Last Tuesday I rolled my ankle at the Y. It was spring break for my son, the week when parents are supposed to do all sorts of entertaining things with their school-aged kids to make them remember just what awesomely fabulous parents they have. It was about ten minutes into class, and I was walking between exercises, when suddenly POP! out it went.
At first, I was confused. Did it hurt? No, I was fine. Was I fine? Not really. Maybe if I just walk on it? Or not.
My instructor commanded me to sit and put my leg up, instructed me not--under any circumstances--to take off my sneaker if I wanted to be able to drive home with it on, tossed me an ice pack and an ace bandage, and told me to sit tight. I sat tight, watching my class go on without me. I did some ab exercises, thinking that maybe I could get up in a few minutes. I picked up weights and did some more shoulder and ab work. And I started to feel the pain creeping into my ankle.
I felt completely defeated. This was my out. My healthy place. One of the things I was doing right. How could I have done this? Walking. Stupid. I finally got up, and said I guessed I would just go home.
My instructor hung her microphone on another member's head and came with me; I picked up my kids from Child Watch, and we filed an incident report. It was the last thing I wanted to do, to become an "incident." I bawled in the car on the way home, telling my kids, with whom I'd already lost my temper that morning, that I'd ruined spring break, that I was sorry, that I was such a terrible parent. N. offered to sing to me and make me feel better. I. crossed his arms and seemed nonplussed, though also marginally concerned that his mother might be losing her mind.
I hobbled around and made lunch, and that afternoon took my kids on an exciting field trip to the orthopedist, where they confirmed that my ankle wasn't broken, just sprained. And gave me an air cast, telling me to stay off it. I may have laughed. "Are you on crack?" I said, gesturing at my two children, who were behaving like angels, given the circumstances. One of them was happily wielding a rubber glove that had been turned into a chicken balloon, and the other had collected two lollipops and a handful of stickers.
I may have gone running in the air cast on Saturday. By Monday, I had started to figure out how I needed to modify exercise; I knew I could go to kickboxing class, but that I would be turning jumps into squats and lunges. On Tuesday, I lifted weights, trying to give myself a different physical challenge. On Wednesday, I left my step class, realizing that side-to-side movement of my ankle was causing me too much pain.
A week and a half after my sprain, I'm still hobbling around. I am healing, but not healed. People tell me I'll feel it for weeks, or even months.
Apparently, healing takes time. And you have to pay attention to the wound, instead of ignoring it and hope that it will stop hurting.
I'm not so good with this idea. I rarely go to the doctor or take prescription medication or even pain medication, and I expect to leap back into the fray pretty quickly after I've stumbled. And when I'm not able to do so, I falter. When I've found myself wounded in other ways, I've put the hurt aside, telling myself that it was over. That I was done: done grieving, done being angry, done with pain. That I was fine.
Except that I wasn't.
After multiple pregnancy losses, after walking away from a job where I felt harassed and belittled (and seeing other people--not my former boss--be held accountable for that kind of harassment), after surviving a childhood with less than ideal parents, after surviving assault, I think I'm finally beginning to redefine what it means to be strong. Being strong doesn't mean getting up and walking on the sprained ankle. It doesn't mean, necessarily, holding it together when everything around you is falling apart. Being strong means allowing myself to feel the pain, and realizing when it's too much to handle alone, when I need to modify my workout, when I need to be vulnerable. Because that kind of strength, I think, creates healing.
How do you approach the process of healing? And how do you define strength?