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.



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