Monday, 10 June 2013

The Non-linear Path of Physical Recovery

Wow it's been a long time since I wrote here! Nearly 6 months! Time flies.

Since then I've done some biking, though not as much as I would have liked, or as I had planned to in fact. I've been back for a couple of X-rays, which showed little change really - you can see a bit of the gap filling in, but only if you squint at it. The bone hasn't moved though, so it's probably fair to say that the tibia is stable now.

There's still some frustrating setbacks happening though, mostly with my ankle and foot. It seems like you slowly go some way forward and then quickly come a way back again. The other week I manipulated my ankle joint again - manipulated is what they call it where you move a joint that hasn't moved for a long time basically further than you've moved it before. It takes a lot of force, like a stumble or something. Well, it takes more force the more often it happens, if you see what I mean. In the long term these manipulations are good because you are increasing the range of movement of your joints, but in the short term they are incredibly painful :(

Thus is was that in May I was very happy that I had managed to be off crutches for 6 weeks - I had even uttered the fate-tempting phrase "I'm off crutches now" - I did wait 6 whole weeks before saying that, and then a week later I was back on two crutches again! Last week I couldn't really walk, and depressing though it was I stayed at home all week - I can work at home but it's not really the same. Cabin fever sets in. Now I can just about manage hobbling around the house and down to the shop, but it's really frustrating because 2 weeks ago I was even starting to walk without really thinking about it. That's something that I now know you really take for granted, not having to think about every step and how much it's going to hurt or what angle the pavement is at or being careful to put your heel down first etc etc. 

Anyway I know it'll come back, and I know it'll come back better than it was before, but you have to go through these miserable steps backward to go forward again. I've done this to my ankle once before, it swelled up in exactly the same way, hurt exactly as much, and came back better. I did it to my foot too, a massive 'crack!' when I was hobbling up a steep street - hurt like anything for a month, then got better and my foot was springier, all good.

Biking: managed to do 50 miles on the road bike in early May, mostly flat but with a really hilly bit about three quarters of the way through to test the thighs. Hard work but managed it. The other day I went and did 3 miles on my mountain bike and found it very difficult. Non-linear. My physio says biking will be good for my ankle at the moment, might help it loosen up and the swelling go down. I have realised that I have to be more serious about my exercises, because they will make it harder for me to hurt myself! Didn't think of that before, but I have now, so at least I'm learning.

I'm supposed to figure out and write down my goals (short, mid and long-term) for my physical recovery this week, before my next appointment on Thursday. When I've done that I'll post them on here! I'd like to start swimming again too - now I think I could make it to the pool without needing help or crutches, I should go and try it - I'm sure that would help.

When I can step back from the fact that it's my leg and ankle and foot and I'm connected to them 24/7, I can see that things are getting better, and that the non-linear nature of the recovery is actually quite interesting in it's own way. However sometimes it is not easy to be so detached and then you're thinking the usual "why me?" or "what did I do to deserve this?". I need to stay in control of that because it makes it worse. Before this latest setback I was starting to believe that hiking might be possible again, in fact I was almost ready to try it, and the biking, while not as frequent as I had imagined it would be, was going in the right direction. I'll get back there, I know. But it is hard to construct a plan or put times to goals when you don't know and can't predict these manipulations, setbacks. It feels a bit like a process where on a given day there's an x% chance that there will be a setback. That starts me thinking whether that's not actually always the case - you could hurt yourself any day, which would set you back. I guess when you're in the middle of a recovery like I am that chance must be greater, or you have to do less to encounter one. So making a plan like "I'm going to do a 100 mile ride by July" is, I think, a good thing, but it almost certainly has to be tempered by the knowledge that July might have to change to be August or September.

People were saying to me the other week that I'd "overdone it" - that's my Mum's favourite way of putting it. Well, if going on my mountain bike and having to put my foot down, or walking up a street or going to the shop is overdoing it - guilty! But there isn't another way, I don't hurt myself on purpose. 

It'll be 3 years soon.

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