Tears are gushing out of my eyes, down my cheeks, dampening my shirt. These tears are a mix of joy and sadness. Joy for having just walked for the first time in half a decade. Sadness for having had to live through those five years.
I’ve been sick since 2010, but a few years into my illness things got really bad and I became bedridden. I couldn’t even handle ambulatory wheelchair use. I was so weak I couldn’t speak. I had to drink my meals through a straw. Caregivers had to brush my teeth and bathe me. It was excruciatingly difficult. I wanted to give up so many times. And I almost did because, when life gets that bad, it feels like there’s no coming back. It felt like the damage that had been done to my body and my life was irreversible. I was so sick, so immobile, trying to imagine walking, talking, or even eating again, was like trying to imagine life on another planet (real life, not sci-fi).
While it may have been impossible for me to imagine doing these things again, outside of my imagination they weren’t impossible. Over the five years that I was bedridden, I was on a roller coaster of progress and regression. I’d get a little better, then get sicker, until finally, I broke through and started eating and speaking again. Soon I was sitting on the side of my bed, even putting my feet on the ground.
I’m going to be real—this was not a linear recovery. As I write in my memoir, my recovery story was more complicated than the inspirational stories you see on TV and social media. Most people aren’t used to a recovery story about someone who got sick, then got sicker, then started to recover but got sick again, only to recover and finally plateau. But this has basically been the trajectory of my recovery. And I’m not mad at it. Here I am, taking my first steps in five years, feeling like a giant standing next to the spot in my bed where I used to lie. The pain and stiffness in my legs is harsh, but I don’t care because, fuck, I feel good. I’m still sick, still recovering, but when I grab the door handle and pull myself out of bed and walk outside onto the deck, it feels so fucking good.Now instead of being constantly in bed or in my wheelchair, I can do ambulatory wheelchair use. Now I have good problems, like figuring out my ambulatory transportation.
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I have a lot more to say about this phase of my recovery, but I’m going to save it for another post because, right now, I want to use as much of my energy as I can to keep getting better, to keep enjoying these moments, and to keep feeling good.
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