Friday, May 27, 2011


If one more person asks me how I am doing I think that I will scream.

Loudly.  For a prolonged period of time.  With gusto.

There won't be any rage attached to my shrieking.  The questioner always has love in her heart and compassion in his tone.  There's a sense of trying to bridge the gap between us, between those who wonder and those to whom it was done.  Whatever it is.  Establishing the connection helps to explain the inexplicable, I think.  If I can tell you how it feels, then you'll know and you won't have to worry because the social conventions dictate that I tell you that I am doing fine.

Little Cuter calls this the teflon answer.

When it was only my physical condition which aroused curiosity I had a set piece to pull out when the question was raised.  Healing took time.  My pain was lessening.  I looked forward to a complete recovery.

I was delusional.  There is no doubt about it.  Despite having no evidence to substantiate my conclusion, I convinced myself that I would be fully ambulatory soon after I was able to put weight on my shattered hip.  I was fit going into this and I would be fit coming out of it.  The awful, excruciating, unrelenting pain of the hospital and the first month or so of being at home was long in the past.  I was able to get by without medication.  I would be fine.

Somehow, I forgot how easy it is to lose strength and flexibility.  I used to notice it after a week away from the gym.  It never dawned on me that 4 months away from anything resembling exercise would have a much more potent effect.  It's probably a good thing that was the case.  Lying still would have been unbearable had i given real thought to the consequences.  

I was happy in my delusional state and no one seemed to notice that I was digging myself into a hole from which extrication would be necessary.  

Dr. Boaz said walk and I walked - one weak step and two hands grasping for the walker.  There was no there there.  My femur was stuck in one position and it rebelled - quite actively- at being moved.  I talked such a good game that the doctor said I didn't need physical therapy.  That lasted two weeks until my knee and my ankle and my back told me that what I was doing might be locomoting but certainly could not be called walking.  Hence, Marcus the Master Manipulator.

I've been using my hip flexors and my quads instead of my glutes.  The exercises require strengthening those deep, big muscles while relaxing the hamstrings and quadriceps.  Clenching my glutes requires stability in the back and abs and a conscious decision on my part to use my tush and leave my leg at rest.  

Want to try it?  Sit up straight and tighten a butt cheek.  Either one.  Don't clench your jaw or your thigh - neither the front nor the back.  Use that squeeze to raise your thigh off the seat.  Don't incorporate your leg muscles.  Don't lean back and use momentum.  Just lift your foot off the floor by clenching your glutes.

Feel that sensation in the front of your groin?  That's your soaz telling you that it is displeased with you.  Very very displeased with you.  Now, imagine that underneath that soaz you have gazillions of staples and wires and plates creating the socket into which that leg resides.  Those are new staples and there are a lot of them and they are still swollen and sensitive even 5 months after they were installed.  

Believe me, everything is talking to me as I do what I've just described to you.  Sitting here typing and clenching and aching.  I dangled in the pool.  I had a massage.  I'm going to PT this afternoon.  I've taken Aleve.  I have a hydrocodone waiting for later.  

How am I doing?  I'm making myself hurt and I have to do it and I don't want to but I am so tired of being slow and bent and an object of pity that I don't know how I am doing any more. The pain is a limiting factor and I feel justified in giving in to it but I know that if I do I will just be limping and aching for longer.  

So, I am doing my exercises.  I am doing my blog.  I am doing a book.  I am doing good deeds.  

Would you like to know how I am feeling?  Sorry.... saying it out loud just reminds me that there is still work to be done, that this will not go away because I will it to be gone, that my recovery depends on inner strength and fortitude and that I am not doing as well as my fantasies had predicted but from the outside I'm doing.  

That there is new and more interesting pain attached to my doing is an unpleasant surprise, a limiting factor, and totally irrelevant if I want my old self back.  Pain is my companion, my reminder, my annoyer.  I consider it before I move and if I don't it announces its presence with authority.  Will it disappear?  Will it reach a steady state and ask me to adjust?  I wish I knew.

For now, though, pain and I will be together, getting this old carcass back in fighting trim.  I'm digging deep inside and finding that there is a growing kernel of discontent pushing at my soul, encouraging me to ignore the tingling nerve endings and to get going.  

I think it's time to listen.


  1. I really don't like the question-- how are you-- unless it comes from real friends or family where a genuine answer is wanted. Anybody else wants to hear fine. Clerks routinely say it to be polite. I usually answer the expected fine or good or try to come up with something about a nice day for weather. My husband though, almost always, says-- tolerable which sends people looking at him. It's not what they expect. I keep thinking why can't he just say fine but then maybe tolerable is what he feels...

  2. I used to give a "real" answer, Rain, when I was asked that question - "a little sleepy" "achy from the gym" "just a bit sad today, thank you" - and I loved the reactions I got. Mostly it was stunned silence and a pause --- it's blather, not intentional asking.

    Now, though, everything is different. I belong to Tucson and it seems that my situation and subsequent notoriety have made people feel that they know me. Well. Thoroughly. So I try to answer honestly but with an upbeat tone.

    I like "tolerable"..... thank your husband for me, please. It's in my repertoire as of right now.

