I feel like I have been living in someone else’s body for a few days. It is a very strange feeling but it is something like be a tourist in a city that looks a little bit familiar but you’re still a foreigner trying to find your bearings. I’m not sure what led me to feeling this way but I suspect it is a multitude of factors. I tend to be someone who grounds herself by familiar landmarks – my routines, my work, my family and friends. When any of those markers are out of place, I become out of sorts and feel a little askew. But I have not felt like this before. Earlier today someone said to me that I seemed like I was a million miles away. I am. I am alone on a trip and not sure where I am.
I’m not particularly unhappy. I don’t feel sad or depressed. I just feel disconnected. I feel isolated from myself and my familiar surroundings. It is lonely. It is disturbing. And, I pray, it is temporary. As someone who normally spends a lot of time trying to sort things out in my head, I am challenged to catch up with myself and understand my own distance.
I typically try to stitch together the experiences in my life and weave a tapestry that tells my story. Usually there is connective tissue through it all and, at once, I can figure out the meaning of how I feel, what I need to do, or what is going on around me. Oddly, I can’t pull those pieces together but I have decided to try to write my way through it in hopes that the elements will come together. Some of my friends, over the past few days, have been having some fun with me regarding my blog, suggesting that anything noteworthy that happens inspires a blog post. Well, nothing particularly noteworthy happened unless you consider this foreign travel, right here inside my own head, an adventure worth writing about. (So take that Patty and Eric!)
Last Friday I landed myself in the emergency room. It was a silly and uneventful visit resulting from a karate injury that was two weeks old and had not properly healed. I went to see the doctor (which many of my friends suggested I do right after the injury) because my ankle and foot were swollen and I was growing nervous that perhaps, despite my indignation against it, my ankle was broken. My husband and others talked about my wearing a boot for weeks to help secure my ankle and, just the thought of it freaked me out. I could not imagine how I would be able to maintain my lifestyle – not to mention continue my martial arts – with the encumbrance of a boot. I made jokes about it but I was getting sick to my stomach (in fact, just writing about it now is giving me a stomach ache). The idea of being incapacitated in any way was so unacceptable to me but, given the fact that my ankle was not healing, I knew I had no other choice but to see the doctor.
There is a really funny story surrounding my visit to the doctor that includes me trying to bribe him into a clean bill of health with an invite to a party at my house but that will just derail my story right now. Suffice it to say, the doctor had enough concern that my ankle might be broken that he sent me immediately to the ER to have it x-rayed. He gave me detailed instructions on how to find my way from his office through the underground tunnels that connected the Medical Arts Building to the hospital. He called down to get me fast tracked and left me with the parting words, “you might end up with a cast and crutches.” Well, this was far worse than a boot. Suddenly, a boot that I could take on and off but would look totally unattractive as I prepare to sport my beautiful new spring wedge sandals seemed like a dream compared to a full-on cast and trying to maneuver with crutches. I panicked. I called my husband and had an inane discussion about how he would get to me to drive the car home since it was my right foot and I would not be able to drive with a cast on. This, apparently, was the most important problem I needed to tackle at that moment.
After being registered in the ER, I was sent to a small little curtained area and was told to wait for the technician who would be in shortly to x-ray my ankle. I sat on the little bed in the room, thankful that I had my iPad and that I had smuggled some cookies out of my favorite deli at lunch (the owner said I could so no calling the cops on me). My phone was low on battery power but I had managed to alert all my key players to let them know of my predicament and the inquiries were coming in fast and furious to find out the verdict. There was no news to tell. The cacophony of ringtones assigned to my various friends and family members kept startling me from my seclusion in the little room where I sat alone waiting and waiting for hours. I ate my smuggled cookies, bite by bite, over the course of the first two hours. I wasn’t even sure that I was hungry but the comfort of the chocolate chip treats were helping to calm my nerves in small intervals. I played solitaire on my iPad to distract myself from the thoughts barreling down on me, as I tried to imagine how I would manage to navigate the two trips I would be taking over the course of the next few weeks, laden with a cast and crutches. I lamented about how I would have to forego wearing the cute shoes I had picked out for the party we were hosting the next night. I worried about how I would possibly be able to help my husband get the house ready for said party when I would barely be able to stand. I had visions of others I knew who had been trapped in casts for broken bones and imagined them slumped over their crutches trying to do their menial tasks. I got myself very worked up. I felt very lonely. I was, brave woman that I am, feeling scared. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. There was no way for me to control the outcome of my experience. If my ankle was broken, a cast was going on my foot. I thought about just walking out of the ER and I imagined hearing the words I so often heard on the medical dramas I had watched over the years “she left Against Medical Advice”. I just wanted to run away. I wanted to cry. I wanted to stop being such a big giant baby.
