Just over three weeks ago, I had surgery on my shoulder. It was a revision for a previous surgery, 2 years ago this month. The whole thing started in May of 2012, and the only reason I’ll always remember that is that it was Mother’s Day weekend, and we’d spent the weekend camping with friends. (Here’s the original post on that) There were better days here and there, but I basically haven’t had a pain free day for 2 1/2 years.
This time around, he repaired some stuff from the first surgery – an anchor was rubbing every time I moved, so he removed that, as well as cleaned up new tears, scar tissue and arthritis that had developed. He also did something called a biceps tenodesis, which basically means that he detached the bicep on one end, and literally moved it and reattached in a new place further down my arm to take the pressure off my shoulder. I have a permanent metal button that’s holding it to the bone. Crazy, right? I know from experience that recovering from the work on the shoulder (the labrum, in this case) is no picnic, but it’s actually the bicep piece that’s going to be the most frustrating recovery, in the sense that it requires the most restriction – and patience! – to heal properly.
I spent the first two weeks after the surgery on the couch…. taking painkillers, eating comfort food, and logging more hours canoodling with Netflix and Playon than I care to admit (I knew I’d reached a particular low when I started re-watching the original Melrose Place from the very first episode.) It’s a frustrating feeling, having to be waited on. I’m not very good at it. And the whole thing was compounded by the fact that it only took a couple of days before I was feeling sad, lonely, and embarrassingly sorry for myself.
I was longing, literally longing, for someone to show up at the door with baked goods, or coffee, or just themselves, and sit and keep me company and give me something positive to chat about for awhile. My sister, who scored some major good sister points, did exactly that a couple of times. And when a dear out-of-state friend happened to be in town visiting another mutual friend, they stopped over as well, bearing cupcakes and hugs and conversation, just two days after the surgery. And I did get one sweet card in the mail. Other than that, it was pretty much radio silence (save for dire warnings about the addictive nature of the painkillers I was taking), from friends and family alike, and it made me…. mopey. How hard is it to pick up a phone, I’d think, and send a get-well text? Or ask if I needed anything?
I know; self-pity is an undeniably unattractive thing, but it’s exactly what I felt. I was a spectacle. Moping around in my sweatpants and my sling, wearing the same shirt for days because it was just too much painful work to change it, hopped up on drugs (that I’ve since stopped taking, but at the time genuinely needed and got chastised like a unruly dog for taking). I was a zombie from not sleeping, so I tried the Ambien my doctor prescribed, which only caused a horrible reaction that kept me up all night (I got chastised for taking that too.) I was literally starting to gain weight – over the course of just two weeks! – because of my inactivity and the general volume of non-nutritive food I was eating. My upper arm had a really weird, creepy looking new shape to it that I feared was permanent. And to top it all off, I felt like I had no friends.
(Ha. I just re-read that last paragraph, and is it any wonder no one came to visit? :) Who’d want to spend time with that miserable person? God bless my crazy sister.)
Last Monday, I started physical therapy, which even though I knew it would be painful, was a huge positive step in my recovery. For a lot of people, going to physical therapy reduces their pain…. but when you go to re-gain strength and range of motion after a surgery, it actually causes pain, at least in the beginning. On a side note, it amazes me the movements we take for granted until we can’t do them anymore, like straightening out your elbow, or raising your arm up over your head. Anyway, I decided on that first day that I would use that pain as a reminder of the healing that’s going on. It’s truly amazing when you think about it… tendons and muscles and bone, all slowly slowly knitting themselves back together. Every day getting just a little bit stronger, every day getting just a little more flexible. I never properly healed from the first surgery (or, I guess more accurately, I never had a break in between healing from the first one, and dealing with the subsequent problems it caused) but I know I can’t let that allow me to think I won’t properly heal from this one. Being a revision, by its very nature it’s going to be “messier” than the first one. In other words, I shouldn’t be expecting to reach 100%. But 80% sounds wonderful right now. And I’ll get there. I will.
Slowly, painfully, I’ll heal.
And so it goes with my shoulder and my sorry, sad-sack attitude. I’ll heal. It’s funny how something as simple as a surgery and its accompanying rehab can suddenly propel a person (again) into full-fledged mid-life crisis mode, but that’s exactly what it’s done. And it’s a good thing! It’s time once again to look at my life, evaluate what’s important, what’s not, and work to eliminate the latter. So as my shoulder and arm heal, so will the rest of me. I guarantee it’ll be painful at times, just like with physical therapy, but the pain will eventually reveal something brighter, clearer, and stronger. With each appointment, each ice pack, each Advil, each good night’s sleep, I’ll heal. In the grand scheme of things, it’s but a blip. I indulged myself for two weeks, and now it’s time to move on.
To healing, even when it hurts.