Tag Archives: Recovery

Two words

Chronic pain.

Not happy words. But that’s where I am right now with my shoulder. I’ve been to the surgeon and there’s nothing structurally wrong with my shoulder – it’s actually healed really well. I have a little bursitis but that’s about it.

I know that I was told repeatedly at the hospital that my arm would never be the same once it healed but I didn’t expect it to be like this either. I thought it might ache a bit in the cold and be weak initially but with some work it’d return to fairly close approximation of how it was before the accident. That’s so not what has happened. Nearly two years later and it still hurts. We’re not talking eight or nine on the pain scale, or even a five. We’re talking a one or two but it’s my constant companion. I have times where it doesn’t hurt at all which is nice but they are few and far between.

I guess I wasn’t helped by the fact that the accident happened at the worst possible time. Pregnancy and broken limbs definitely don’t go together. Especially broken limbs that need rehab to recover. I did do mild rehab while I was pregnant but in the end it was too much. I felt so physically overloaded by the end of my pregnancy that the idea of doing anything for arm felt like it was just too much. Guess I’m kinda paying for it now.

I think I’ve worked pretty hard with my physical therapy and I guess it’s worked because I have pretty good mobility. However, mobility doesn’t mean pain-free. I don’t want to be in pain for the rest of my life. (If my grandma is anything to go by, I’m going to be around for a while yet – she’s 98!!)

So now we’re into where to go from here? How do I learn to manage my pain?

I know chronic pain is caused by the brain’s plasticity. Provoke it into a pain response for long enough and your brain rewires itself into that being the default. Any movement, any position that your brain decides is wrong leads to a strong pain response. What fun! The pain can come on at totally random times and it can tip up into the high end of the scale. If you’ve ever noticed me with my eyes shut taking a few deep breaths, it because my shoulder is giving me a hard time at that moment.

I’m about to find out if I can rewire my brain back to how it was before. I figure that if it can wire itself into this position, it must be possible to undo it. The trick will be working out how. I’m starting with acupuncture and have an appointment with my GP in a week to see if there’s something I can take to suppress the pain in the short-term. The logic behind medication is to simply give my brain a break in the hope it’ll get the picture to quit it with pain messages. Also thinking some therapy wouldn’t go astray. Talking to someone about how to manage my pain is probably a good idea.

It’s been so long since the accident. I was undoubtedly naive in the thought that it would simply get better and go back to how is was but I didn’t expect it would be like this either.

So much for me being all zen about my accident

Time to admit it.

I am really angry about it. As in really, really fucking angry.

Sigh.

I guess it all came to head for me when we went up to Bright for our annual cycling-eating-drinking extended long weekend with a big group of friends and I had to sit by and watch everyone else having a grand old time conquering mountains and spending serious time on the bike.

Me? I barely managed a 40km ride. I had to be pushed up a small rise that was maybe 250m long because I couldn’t get up it on my own. (Don’t get me wrong – I am eternally grateful for that push because otherwise I would’ve had to have gotten off and walked.) Yes, it was awesome being on my bike again but the next day I regretted it. My arm was so painful and it took a few days for me to recover. I don’t believe it set back my overall recovery but it was just so frustrating. I really felt like I should’ve been doing so much more and I couldn’t. All because some stupid woman ran a red light and hit me.

Okay, yes I’m pregnant so there’s no way I was going to be riding up even the smallest mountain. I knew that, accepted it but I had been looking forward to doing what I was capable of – which would’ve been a lot of flat(ish) rides. I should’ve been able to do so much more than a pissy 40km.

I know I should be grateful. My injury really isn’t that serious. When you think about what could’ve happened, I really did get off lightly. I could’ve fracture my pelvis, suffered a serious head injury, internal bleeding or I could’ve miscarried but all I did was break my arm. I should be grateful but I’m not. I feel like I’ve lost so much.

Those weeks should’ve been about me whinging about morning sickness and getting some sympathy for that. I should’ve excited about being pregnant. It should’ve been about me doing what I needed to do to stay fit and still riding my bike. But no, I spent weeks lying in bed because I couldn’t do anything else. I’d wake up in pain and go to sleep in pain. It took weeks for it to get to a tolerable level so I could try to get my life back on track.

I wanted to do what I could to stay fit in the hope that it’d help me have a reasonable birth experience and a faster recovery. I know the shortness of breath I experience these days is because my diaphragm is being squashed but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! I can’t help but think if my accident hadn’t happened, stuff like this would be a bit easier

I was initially quite zen about the whole thing but I realise now that I am really angry about it. I’m angry about being in pain so much of time. I’m irritated about the fact that when I wake up in the morning I have to be careful about how I stretch because if I do it wrong, it’s a whole world of pain. I’m angry that my rehab will take so long and that even when it’s done and I’ve “recovered”, I still won’t have full functionality. My arm is never going to be 100% ever again.

