19. Crawling on my Knees

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

 BLOG 19: July, 1997—Life has never been the same since my ballet class in San Francisco. I’ve been in perpetual pain, despite the help I received from the chiropractor. When I walk, my hips swell up, becoming inflamed and making it too painful to dance, let alone move around. My injury that began as a groin pull when I stopped in New Mexico for eight months on my way to California has now become a chronic hip problem with little remedy.

Given that I’m in Northern California—the land of every kind of healer—I try them all. From regular doctors, who claim that my x-rays and MRIs are perfect, to the most out-there psychic surgeon visiting from the Philippines. I receive no relief, and in many cases, I only get worse with each treatment I try.

At one point, an orthopedic doctor explains to me my problem: “You’re too strong,” he tells me. You were able to push through your pain and not feel it, he says, and then goes on to explain that most bodies can handle up to 80 percent not working before hitting a tipping point. At that point the body breaks down completely and it’s hard to turn any damage around, he adds. I had done too much to my right hip by ignoring my groin injury, and this doctor, who works with professional football players, amazingly tells me that my biggest downfall has been that I’m too tough. I have never been accused of that!

I don’t consider taking drugs of any kind to lessen the pain, and instead, I begin living out of my bed, which my housemate suggested I move into the livingroom, one floor below my bedroom in our shared house in the Oakland Hills. It hurts so much to move that I crawl from one room to another—a sight that devastates my friend Jane, who, when she sees me, tells me I remind her of beggars she saw in India who crawled because they had no legs.

I do what I can to survive. I try working, but sitting for more than an hour is extremely painful. The muscles around my hip tighten so much that I want to sit on a small tennis ball all day to break up the tension in my butt.

The man who lives in the loft across from my work sees me in my new crutches and pain and gives me a piece of his Martial Arts wisdom. He tells me that any time he gets injured he gets real still with himself, for days if needed, and becomes clear on the lesson he needs to learn. Once he does, the injury heals. What is my lesson? he asks me. There may be one for me, I think, but either I’m too oblivious, too determined, or it just too late for awareness to change my fate.

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

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5 thoughts on “19. Crawling on my Knees

  1. Was it strength or cowardice that kept me in my last job so long, past the point of all sense: was it dedication and an unwillingness to quit, or fear of the risks of just quitting. It was clear to me that I was having a breakdown, physical and mental. I was gaining weight because I was trapped in my home office 12 or more hours a day.My new psychiatrist ran some blood work and told me I was pre-diabetic, in spite of a generally healthy diet. It is apparently a common side effect, a co-morbidity in the words I learned from reading my daughter’s graduate school psychology papers. I was losing my ability to concentrate and remember, forcing me to work harder and longer to get the unreasonable workload done. There is a line in an old Norse saga about Odin’s two ravens, Hughnim and Munim,thought and memory, who scour the world brining him news. “I worry about thought (the mind), but i worry more for memory, that he will not return.” I was clearly in crisis.

    I tell myself I stayed because of my co-worker, the staff member assigned to work with a contractor. We bonded quickly, spending hours a day together on the phone on top of meetings. The normal work barriers came down, and I began to act as myself which is irreverently and and at times frankly silly: my coping mechanism with a soulless environment to become the class oddball and clown. At one point just about all of the filters were down. We were friends. And she was a single mother in her forties with two small children who had never worked anyplace else in her life. Walking away would be to dump my work onto her, and I could not bring myself to do that until the real break came, when I started ranting about vacation time, calling out Family and Medical Leave and American with Disabilities Act as if they were charmed words that would break the spell. They gave me a week off–with pay, although I did not qualify yet–but that was not enough. I needed a break. I convinced my psychiatrist that I was going to have what was once called a nervous breakdown without some relief,and he dutifully filled out an American with Disabilities Act form insisting my daily and cumulative hours must be reduced. They would not.

    Finally i quit, but only after I let them talk me into staying another month to get through the company’s latest, entirely manufactured crisis. I stayed for my friend, not because I cared if the project lived or died. If it was threatened by the departure of a single individual, that tells you something of the world of incompetence I moved in. At the end I was broken physically and mentally. It has taken me months to even begin to recover. And I can’t go back to that line of work, the one that has paid the bills for most of two decades. As someone with Anxiety Disorder and the milder form of Manic Depression, a job that requires professional morbid rumination on every possible thing that can go wrong had programmed me to suffer more and more anxiety. The stress and hours had turned the milder form of Manic Depression into something more serious. I am free of the job and not free of what it did to me. . I apply to jobs I don’t want to satisfy unemployment. I apply to jobs I want but they never pan out. Writing jobs to be had over the Internet, the equivalent of your desire to dance, are a racket designed to get botique work at Sam’s Club prices. I would earn more at McDonald’s.Without health insurance I can not afford both the psychiatrist and a therapist, and I need the psychiatrist for the medication I first consulted him to get off of, believing they were making me worse. I am not out of the crisis yet, but at least I am out of that job–the one I should have been wise enough and strong enough to flee six months sooner– and free to figure out something new. I am clear that I cannot go back although the recruiters emails pour into my mailbox. What I will do is unclear. And it is going to take me a long time to heal, if I can even be healed, and the work I take will need to be part of that healing. The question is: will the money hold out long enough for me to find that job?

    Sometimes strength, whether physical or psychological, is weakness, leads to stupid choices. And we suffer for them. That is all I know, but it is enough to make sure I do not mistake stupidity for strength ever again.

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    • First of all, I am so sorry you are going through what you are. It may have come from being a coward, as you say, or not taking care of yourself, but it still is a hard experience to live. And yes, my strength was my downfall in that my body withstood more than the average person and allowed me to be stubborn and stupid about how I took care of myself. For me it was less coming from being unafraid to leave something, but more from a hunger to live my passion and a stubborn determination to do so despite my pain. Sometimes these are the hardest lessons of letting go, and letting the love and passion we carry inside find another way to express itself. For me, that has become my novel and my life’s work creating spiritual healing circles. I bless you for sharing and for being real, and with your amazing talent for words and “seeing”, there must be a door waiting to open as you regain your strength.

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  2. Balance, yes. That’s for sure. As a young one, or younger one that I write about here, balancing was a harder thing to do. It’s something the years have taught me, but sometimes with some tough lessons.

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  3. My determination and tolerance are my strengths that also serve as downfalls – same incident as my comment on Blog 18 – that damned lawsuit. Due to how I was raised by my father, and my early life experiences, If I am not physically dead beyond recognition, I WILL find a way to persist, and persevere, and survive. The reason I do this is all for the experience, and rewards that are not tangible – so far, they have always been well worth the effort; and each time, it brings me to the “edge of life and death”, where everything seems very intense, and very much “alive”. I live to be on that edge as often as I can and trust to (not as often as I desire, but hey..); because sometimes, I feel like I have already died long ago, and am just looking for re-vivication – strange thought, hahah, but it is often there.

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