Friday, January 17, 2014

Building again

I have a permanent injury to my left ankle. When I was 13, I stepped between a sidewalk and a road and bent that foot inward until the foot actually touched the leg for a moment. A normal parent would have taken their child to a doctor. A normal parent would have been concerned that the ankle was broken. I didn't have normal parents. I had a shitty mother and a co-dependent father who says he trusted her to be a good mother and thus never questioned her judgment. Honestly, there are many days that I think this was merely his excuse to absolve himself of his own culpability in the horrific childhood I endured.

The end result was that I did not see a doctor for my ankle until I was over the age of 30. My mother, who thought because she was a medical student meant she knew everything about all areas of medicine, declared it was not broken. I was ordered to stop crying or be spanked severely to justify my crying. She slapped an ace bandage on my ankle and told me to walk. After four days of my inability to walk, she did finally break down and buy a pair of crutches for me to use. However, three weeks after the injury she declared there was no reason for me to need those anymore and took them away from me.

I hobbled for months, slowly rebuilding. The next year when I attempted to run track, I discovered I was quite fast in speed, but after every track practice, that ankle felt like it was on fire. I suspected there was something permanently wrong, as she did manage to admit that the rock hard knot that appeared at my calf muscle immediately after the injury was likely my tendon. Since I could rotate and weight bear on the foot, obviously it wasn't a severe injury though.

I quickly found an excuse to get out of track, despite the familial expectation that EVERY child of my father's was supposed to run track. I took an afterschool babysitting job that conflicted with track practice. Since the family was a member of our church, my father would not interfere and tell me no. This would appear as if he were a poor minister. It saved me from the torture and after that point I learned what my ankle was capable of, or not capable of forward.

When I was 30, I went to an Orthopedic surgeon, a friend of II's. I explained the history of my ankle injury to him and asked him what my options were. He estimated that I tore 80% of the tendon that attaches my calf to my ankle joint. Tendons do not repair themselves. The torn tendon is still there, balled up next to my calf and atropied. He could feel it, he could see it even. He stated unequivicably that I needed surgery to repair my ankle when I injured it, that it was entirely likely I broke bones in the ankle as well but they have since healed. At 13 and immediately after the injury, it would have been an easier surgery and a quicker recovery process. However, at 30, there would be nothing easy about the repair job. In fact, he would have to cut into my heel, reach up all the way to the calf, stretch the tendon back down and attach it, and since it 20ish years, the likelihood that the tendon can be fully restored is low, so it would require synthetic materials or harvesting tendon from elsewhere less critical in my own body. He could do the surgery but it would be painful, would have a long recovery in which I would be unable to walk, and it would have limited success to attempt it. Instead, he recommended that I continue to baby that ankle. Since I can walk on the 20% tendon that exists, I should continue to wear braces and to always listen to that burning sensation and never stress the ankle. If I ever tear that tendon even a little bit again, I will have no choice but to have the surgery to repair the injury. Given the lack of medical care I had at 13, I am in a position where my body has compensated and it is functional the way it is. So, I opted to maintain status quo and take care of that ankle to prevent further injury.

I do not run. I have never run since that point. I don't job either. I walk. I can power walk if and only if I have built up to that activity. I can hike. I have a brace for my ankle. I have a deformity on that ankle where you can tell connective tissue is gone. The ankle sinks in. When I was 19, I distracted from this deformity by putting a tattoo on the sight--great for empowerment but significantly worse on the pain factor than even an ordinary ankle tattoo would be since it was needle directly on bone.

What I know about my ankle is that I cannot jump into exercise. I have to build slowly, strengthen the muscle to compensate, utilize my brace especially as I am building up ankle and calf strength. If I do not do this, and even as I am doing this, the ankle burns again. This is not a no pain/ no gain scenario. I cannot push through that pain. I have to slow down. I have to do lots of flexibility exercises. It takes a couple of weeks as I am restarting exercise to build this ankle back up.

When Micah was dying, I started walking. It built that ankle up and it did not bother me again. While I slacked off on the exercising after Micah died, I started a job where on the days I worked I averaged two to three miles of walking per day. This continued to strengthen my ankle so I didn't have to think about it anymore. Then, I quit my job first of December in preparation for this move and I wasn't walking there. It was too cold and snowy to walk in New England so I wasn't exercising outside of work either.

Today, I started walking again. This new neighborhood is a lovely place to live and it has terrific resources for walking. However, those paths are hilly. Having not exercised for six weeks, the burn came back quickly. So, I managed to walk 2/3 of a mile, with several stops to flex and rotate the ankle as I went. It's a slow start. It would be discouraging, especially since I was otherwise find with the exercise, including my breathing struggles. However, I know my ankle, and I have done this before. I will dig back out my brace. I will start doing strengthening exercises at home and at rest and I will start with less than a mile. I will build back up again and get back into exercising.

