Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Depression Post #3: Dealing With a Major Injury

[caption id="attachment_611" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Busted ankle, perfect pedicure! Busted ankle, perfect pedicure![/caption]
A few weeks ago, while decorating for a school event, I took a fall off of a ladder and suffered a compound fracture of both my tibia and my fibula just above the right ankle.  I was taken to the hospital by ambulance-- my first journey (and hopefully my last)-- and had to have two surgeries in three days to clean, set, and repair the bones.  Total, I was in the hospital five days, again it was the first time I ever had to spend a protracted amount of time in the hospital.

In addition to being the most frightening and physically painful experience of my life, my injury has caused me a lot of psychological trauma, the effects of which I have only just started to process.  If you have ever experienced a major injury, you’ll know that your first few days are spent in a fog, in shock or loaded up on heavy pain medication; the next few days are spent focused on recovering  enough physically to go home.  When you’re hospitalized, your days become monotonous and surprisingly goal oriented: everything you do, or cannot do, is focused on getting discharged as quickly as possible.

The real recovery work, however, begins once you’ve gotten home.

My first few days at home were rough ones.  We quickly learned that  I was sensitive to the pain medication I was prescribed; my pain in my ankle would be blunted, but I would quickly develop a migraine and grown nauseous.  The migraines were were worse than the pain in my ankle, so I had to go off my prescription and make do with Tylenol Arthritis until my scheduled checkup with my orthopedic surgeon.  Needless to say, the Tylenol wasn’t cutting it with my post-surgical pain; coupled with the itching and pulling from my staples and stitches, this pain has me in hysterics, especially at night.  Even now, with a more suitable pain medicine at hand, I struggle to sleep because of the tightening feeling at my injury site.

What makes my pain hardest to bear is knowing that there is nothing I can do about it other than taking my medication and ignoring it.  For the most part, pain medication doesn’t get rid of your pain, it just tempers the ache.  At two in the morning I want to be unconscious, not half-heartedly watching an episode of Mission: Impossible because my ankle feels like it is shriveling.   It’s maddening.

What’s worse, however, is the psychic pain.  In the days following my discharge, I started having flashbacks, seeing my impact whenever I closed my eyes. I can still hear the screams of my colleagues and students when I fell.  Like any traumatic experience, I am sure the chilling effect these memories have on me emotionally will dissipate with time and by talking about them, but the memory is still very fresh in my mind.

Moving past this trauma is made all the more challenging because my life veritably stopped when I fell off that ladder; I haven’t been able to resume my life as I lived it previously.  Instead, I’m stuck in limbo waiting until I am healed enough to ease back into small parcels of normality.  While I have been able to do some of my non-instructional work tasks from home, not getting up every morning and trundling off to work-- not seeing my students or falling into my routine-- has been very difficult.

At present, what has helped me the most to manage my injury-related depression has been my mom and my pug.  My mother is my rock and has been my lifeline throughout the entire experience, looking after me just as she had when I was a toddler (seriously, when you suffer a major fracture basic life functions are nearly impossible to complete on your own).  Without her emotional and physical support, I’d be living in painful squalor.

[caption id="attachment_445" align="aligncenter" width="300"]THE FOOOSA: a gentlewoman and a scholar.  THE FOOOSA: a gentlewoman and a scholar.[/caption]
THE FOOSA, my pug, has been a tremendous emotional support.  When I was in the hospital, all I could think about was getting home to THE FOOSA.  Since I’ve been back, she’s been my little furry shadow, cuddling up to me as I recline on my bed or sit on the couch; she even spots me as I scoot around the house with my walker.

While I am still in the early stages of my recovery, I know that despite my occasional sadness,  I have the love and support I need to get back into fighting shape.  Eventually.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Eternal Optimist: The Pedicure That Just Won't Quit

[caption id="attachment_611" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Busted ankle, perfect pedicure! Busted ankle, perfect pedicure![/caption]
The evening before I went plummeting off of a ladder while hanging prom decorations, I painted my toe nails a creamy dusty rose pink-- Essie’s Eternal Optimist ($8).  Originally, the shade was meant to add a soft, neutral color to my toes and complement the early 1960s outfit and makeup look I had selected for my chaperon duties (yes, I take such things seriously).  Then I had my accident and the polish became emblematic of my experience and my recovery.

[caption id="attachment_612" align="aligncenter" width="147"]Essie Eternal Optimist Essie Eternal Optimist[/caption]

Generally speaking, I am not an optimistic person; my mind usually skips to the worst case scenario right from the get go.  Any time I get a paper cut  I automatically think I am going to get a staph infection and lose my arm. I really don’t have a middle ground: I’m either doing well or on the verge of a tragic death.  Since I am such a hypochondriac, it’s deeply ironic that at the time of my fall, the worst health crisis I have ever experienced, I was wearing Eternal Optimist on my tootsies.

Strangely enough, despite suffering a catastrophic injury in the ankle region, there was absolutely no blood on my feet (maybe because my foot was bent in the opposite direction . . . ), in my shoes, or on my socks.  Similarly, after five days in the hospital and two surgeries, my pedicure was in tact.  Two weeks after my accident, my toes are still painted Eternal Optimist-- my original pedicure.