I’m just generally pissed about the whole thing.

It really feels like the last three months have been so chaotic. Nothing has been normal. My calendar is full of medical appointments and little else (okay, the baby-related appointments are pretty exciting and make for a nice change). While I am making progress – I’ve gone from being able to not lift my arm at all to to about 130 degrees in front of me – it feels like it’s taking forever and it’s hard to not get frustrated by how slow progress is. I can’t really reach backwards at all and I’m still restricted in how high I can lift my arm to the side. It’s a slow, painful process.

As petulant as this will sound, I always end up thinking that this shouldn’t have happened to me and that is just so unfair (see, petulant – next I’ll be stamping my foot). I guess the problem is that before I didn’t really have time to be angry. I was so focused on dealing with the pain I didn’t have room in my head for anything else. Now I do have time and I’ve pretty much lost my zen attitude. I want for it to be done. I’m so over it and that makes me angry.

Everyone deserves a break right?

I have been lazy. So very lazy.

My last non-commute ride was last Sunday. I haven’t been on my bike for longer than 20 minutes in a whole week. The week before I was sick so no bike riding there either. My riding partner had his tonsils out recently so he isn’t riding anywhere which has left me to my own devices. And apparently those devices are very, very lazy.

In my defence (you knew it was coming!) I did do a group training session last Saturday that included about 80 squats and 60 lunges. That left my legs feeling like jelly. I hurt a little on Saturday but I still got up Sunday morning to bang out 40km on the bike. Perhaps not the best idea because by Sunday afternoon I was struggling to get up or down the stairs. So, according to this experience, my quaddies don’t like doing that many squats and lunges.

I am hoping that doing this sort of physical training will stop me from plateauing on the bike as well as increasing my all over body strength. If my upper body is stronger, it will help me sit better on the bike which in turn means I’ll be able to ride for longer.

Because you know, it’s all about the bike these days.

It has become one of two major focuses in my life (the other still being comic books and everything that goes along with that). It feels like I’ve rediscovered a part of myself that I lost a long time ago. When I was 18 I used to ride 30km every day. I didn’t realise it then but the time I spent on a bike gave shape and purpose to my days and provided me with a sense of discipline that I lost later on. If I’d had any sense at all, I would’ve listened to the few people who told me I should’ve taken my riding more seriously. I had potential at that age but I couldn’t see it. Looking back now, I can see that, maybe just maybe, I could’ve done something with it. But no, I was young and stupid. I wasted a brief moment of opportunity. Still, there’s not much I can do about it now so there’s no point dwelling on what could’ve been. You have to focus on what is.

The last few years have taught me that only you can be responsible for your happiness. Right now, cycling makes me happy. Some people think I’m childish and reckless for doing it but I don’t care. Being on the bike is when I’m at my happiest. The last few months have been a huge struggle for me. I once again fell into the enormous pit that is depression and I sincerely believe the only reason I’m still here is my cycling. Being on my bike, achieving small goals, feeling a sense of freedom that I can’t get any other way has saved me.

I found it very hard to acknowledge what was happening to me. I couldn’t tell anyone that I needed help, that I was slowly drowning. Every day was an uphill battle to keep going. I’m certain the only reason I managed to get out of bed each day was so I could ride my bike to work. I must’ve gotten very good at hiding how lost I was because no one really seemed to notice. And to be honest, I was hiding it from myself. I refused to acknowledge how I felt.

When you’re down in the dark places, it’s the little things that end up saving you. All you need is one little glimmer of happiness and hope, something that can cast a light in the darkness. For me, it ended up being cycling. It reminds me of that 18 year old girl who had her whole life in front of her. Sure, she was stupid and naive but she had everything to look forward to. Because of it, I have purpose and shape to my life. Cycling is good for the soul. There’s no other sport quite like it. I feel like I’m part of this rather weird tribe and it’s nice to have a sense of belonging.

I know I look stupid in my cycling gear. There’s no hiding your flab when you’re in it but my love of cycling has actually managed to override my normal self consciousness about my appearance. If I can be comfortable dressed in lyrca, I should feel more comfortable in my normal clothing. Yeah, still working on that…

There are so many things I feel are wrong with me but somehow cycling cuts through it all. Put me on my bike and I’m a different person. I have direction, control, ambitions, desires, goals, fulfillment, success – so many of the things that I feel are missing in my life. The trick is working out how to translate how I am on the bike into the rest of my life. And that’s proving to be a little problematic. But what’s life without challenges?

Anyhoo… that’s enough of the long dark teatime of the soul.