  3. OK, I failed that test with clenching my left cheek. ;)

    As for being honest with people about how you are feeling, I think you should tell them. Don't be polite and just say fine--when you aren't fine. The people that know and love you will appreciate your honesty. Those that don't truly know you have no right to ask in the first place unless they want a truthful answer. Being honest will help you heal even more. Sometimes we all need someone to lean on. I'm sure you have always been self-sufficient and nurtured everyone else, but allow the people that love you to be there for you. If that means they have to hear that you aren't fine today, I think everyone will understand.

    You need to heal your heart, as well as your body. You can only do that if you are honest with yourself and others about how you are feeling. Go easy on yourself.

    Sending a warm, loving hug your way. Do have a relaxing weekend surrounded by those that love you. ♥

    Megan xxx

  4. Yes--I agree that for AB, people are not just using "how are you" in the usual boilerplate way. In response to this question, I sometimes say "I'm high on life" or "just peachy" in a tone which conveys the opposite! xoxoxo

  5. You are so right about that question 'How are you?''s not a question I typically ask just an acquaintance because I really do want to know the answer.
    Anyway, I am so sorry about your persistent troubles with pain; such an annoyance to say the least. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers!

  6. When my boy was 6, he broke his leg at school in some still yet unconfessed manuveur in the boys' restroom. (I suspect he and his buddies were swinging from the stall doors.) People would ask how he was, and most days, he would say fine, and let them sign his cast. Other days, he said, I could use a piggy back ride. And the people who dropped down to let him climb on their backs were the ones who really cared. You should try it.
    I, too, failed the butt cheek test. I can't imagine how much more difficult your physical recovery would be if you hadn't been in such amazing shape to start.
    Pain is a heavy companion, Ms. Suzi. And I know it is no good to tell you to be patient. (And you have been so,so patient so far.) But you've got this. You will win, in the end.

  7. Piggy Back Rides, eh, Imelda? I'm on it!

  8. Often when asked how I am, I answer with, "I'm here for which I am most grateful."

  9. Man, I hate this. I mean the pain, not the post.

    I'm no more reconciled to pain than you and I've been trying to be for what seems like way too long. (Different situation, and don't read a thing about yourself into that statement.) I just know pain, but have not made my peace with it. All I've done is learn to respect people who say they feel it and never, ever, think it's "in their head" in that ignorant way that shows the judge understands nothing about pain perception. What a frickin' INSULT!

    Uh-oh. Self-absorbed digression. I meant only to say that I would not wish the daily pain experience on anyone. And that progress is a strange dance that's required between listening to the pain and ignoring the pain...sometimes one, sometimes, the other. I haven't mastered that, either, but I can mouthe it to death.

    Tell me about this book! And the pain. I think it's important to speak of pain; we're so often told to shut up and, when we comply, we add insult to their injury. How will we ever prod better research into pain perception and treatment if we don't speak?

  10. Thanks for the honest answer to "How are you?"
    Mostly people don't really want to know, but your case, like your pain, is different.
    And we can all identify with struggle.
    Linda Reeder

  11. For me, I thought of another problem with the question-- how are you?. A lot of times I simply don't want to think how I am. If a person doesn't be thinking all the time about pain, a problem, or something that went wrong. To have to think about it requires going 'there' and especially when someone is in healing mode, going 'there' isn't helpful if it's done over and over. I do think people mean well with it as a polite attempt at connection. I am not sure what is a better comment to use. Saying 'it's a nice day, isn't it?' doesn't always work either especially not for those that it is anything but a nice day!

  12. Linda, you are so right. People are identifying with my struggle and my "triumph" in being upright and mobile. They need to hear that I am fine so that they can be fine, too. And that's okay with me, usually. I didn't choose to become iconic but to some people I seem to represent something that they admire (not trying to blow my own horn, just telling you what is told to me). It seems awfully cruel to tell strangers about my perceived lack of progress. Mostly I just say " How do you think I am?" and give them a big smile.

    Doesn't help me much, b/c as Rain says, sometimes I just don't want to go there. But if helps others and that makes me smile so.....

    This is so complex.

  13. But remember that sometimes you need to put yourself first, and not worry that being honest with the questioner will make them not OK. xoxo

  14. It's a process. I'm your age and I can not imagine how difficult this is to recover from. Glad you and the Manipulator are working on it. Physical therapists are an amazing breed. Hubs and I both have been touched and improved by a PT. I hope you will be, too.

  15. You know people get shot all the time in the movies, and they are back in action a couple of days later. Actually, I'm not being flippant. It is this notion of little consequence for action that helps drive a lot of the crime we experience.

    Rarely do movies tell us of the months and months of pain and anguish that is the result of such action.

    Keep pushing, my friend.

  16. That you are sharing as much as you are is generous and courageous. But, ultimately, the choice is yours and, as the old song says, "Ain't no body's business but my own." I believe your pain will ease and will lessen to the point you can ignore it. Your neural pathways are regrouping, reforming, forming, and making noise as they do. Pain is one of the conditions that neural net tells you about. And we know diddly about how it all works. My husband does research in the area of pain -- neuro-chemistry -- he's not giving up. New pain management tools are in the pipeline and a new understanding is emerging. In the meanwhile your attitude will help you and the hydrocodone is there when you need it. Scream if you need to. Use vulgar language. Have bad thoughts. Do whatever you need to. Those of us who live with different types of pain are rooting for you. Thank you again for sharing your personal journey, and just ignore the people who confuse personal with intimate, they are delusional or unimportant.

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