Sunday, September 16, 2012

Broken Toe Syndrome

"Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” -C.S. Lewis

When you break or even stub your toe it well, it hurts. And often it can hurt like hell. You may grunt, shriek, sigh heavily and maybe even shed a little tear. You'll patch it up with ice, a bandage, maybe splint or a special shoe, pop a few pain pills and after about a day or two go hobbling about your business. Within a few weeks you're back in sneakers playing flag football or traipsing around the mall.

The broken toe was an inconvenience. It hurt, it was annoying but you healed and you moved on. You'll get to share the story with friends and laugh about how you don't know who put that stupid 30lb weight next to the bed and you'll curse yourself for running into it. But what were to happen if that 30lb weight were secured to the floor and you forget it's there and you get distracted and suddenly you just keep stubbing and breaking your toes? Suddenly, this "inconvenience" becomes something more.

Such is the case with chronic illness. Such is what I've learned over the last 4 months. In an attempt to live a "normal" life, pain and med free, I forgot that the weight was still there. Here is the recap: Last year, almost exactly to the date (It was Dan's birthday weekend) I stopped taking all of my medications. Telling myself that I was strong enough, healthy enough and ready to take that leap. (My doctors approved of this at this time, so I was not completely crazy)

I wanted to start a family and knew that I couldn't on medication so I did everything I could to "get healthy." And for a few months it worked! I was healthy, strong, happy and optimistic. In December, we got preggos! I couldn't have been happier. My body, on the other hand said, "not now." By early Jan. we miscarried.(ER visit 1) As devastating as THAT was (think of stubbing the pinky toe!) I was not going to give up. I stayed off my meds and pursued my dream of starting a family. (Docs still ok with this)

In March I ended up in the ER(again) for fluid in my lungs and "slight" pneumonia. And yet, I persevered. A few antibiotics, some strong pain pills later and within a few weeks back on the baby making wagon I flew. At this point someone should have just clobbered me over the head with another 30lb weight. But, I am stubborn.

April and May flew with little to no incidence but I had started developing almost permanent Raynaud's.(Click here for explanation) It was painful, annoying and the pain started to progress from my fingers up my hand. I got some "conception safe" drugs and tried to go about my business. But that meant wearing the middle of May/ TEXAS...I was quickly nicknamed by my loving students: Michael (I often only wore one)/Ms.Jackson/and my favorite: Frostie, since I explained to them that it was like getting frost bitten.

June 1st rolled around and I was back in the ER. High fever, chills and...a heart murmur. For three weeks I saw doctors, took antibiotics (that made me break out in hives) and sat in a bed or a couch fighting off possible blood infections, healing two fingers that had developed ulcers and were deteriorating and praying the murmur was benign.(It was...whew! Just a middle "broken toe" this time!) By July, I was "better," I meditated, worked out, spent time with family and friends and STILL stayed off my meds. Still, no baby. By August I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. My poor "bleeding heart" was too. It began to drown..quite literally.

I began having what I thought were panic attacks. Heart racing, high blood pressure and I couldn't breathe. Walking from the car to the door exhausted me terribly. Showering was impossible and getting dressed was a marathon. Work kept me sane most days but how could I possibly teach "using your diaphragm for projection" when I couldn't take a deep breath?! Suddenly, not more than 3 weeks ago, I was being admitted back to the ER(5th time this year) for fluid around my heart and possible kidney failure. (Apparently, this is really serious) At this point I just got angry. This inconvenience was annoying the hell out of me.(More on that next week) I spent 5 days at the Heart and Vascular ICU, being poked, prodded, studied and stared at by insensitive people who couldn't understand why I looked so young.

The hospital stay gave me time to think. And think. And think. All the little broken toes were suddenly trying to tell me that they'd had enough. Yet, I still couldn't accept that, this was just going to be another inconvenience. After all, within a few hours the pain and shortness of breath were gone, friends visited, I laughed, I walked around, I ate and watched tv. I was, by all perceived standards, "fine." And yet, at some point, I arrived at a moment of clarity. Something's gotta give. I am NOT fine. This situation and these "flares" are NOT fine and something has to change. These broken toes are getting in the way of walking.

This is where I am now.(Again, 2010 was much the same I'm realizing) However, I will not approach this change as "temporary" until I "get back on my feet, sore toes and all." This is a complete overhaul of my life, for the rest of my life. I cannot and will not work full-time, I will eat what I need to eat in order to nourish my body, I will pray and love my husband and write. And for me, that is FINALLY going to be enough. This is a journey I am asking you take with me. And hold me accountable to. I have to take care of me, always, or I cannot take care of anything/one else. Understand that I am not giving into this illness, I am simply learning to live the best life I can live within my limits. And if I am ok with that, I want you to be also.

The question I finally answered for myself, and ask you to do the same for your own set of stubbed toes is this: At what point do you let all the broken toes keep you from walking? Only when they're asking you to change direction.


  1. Friend- I admire your honesty and willingness to share your journey with us. You are a source of strength to those around you! I will keep you lifted in prayer and hope to see you soon!

  2. I think that it is a really wonderful idea for you to scale back on the work load and scale up the delicious vegetables and tea. You might like the book Crazy Sexy Diet about eating for your health; you're welcome to borrow or take my copy. The author is focused on vegan diets, but I still found it interesting even though I continue to eat dairy and eggs. Keep on keeping on!

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