As of this morning, my right hand and wrist are in an immobilizer, because it turns out that the pain I've had for the last three months whenever I turn my wrist in a certain way is tendinits -- with a fancy name! It's De Quervain's tendinitis, although I keep forgetting the name and calling it De Cuervo, which sounds like a tequila-related injury. So now for the next month I'm wearing this special thumb/wrist split that holds my thumb in a certain position. I can take the splint off to shower, but otherwise I'm supposed to wear it night and day. (And it's making typing a considerable challenge.)
When I think about this new ailment in combination with the plantar fasciitis that is still ailing my right foot, I'm bummed. And then when I consider the cough-that-would-not-end-for-three-months this winter, plus the weird, painful frozen shoulder mystery of this spring, it all just gets me down. Plus there's the considerable weight gain of the past year -- 20 pounds in less than 12 months is bad news indeed. Some of those pounds are undoubtedly due to the gimpy right foot, but the end result is disspiriting.
So disspiriting that I curled up and cried on D's shoulder for quite a while when I got home from the doctor. And then I lay down on the couch and napped under a blanket for over two hours because I was so worn out emotionally. And then we had Thai comfort food to continue my emotional recovery. So I'm feeling better now, but still somewhat pensive.
Here's what I've been thinking about for a week or so now, even before this morning's doctor's appointment: Ever since my medical misadventure 2 1/2 years ago, when I passed out in the checkout lane at Costco, gashed open my scalp, and had my first (and hopefully only) ambulance ride, complete with neck brace, I've been feeling fragile physically. My doctor and I have since then addressed the problems that led to the passing out -- mostly serious anemia, which I now deal with by taking birth control pills to limit the menorrhagia caused by uterine fibroids -- but I think I lost some trust in my body that day. It was interesting to go back and reread my blog post from that event, because I was feeling so cheerful at the possibility that correcting the anemia would also correct some other issues I'd been dealing with recently, including things like getting easily winded. But here I am, 2 1/2 years later, and I've dealt with the anemia, but I'm having more and more physical problems, not fewer.
The fact that I turned 47 two weeks ago and now am definitively in my "late 40s" as opposed to "mid 40s" has not been bothering me at all. But the fact that I feel old, that my body feels fragile and as though it might not take me another 40 or so years, ... THAT is bothering me! Plus I'm now of that time in life whe friends and colleagues in my same age group are beginning to face serious health issues at a more frequent rate, so now I'm feeling like we're ALL fragile.
Of course, I have a long history of feeling fragile. My father for years has called me a "delicate flower" -- a term of simultaneous affection and slight disdain -- because I've always been the one in the family who gets overheated quickly, and for whom overheating leads immediately to weakness and distress, the one who hurts herself frequently and crumples from it, as opposed to my brother who also hurts himself frequently and keeps on going. I was the one who got teary from the discomfort of camping, the one who needed a damp cloth on the back of her neck when feeling faint. And it was perceived as an emotional fragility as well, since I was (and still am) the one who cried on a regular basis.
But here's what I was thinking about this past week, and that I'm back to feeling now after my day of feeling blue: What if I reframe "fragility" as "vulnerability"? Because fragility seems like a permanent state -- one is fragile, and then eventually one probably breaks if dropped -- but vulnerability seems like something that can be addressed. So I'm vulnerable to anemia, but that means I take iron pills occasionally and get my iron levels checked regularly. I'm vulnerable to low blood sugar, so I bring a snack with me when I'll be out for a long time. My feet are vulnerable because of the plantar fasciitis, so I wear orthotics when I go out for a walk, I limit said walks to about an hour at this point, and I give myself a foot massage afterward. Yeah, all of that's a pain, but it doesn't mean that I can't walk, just that I have to recognize my vulnerabilities.
I know that aiming for vulnerability doesn't sound inspiring, but there's no point in aiming for invulnerability. What I'd really like to aim for is feeling strong and capable, but that feels like too much of a reach right now. So I'm going to try reframing my moments of doubt and weakness as vulnerabilities to be recognized and responded to, rather than as permanent-state fragility. We'll see how it works!