[caption id="attachment_613" align="aligncenter" width="167"]Two coats of Eternal Optimist on a nail wheel. Two coats of Eternal Optimist on a nail wheel.[/caption]

What is remarkable about Eternal Optimist, however, is not its longevity (though two weeks is incredible for a pedicure!), but its symbolism for my recovery.  There have been very few moments where I have felt sorry for myself or doubted that I would get better.  On the contrary, I have thrown myself into the recovery process, learning the basics of orthopedic injuries, working out my recovery timeline, and generally taking an active role in my medical treatment.

It’s easy to become dejected when you’re facing a health crisis, especially if you allow yourself to remain passive.  Passivity is natural enough: when you don’t feel well, you certainly don’t want to advocate for taking your own medication from home or insist that you be prescribed a walker to take home-- but you have to press the point for your own good.  Your best advocate for your own care and your own cause is you.

Perhaps my pessimistic streak has been kept at bay by my tenacity and determination to get better, maybe it’s an elaborate form of self-denial.  Whatever the case may be, I’m keeping calm and carrying on . . . and so is my pedicure!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

What I've Been Reading Lately #2: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls byDavid Sedaris

[caption id="attachment_599" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Bedside reading. Bedside reading.[/caption]
In the days leading up to the Great Humpty Dumpty Schonda of 2013,I had started reading David Sedaris’s latest collection of essays Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (Little, Brown, and Company; $27).  Since I possess Jedi-like library skills (if there is such a thing, and I am inclined to believe that there is), I was able to snag a copy of the book from the country library as soon as the delivery of the books came in-- you really have to time the book’s release date to the library’s order date and entry of the book into their online catalog . . . Anyway!  After getting released from the hospital earlier this week, I returned to my reading and was happily able to finish the book Saturday afternoon.

As with all Sedaris books, I enjoyed Owls a great deal: Sedaris is at his best when speaking about his own foibles or the pitfalls of being an American abroad.  An avowed Sedaris fan, I’ve read all of the author’s books since discovering them during my sophomore year of college; coincidently, Sedaris gave a lecture at my university during my sophomore year . . . but I was off having my Razor’s Edge experience and was totally unawares until more than a year after the engagement (waaah!).  It is within the context of this tremendous admiration and fandom that my mixed feelings about the book must be considered.  As a general collection of humorous essays, I LOVED Owls; as a David Sedaris collection of essays, I was mildly amused.

[caption id="attachment_601" align="aligncenter" width="201"]Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (LBC, 2013) Image c/o The Christian Science Monitor Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (LBC, 2013) Image c/o The Christian Science Monitor[/caption]

For many Sedaris fans, myself included, consider all of the author’s books since his masterful Me Talk Pretty One Day (2001) to be anticlimactic. Me Talk was so humorously off-kilter and touchingly relatable that none of Sedaris’s more recent work can live up to the brilliance of that book.  Really, it’s unfair to consider the rest of Sedaris’s work in comparison to Me Talk, but it’s also hard not to compare the works.

That being said, Owls is the best collection Sedaris has released since Me Talk. In particular, I enjoyed Sedaris’s wild take on eating during a vacation in China, an entry that has caused some controversy but one that I, as a member of the pearl-clutchers brigade, relate to wholeheartedly.  Similarly, the author’s discussion of his French dentistry experiences and the fallout from having his computer stolen in Hawaii had me laughing out loud in the most awkward of circumstances-- thank you, David.

Where Owls, and all of Sedaris’s work, falters are in the short stories which strain for laughs, often launching themselves into blue-territory, and, for the committed reader, are best plowed through rather than savored.

So, while imperfect, Owls is a fun read, particularly for commuters accustomed to having short reading spells.  However, would I have shelled out my hard earned teacher shekels for the hardback at full price . . . probably not.  I’d advise adding this one to your library hold list.
Thursday, May 16, 2013

Where Have I Been: Busted Ankle Edition

I keep having these posts on my blog: explaining apologetically where I have been recently and promising that I will be more diligent in my posting in the future.  Then, as with anyone, things happen and I fall off for a while  . . . then I come back, ad infinitum.

This time around, however, I have a good excuse for my absence: I BROKE MY ANKLE!

[caption id="attachment_584" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Day 1 in the hospital after my accident. Day 1 in the hospital after my accident.[/caption]

A week ago today, I fell off of a ladder and landed square on my right foot-- then my foot went in one direction and my tibia and fibula (the two bones in your lower leg) went in another . . . piercing the skin.  I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance (a first for me!), had two surgeries to repair my leg/ ankle, and stayed in the hospital for five days recovering from the physical trauma.  Today marks my second day back home after the experience.  It’s been a hot mess.

[caption id="attachment_583" align="aligncenter" width="300"]What passes for bling among the hospital crowd. What passes for bling among the hospital crowd.[/caption]

Since I can’t walk on my ankle or use my walker for long periods of time, I am off work through the end of the school year, instead working from home on administrative tasks and keeping in touch with students.  Soooo . . . since I’m home . . . I actually will have more time to blog, writing about films, books, beauty products, my dog, and anything that catches my interest while I am stranded on the sofa. And yes, I will be returning to Mascara MAYhem ASAP.

[caption id="attachment_582" align="aligncenter" width="300"]At home on the sofa recovering. At home on the sofa recovering.[/caption]

My blogging goal during my recuperation period is to blog at least five times a week, taking time off for the weekends; since that’s a lot of content, please feel free to email any topics you’d like me to tackle (reviews, advice, etc.) to