The purpose of this blog isn’t for me to complain, but to comment on my life with a chronic pain syndrome, which of course includes pain. Even though pain is a part of my everyday life, it isn’t always the thing that most affects my life. Sometimes the emotional struggles are just as difficult as the physical ones.
I realized the other day that I had not used my left arm normally in more than six months. I have not folded my own clothes, zipped a Ziploc bag, or clapped my hands in half of a year. I remember being insisting that people know my correct age, in half-year increments, when I was a child. My half-birthday was a big deal to me each year. That half of a year was important, and now my half-“birthday” of my injury has approached and passed almost without notice.
At first, thinking of the things I’m missing out on were a huge disappointment. After all, there are so many things I can’t do and may never be able to do. I think of the brand new pair of boots in my closet that I can’t tie, the half-finished scarf on my knitting loom, or the new material I can’t quilt. I pondered of all the frustrations I have faced and will face, including toilet paper out of reach, containers I can’t open, and meat I can’t cut.
While I was mourning the things I felt I had lost, my friend asked me if I felt like I had accomplished anything by overcoming my current one-handedness in order to do everyday tasks. At this point I began to think of the things I’ve accomplished. I can put on my clothes without touching my left arm, I can type fairly well one-handed (about 30 wpm, compared to 90 wpm before), and I can open and I can do a little dance while carrying a backpack, a pillow, and a key card while unlocking and opening the door to my dorm and not touching my left arm to anything. Not just anybody can do these things (though I’d like to see them try), in fact I only learned them out of necessity.
Loosing one part of your body requires compensation from the other parts, including your brain. I love being creative and figuring out puzzles, and living with CRPS in one arm makes my whole life a puzzle. Each normal daily activity that could originally be done without second thought requires careful thought and consideration. Do I really need to do it? Can I do it myself? Is it worth the pain it might cause? Is it worth asking someone else to do it for me? Is it something someone else can do for me?
I’ve learned to cope with the life God has handed me, but that isn’t enough. I’m not willing to sit passively and feel sorry for my lack of a working arm, I’m going to fight for all I’m worth to keep my independence and learn to overcome the things life hands me with a positive attitude.
That brand new pair of boots in my closet, the ones I can’t tie? They are the same kind of boot I wore on a leadership survival type week out in Wyoming (the original pair had a stitching defect that resulted in large blisters, this pair is identical, but brand-new and defect-free). During that week, I did things I never thought possible. The week was called Niko, which is Greek for overcome, because of the many things we overcame during the week. I believe God allowed me to get that identical pair of boots as my new “Niko boots” because I’m going to continue to learn to overcome.
I still feel a longing for certain things I can’t do with one hand. The thing I long to do more than anything is curl up on my left side, how I used to sleep and sleep one, long peaceful night. At the same time, I can feel I’ve accomplished something, I’ve learned to overcome, I’ve learned to Niko my one-handed life, and that isn’t something to regret, but something to be proud of!