We can become so reliant on what we can do, taking for granted everything that we do without a thought, with ease. sometimes we drift through our days and slide through our lives unaware of how things overall can be so simple, done without a moments thought, forgetting how easy limitations can be forced upon us, or to suddenly find ourselves less able then we were, and for many reasons.
A little context first. I fractured my ankle about 17 years ago. In France, camping, I left the church in Taize to go to my favourite field and watch the sunset, as I did every night. This one evening, I left later than usual, rushed to the field so as not to miss the spectacle and stood on a rock wrong, twisting, spraining my ankle (or so I thought).
The nurse in Taize told me to go to the hospital, I of course being all manly and brave said “Nah, it’ll be reet, I’m not leaving Taize.” A week later, back in the UK, the swelling and the purpleness wasn’t quite as bad, and to be honest, the queue at A&E was too big and I thought “Nah, it’ll be reet, I’m not waiting here…”
Fast forward ten years or so and at the hospital, in extreme pain, I was informed of how I’d fractured my ankle and it had never healed properly. I used to get twinges and it would hurt every now and then, it became my ‘Taize ankle’ reminding me I needed to stop rushing round, slow down a bit…
Over this week, my ankle has been at times, excruciating. I’ve taken to using a walking stick at times. I’m forced to slow down and walk with focus and attention. I’m acutely aware of the steps I’m taking, wincing at the varying levels of pain. Limping for a while, then still limping when I walk, I become aware that it’s not hurting.
It’s very unsettling and upsetting, I start to question what’s happening to me, is this just something that’s happening at the moment, or is it the onset of something maybe more permanent?
Walking the dog is awkward, up and down stairs is annoying… And again, for context, this is nothing in the grand scheme of things, this is minuscule, a minnow to other peoples carp. However it’s causing me to reflect on the different kinds of disablement that people have or experience on a daily basis or threaded throughout their life, or even for brief periods of time.
My clients come to see me in their varying degrees of disablement, including physical pain, or gripped in bouts of social anxiety and weighed down with depression on a daily basis. I’m always amazed by my clients capacity and resilience to face their issues each day in life, and each week in therapy with me. I use a solution focussed approach a lot in my work, and elements of motivational interviewing, so I’m often highlighting their achievements in sessions, and asking them to question how they cope.
“I’m really struggling at the moment, I just feel rubbish all the time…”
“And yet you’ve managed to get out of the house and come here on a cold and dark evening, and you didn’t have to, getting better must be really important to you…”
I’ve found myself having to tolerate different degrees of distress, of pain throughout. As I write this, theres a constant sharp pain accross the bridge of my foot. No matter where I put it, elevated, on a cushion, back on the floor, the releif is temporary before this pain, this discomfort starts to increase. Now again, remember, it’s a minnow compared to some peoples carp, however, thats all relative. Because it’s new to me, and it’s now, and it’s frustrating and it feels like its all the time and it’s making me short tempered, feel frustrated, angry and causing me more pain when I try to do something that I just used to do, like walk the dog without a thought or walking up and down the stairs at the office. I’m a trainer in my day job, and as someone with adhd, im very physical, i like to move around, to pace, so i’m worrying that if this is the onset of something, how will it affect that?
As I start to notice these limitations and their sharp reminders through jolts of pain, I’ve thought about what else is starting to reduce, my eyesight has gotten much worse recently. I got my first pair of varifocals, I began to notice the difficulty I was having when reading to my daughter. These things that happen to our bodies through conditions, injury, and of course, with age. It rapidly makes me think of my mortality, and how would I cope if I could got camping or walking. I noticed recently the difficulty I have on the bank just trying the thread a hook with fishing line, so much is becoming that much more effort…
People live with their disabling conditions all the time, the get up and get on despite their physical and emotional pain, and yet I can understand the constantness of it and the wish for it to stop, just stop, or to go back to how it was before, and it’s only been a week. Compared to clients who often come to see me as some sort of last resort, in the hope, and the absence of other things need to find something to ease the discomfort.
I’m not sure how long this will go on for, the start of something, or a reminder of something, I guess thats for a professional to decide. All I know is that like the many clients I have known that have shown great determination in the face of any adversity, this is a current hiccup, a real one thats painful and a little worrying, but by no means a full stop, just a comma or two, a pause.
I once went to Lourdes as a carer and was looking after a man my own age with severe cerebral palsy, A John Lennon airport, waiting for our flight out, he needed to go to the toilet, I wheeled him to the toilet and into the cubicle. In order to urinate I had to help him, and he asked me if I was alright with this, In that moment I thought, and said, If you can have this done for you every day of your life, i’m sure I can cope for a week.
Whatever it is that is disabling us, however miniscule or however big, it doesn’t really matter, it’s about the level of distress we are willing to tolerate, and the capacity to cope that we have.
A Thirsk Counsellor
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