In hour three, I started thinking about how much weight I would gain from sitting around and no exercise. I envisioned myself in my bed or trapped on the couch unable to get around. I would eat to squash the pain and frustration I was feeling. I anguished over disconnecting with all my friends with whom I kickbox or do karate. I felt lame. And I still had no technician to take me in for X-ray. The dying phone kept dinging with well-wishers’ texts and jokesters asking me if I would be doing tequila shots on crutches at my party. I smiled, even laughed a little and then went right back to my panic. I was losing it, for sure.
After 3.5 hours, the lovely blond technician came in to retrieve me. She asked me if I needed a wheelchair and I told her, as I had told all the others before her, that my foot did not hurt. I had no pain (so, of course, it could not be broken). I could walk fine. I just had this nasty bruise and a big swell on the front of my ankle. But, otherwise, I was just fine. “We’ll take it slow, don’t worry,” she responded. “No, really, it does not hurt. I’m fine.” She led me down the hallway, walking slowly and continuing to ask me if I was ok. I wanted to pummel her. I just smiled and said I was great. I wanted this to be over.
My heart was beating out of my chest as I lay on the table contorting my ankle into positions so it could be properly viewed for the fine hairline fracture that undoubtedly would reveal itself. And I listened to the familiar dings and rings as my phone continued to live on and my friends checked in on my status. When we were done, the technician slowly walked me back down the short hallway and insisted on showing me back to my curtained space that was at the end of the straight hallway. I guess she thought I was slow or disoriented. She meant well. I felt otherwise but just smiled again and thanked her. She assured me that the doctor would be in right away to share the results. And then the panic unleashed itself. If I was a crier, I would have simply lost it right then and there. I returned the call of a friend who had left me a message while I was being x-rayed and tried to communicate my fear but, apparently, the brave women emerged again and I could not simply admit that I was scared, lonely and needing some moral support. “I’m good. I’ll be fine.” I told him and sent him on his merry way. And right then, much like the acceptance phase of grieving, I relinquished myself to the reality that I was going home in a cast. My ankle was hurting and I knew there was no way I was getting out of there without those pesky crutches. And I would just have to learn to cope with it. And I took a breath…just as the doctor walked in to tell me that there was no break. Maybe there had been but it had healed and the swelling was just the result of my not standing still since I was injured and letting the ankle heal properly.
“Thank you. I love you.” I kept saying it over and over again to the doctor. She smiled, told me that I would get an air cast, as my doctor had suggested in the event there was no break, and that I would be discharged momentarily. Then the funny gay male nurse came in (the gay part is important because I simply love gay men and he was one I was ready to take home and add to my collection) and took my blood pressure. He told me jokes and made me laugh and then took my blood pressure again. My pressure was 160/120 and he was not going to discharge me until it settled down. I had gotten myself so worked up that I was ready to stroke out. My mind is a powerful instrument and I am fully capable of driving myself crazy without too much effort. Clearly I had succeeded. It only took four hours, a little isolation and the fear of completely losing control.
I calmed down, went home, had a blast at my party the next night. I loved on my friends and told my crazy story. And, then, days later, I suddenly was lost. Not sure if my travails in the ER left some scar tissue that hid out until the adrenaline of getting ready and enjoying our annual festivities died down, but it is possible. Perhaps that loneliness and fear was rooted in some deep feelings that lie dormant inside me waiting for the right opportunity to rear its ugly head.
So, I’m trying to find my way back to myself but, not unlike the brave woman who sat in the ER alone, I will not ask for help. I will travel around looking for familiar sights, hoping to find some signs that will lead me back to my homeland. I will brave the elements and trust my instincts and, maybe, if I actually become truly brave, I will ask someone for directions.