Beyond the recovery time, the day to day implications, beyond the pain and the frustration, there’s something even more sinister at play.
See, all those things I listed above, even if they seem inane, are challenging my core character. How I live. What fulfills me. How I feel useful. How I work. How I present myself.
And that’s, what I think, is throwing me. I’m losing part of who I am, of how I identify as myself. I don’t quite know how I work or how I live or how I feel or who I am as I adjust to this slower pace, and am forced to shuffle my priorities.
It would be so easy to give in to Despair, and I really understand why people do. An injury is tough, even if you’re not an elite sportsperson, because it infiltrates every single aspect of your life – and nothing can really prepare you for it. It’s lonely. It’s isolating. It’s stagnant. And it feels endless.
So I’m trying to combat this Despair by being aware of it. By understanding it. And by reminding myself of the fact that, even if it feels like a long time, in the scheme of life, it’s temporary.
And for that, I am extremely lucky indeed.
Who knows. Maybe one day, I’ll get drop to the ground, kiss the netball court and thank it for inflicting this injury upon me. Because maybe that day, when I confidently charge out onto centre court with a centre bib – even if that day is 2 years away from now – maybe, just maybe, I’ll exist as a better, stronger, kinder, more grateful Lucy O’Connor.
After I get home, having played the best game of netball I’ve ever played in my life, I’ll think back to this day and in blissful hindsight I’ll read this post with a big fat grin – because on that day, I’ll fully understand what it was I needed to learn from this experience.
And then, I’ll go wash my face, because kissing a netball court is pretty damn gross.
Share this with anyone who needs a reminder that whatever’s going on right now? They’re far from alone.