For those of you who follow my Facebook page or this blog, you may have noticed that it has been uncharacteristically quiet for the past few months. Although I am a fairly private person, and don’t often write personal posts (and, thus, have debated writing this post for more than a month now), I thought that perhaps I should explain my seeming absence and the regrettable dearth of adorable photos of angelic, snuggly babies on my page. 🙂
So here goes: Way back in June, I suffered a back injury (a herniated disc in my lower back, to be precise). I initially dealt with the injury the way I typically handle other illnesses…muddled through, took a few ibuprofen here and there, “rested” by not lifting heavy objects (and, if I were stupid, maybe even went to the gym). That turned out to be a mistake; as I soon learned, back injuries are no joke.
One day, several weeks after my initial injury, I stood up from a chair; that simple action caused my back to seize up and my legs to give out, and I fell to a heap on the floor. I literally could not move, and I experienced the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. It simultaneously felt like the worst charley horse I could ever imagine in my hip, and a painful electrical shock running the entire length of my leg from my hip down to my foot. Because I couldn’t move (driving was certainly out of the question) and definitely needed some pain relief, I got myself a one-way ticket to the hospital and my first-ever ride in an ambulance. [Shout out to the EMTs, who were very kind, helpful, and hilarious. Among other things, they told me that I needed to come up with a better story about the source of my injury. So, as far as you all know, I was zip lining in Costa Rica when my harness gave way, ok? ;)] Ultimately, I spent 3 days in the hospital, during which time the doctors and nurses attempted to determine what combination of medicines would mitigate my pain, and helped me to regain some mobility. The herniated disc in my back was compressing my sciatic nerve, resulting in not only the pain, but also complete numbness of the entire back portion of my left leg and foot. As you might imagine, walking on a numb leg/foot is rather challenging. Thus, when I was discharged from the hospital, it was with this beauty:
[As an aside, my good friend suggested that I should give my metallic assistant a name, as we would be spending a lot of time together in the coming weeks. Naturally, I christened him “Christopher Walker”: This contraption was stiff, awkward, and just a little bit creepy, and this entire situation definitely could have used more cowbell. 🙂 ]
In the first 4 weeks or so following my return home, I spent 90% of my time lying down, as either sitting or standing for more than 10 minutes at a time was incredibly painful; when I did muster the courage to move, it was robot-style, as one slight move/bend the “wrong” way would trigger sharp “electrical shock” pains (that is actually what doctors call them!) that even Percocet couldn’t touch. I lived on the sofa bed in our family room so that I wouldn’t have to navigate the stairs to the bedroom. I left the house only for (numerous) doctor appointments, and only with Christopher Walker. I asked for my kids’ assistance to put on my pants and socks, and I used a claw/grabber tool to pick up things that were just out of reach or on the floor. (It was not until my back injury that I realized just how many things I — or my kids — drop on the floor throughout the course of a day!) It was definitely a low point of the past year for me. I was incapacitated; I could not go to the gym, an activity that I had religiously performed 5-6 days per week for years; I was forced to register my kids for weeks of day camp — despite the fact that I had promised them that we would spend the summer together — because I wasn’t able to care for them all day; I had to forego a special birthday outing with my daughters (a Taylor Swift show, their very first concert); I could no longer participate in the national Beauty Revived photography project, which is an amazing campaign, and one that is very meaningful to me; and it was necessary for me to cancel/reschedule a number of client sessions, as well as my family’s long-anticipated special summer vacation. (As disappointed as I was, however, it was the knowledge that I was surely, if unintentionally, disappointing my kids, friends, and clients that caused me the most angst.)
As the summer went on, however, I began to see some gradual improvements. I started going to physical therapy several times per week, and regained strength in my leg. I was able to stop taking pain meds (not that I wasn’t in pain, but it was at least tolerable); I was able to retire the walker to storage (sorry Christopher…We’ll always have Silver Spring); I was able to return to sleeping upstairs with the rest of my family; and I was able to walk/stand/sit for more than an hour or two without being in significant pain.