The chaos of the fall has died down finally. We are moved. We are stable. The children are slowly and steadily launching into their new schools, new lives and new normalcy. It is time to start working on my health and exercise as well. I love that this time I simply know to build back up and not give up. I know that it is important to take care of me and my health and not merely everyone else. I know that this will take time, but I cannot be discouraged. Instead, I can rejoice that despite the horrific injury done and the terrible harm done by a woman who called herself a mother, I can still walk and what I require is not pain management, not surgical restoration but physical therapy techniques that I am well familiar with and soon I will be walking strong again.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Healing moments

There was a lot of big emotions about all of the turmoil and change that this fall brought to our family. No one actually wanted to move, though all of the children understood that II's work situation made the move necessary. No one wanted to live without dad, but they also did not want to leave where they had been happy and healthy. They did not want to leave the memory of their brother, in the place he was the happiest of his entire life.

At the same time, New England was bad for my health. I don't mean a little bit bad, but really, really bad. I had resigned myself that I would be there to stay because that was where the children were happy. However, it was not a good situation for me. My psoriasis does better in warmer weather and with more sunlight. My thyroid condition causes me to be extremely cold intolerant, which means that my joints and bones hurt most of the northern winter. I could never get warm, and being cold meant I hurt all of the time. That was all before you consider that there was major cultural differences between New England and having lived in the southeast my entire life. I have moved more times than I can count, but I only visited that far north previously. There was much I missed about home, and much I still was not adjusted to in the north.

For me, moving back to the south was exciting and somewhat of a relief. For the children, it was frightening and met with trepidation. Most of them had lived the majority of their lives in the south, but they had found contentment in New England. I knew they would be find returning home, but they were not nearly so convinced of that reality.

We have been here less than a week, and my words are proving more true than these children ever imagined. The home their father found for us is perfect for them to have the rest of their childhoods here. The house is large, six bedrooms with a living room, playroom and a library, where we were able to set up a table for them. Half of that table is for puzzles, the other half for board games that require pauses in playtime. There are three bathrooms (and really we found that four in New England was just overkill and required more effort to clean). My one concern about this new house was that we did not find a house with land, but a large city lot in a subdivision. However, the subdivision is 30 years old and well established. The houses are well spaced with large lots and lots of trees. The roads are perfect for children to ride bikes, and the neighborhood is teeming with children for these children to explore and make friendships with.

The first day we stepped into this house, half of the children were apprehensive. Poor S hid in his closet for two hours until he felt safe and adjusted. We have now been here five days, and every single one of the children wake up every single morning and tell me how much they LOVE being here. They haven't even started school yet. They have just barely started to explore the neighborhood and meet the neighbors. Yet, they smile every day, rejoice at the sunlight that streams through their windows, and run with wild abandon in a yard that is as warm as summer weather averages where they just escaped.

I think we're going to be okay. It will be along road. They still have to conquer adjusting to school here. They have to learn to live in a new area, a small city in the south and not rural nor mega city, which is most of their experiences in the past. They have to learn to fit in, to simply have a life and to not have chaos rule their lives anymore. Every step we take is one more movement in their healing and recovery. We're getting there, and it warms my heart to see them thriving and happy so very soon after getting here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stepping forward

Life goes on, as the song says. New job, new location, new house, new chance to move forward with all of our lives.

On January 2, we packed up our lives and pulled out of New England. It was an adventure, of that there is no doubt. There were some wonderful things about living in New England. I was surprised at how very open and friendly the people were. I was surprised at how diverse some things were. Never did I find such variety in food choices so easily prior. Never did I find recycling so accessible. The schools truly partnered with us to work with the children. Our neighbors were truly neighbors. Growing up in the south, I always feared the small towns most of all. They were always so closed, so judgmental and out right mean to me. They had a façade of friendliness and kindness, but under that façade they were just mean bullies. That was not the dynamic I found in a northern small town. The people there were genuinely kind and interested in being neighborly to our family.

Yet, the things I am most grateful to leave is the ghost of Micah's absence, and the weather. I truly felt ready to whither up and die with the cold weather. While we traveled back south as a Polar Vortex did the same, we still managed to outrun the snow at some point.

When we left our home four years ago, our children left behind all that was stable in their lives. We needed that change to restore our marriage, and the foundation of their lives, though they didn't understand it. However, that move still hurts the children. We went from solid middle class with a full-time stay at home mother and homeschooling to inner city, abject poverty with two parents in school and scraping to barely make ends meet. From there, we went back to middle class, but we left our world behind and were completely submerged in death, dying and grief. As we unloaded the moving truck, every one of us shed some of that grief and pain. The children are back to solid middle class, a mother who is at home (though I am actually in school and will be seeking out per diem work as soon as my licensure is straightened out).

I sit in a house half unpacked and I marvel at where we have been and what we have before us now. Everything that II's last boss meant for evil has turned into a beautiful mosaic to this family now. I promised II when I got here with him, I was throwing away the moving boxes. I'm done being nomadic. I will work diligently to finish my own training so that we are never in a position to rely solely upon one income again. If I had held my degree already, we would not have needed to move this time. Yet, there was tremendous good for this family in moving this last time.

We have bought a house, though I swore when I left four years ago I never would again. This one is nearly my dream home. It lacks only a few minor things I always dreamed of having. It is a home I can grow old in, a home where I can provide healing and peace for these children. It is home...again...finally.