Everything Passes

I had a moment of discouragement today. It didn’t last long — moments by definition don’t last long —but in that moment, I totally lost heart.

This should have been a good day. I had my post-op doctor’s appointment to get the final bandages off my arm, and I was actually feeling pretty good until I saw my arm unadorned — no fixator, no bandages, just me. I knew the arm was deformed but had never actually seen what it was going to look like, and the misshapenness shocked me. My wrist and arm were unfamiliar as the back of my hand, or even the front of my hand. (All the bones of my hand were squished together in the fall, and they were never able to be put back where they should’ve been.) I don’t suppose other people would notice the deformity, especially at a casual glance, but it is quite pronounced.

People keep telling me to look on the bright side. That at least I still have an arm. That other people have it worse. That up until now I have been lucky. I understand what they’re saying, but it doesn’t really help. Once you start comparing yourself to other people (some do have it worse, but others have it better) or to what was or might have been, self-pity is not far behind. And self-pity is a deformity of its own.

Besides, today is about me. What happened to me. And it seems as if being disheartened for a moment, or even two, is a perfectly sensible reaction.

Still, when people aren’t trying to be encouraging (and succeeding only in making me feel bad), I’m okay because the truth is it could have been worse, a lot worse. And up until now I have been lucky. I’ve never been particularly beautiful, and I carry some extra weight, but in its own way, my body has been perfect. And now it’s not.

As the surgeon said, however, it’s not how the arm looks but how it works. He was quite impressed with the mobility I have managed to regain in my fingers. (I can almost make a fist.) I only did what he told me to do, which was work my fingers whenever I got a moment, and I will apply that same diligence to my wrist. This is the long haul now. He says even the most simple hairline fracture of the wrist takes a year to gain the maximum possible mobility, and my injury (injuries, actually) was 1000 times worse than that. So I’ll try not to be discouraged for two years, at which point I will know what I have to live with, and will probably even be used to it.

Although several people have told me to make sure I demand physical therapy, the surgeon said there’s no point in going to physical therapy yet, that it’s better to wait until I get some mobility, otherwise the therapist would just sit me in a corner and have me work the wrist. And that I can do now. He will reassess in three months. Until then I am on my own. He did offer suggestions, such as massaging the scar tissue because the extensive scar tissue is impeding some of the motion. And he suggested water therapy: A large sponge in a bucket of warm water. Reach the hand in the bucket of water and squeeze the sponge letting the water run down the arm. Sounds therapeutic, doesn’t it? Almost pleasant.

When I stand outside myself and don’t let myself get involved in the emotion of the injury, I find the whole thing both interesting and challenging. But you can’t live outside yourself. And in myself I feel . . . so many aches and pains and emotions.

But one way or another, everything passes, and so will all of this.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

7 Responses to “Everything Passes”

  1. LordBeariOfBow Says:

    Within a very short space of time, you’ll have come to accept it, and forget what it was like before,if my experience is anything to go by.
    As you know 2 years ago my stomach was removed, I lost 23 kg ( that’s probably somewhere around 50 lb) and i was no longer able to eat ‘3 square meals’ a day but had to change and live on 6 or 7 small snacks/meals instead.
    Would you believe I can’t recall what it was like before?
    Everything has adjusted to my new way of life, which I think is petty good, when I consider in a couple of weeks or less I move into my 83 year.
    So I recommend that you don’t worry or get too upset, just plod along, and everything will turn out well. XD

  2. Terry Allard Says:

    I see a similarity in the “could be worse” comments to the unhelpful grief comments(“at least you expected his death and could prepare”) Statements that seem to deny a person’s right to feel what they have every right to feel given the situation(s). Sympathy and empathy for oneself is ok. It is not the gateway drug to devastating self-pity.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      My thought exactly! I don’t know why people want to diminish our right to feel bad — probably because they don’t want to have to feel bad. What really got to me (and still does) is, “Jeff would want you to be happy.” “Well, then,” I tell these people, “he shouldn’t have died.”

  3. Chuck and Heidi Thurston Says:

    Pat – did they ever mention osteoporosis as a contributor to your injury? I was told I have it in my left hip. I work out (hard!) 3-4 days a week at the Y, and guess I will start taking calcium. My wife has been diagnosed with osteopenia and has been taking it for years. Just wondering if they made any dietary or supplemental recommendations for you going forward. Keep on trucking!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I appreciate your concern, but my bones are strong due to forty years of taking calcium/magnesium, A&D, and a whole slew of other supplements. The problem is I fell HARD, so hard I bounced, and all my weight landed on my left wrist — twice. I didn’t have even a scratch or a bruise anywhere else. Such a bizarre incident. He recommended taking calcium to help build new bone, and I was already taking almost as much as he recommended. And yay! I am building bone. I hope you follow through and take a calcium (or a cal/mag) supplement. They do help.

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