And, now, with the passage of an additional 6 weeks, I am closer to “normal.” (As anyone who has experienced a herniated disc or orthopedic injury can attest, recovery is often “one step up, two steps back.”) I still can’t go to the gym (and, believe me, I need to… because, well, sweets), but I can walk normally. And I still haven’t been able to return to work quite yet, but I am anticipating resuming my sessions shortly.
The last 4 1/2 months have been frustrating and challenging and, well, a bummer. Nevertheless, I can assure you that I haven’t been wallowing in self-pity this whole time (though I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t sheepishly admit to throwing myself one or two teeny pity parties). After all, I have (far too) many friends, family members, and colleagues who are facing more serious illnesses or other very challenging circumstances; what right do I have to complain?? In addition, I have the most amazing friends and family in my life — friends who sent flowers, cards, and treats; who graciously offered to watch the kids so that my husband could come to the hospital; who brought us meals; who called/texted/emailed to lend support or check in, and who came by to visit; parents who came to town for several days to drive me to doctor appointments and pick up my kids from camp; and an incredibly patient and loving husband who cooked my meals, took care of our kids, and generally ran our household. Their generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness in those first few weeks filled me with gratitude, and served to remind me of just how very fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life.
I also have come to appreciate and embrace the “silver linings” of my injury. I can honestly say that, in the last few months, I have been more well-rested than at any other time in the 10 years since my children were born. (Like many of you who are parents, I couldn’t remember what it felt like to wake up in the morning and not feel tired.) Because I am unable to work out, there is no reason for me to wake up at 0’dark thirty to get to the gym before my husband leaves for work, as had been my routine for years; and my kids’ already-ridiculously-late school start time was pushed back even farther this year, so there has been no need for us to set an alarm clock in the morning (I know, right? I couldn’t imagine it either until it happened.) Similarly, for the first time in many years, I have had some blocks of actual “down time”. This is the first time in more than 20 years in which I have not been actively working (or on maternity leave); ordinarily, I would seize upon such an opportunity to fulfill my domestic fantasy of finally organizing all of the closets in our house. Given my limited mobility, however, that just wasn’t going to happen; nor were any of the other tasks on my [long] domestic to-do list. So, instead, I gave myself permission to do other “less productive” things that I thoroughly enjoyed. For example, I have always loved reading, and used to be a rather voracious reader. . .until kids, work, and life happened. Recently, however, I rediscovered the joy of immersing myself in a novel into the wee hours of the morning. I have read books [plural, more than one!]! For pleasure! What a gift that has been. Similarly, I have treated myself to the occasional crossword puzzle, which is not only a challenging source of entertainment in its own right, but also conjures up fond memories of early mornings with my law school classmates many moons ago.
Most of all, however, I have relished the gift of time with my girls, particularly in the weeks prior to the start of the new school year. Although we weren’t able to do all (or really any) of the activities that we originally had planned for the summer, we spent many hours together. We made friendship bracelets; we played board games or string games [remember Cat’s Cradle and Jacob’s Ladder?] on the bed when I wasn’t particularly mobile; we binge-watched an entire Australian tv series about teenage mermaids [not as horrific as it sounds; kind of like a 90210 with mermaids]; and we talked about everything from camp songs to the importance of the right to vote. Time I will forever treasure, and a summer I will never forget.
For those of you who are still reading, thanks for bearing with me in my long-winded explanation as to where I have been. I have not moved, I have not been abducted, and I certainly have not given up photography. I can’t tell you how much I miss photography. I cannot wait to resume my sessions, see my clients, and snuggle “my” babies. Until then, I’m hopeful that you all might indulge me as I photograph items and people that are readily accessible to me — my yard, things around my house and, of course, my kids (see below). And, fair warning to all of my friends: If you come to my house, you are fair game. 😉