“Looks like you’re moving better,” says my doctor.
He doesn’t see me later in the day when the fatigue sets in, the pain spikes, my gait deteriorates and I fail at everything before it’s even time for dinner.
“I love your determination,” says my physical therapist.
She doesn’t see me later, in the middle of the night, trying not to cry because that makes the muscle spasms so much worse.
“You’re up early,” says my friend.
I don’t bother telling her that I never actually slept. That by the time I acquiesced to give in and take the pain medication I abhor, it was too late to take it because I have to be alert in the mornings since I am a mom to two young kids. I spent all night not sleeping, struggling to breathe through the pain so that I could get up and do it all again.
They don’t see it and I don’t often talk about it. The bad stuff. The dark that is still a daily part of being so broken. They don’t see the fear that begins the morning of physical therapy. They don’t hear my mind telling me all the things that would be better than the pain PT promises. They don’t know how hard it is to fight against the fear of pain at the same time I’m fighting against the fear of not getting better.
They don’t know how hard it is to keep going in the middle of that fight, in the middle of physical therapy, in the middle of the muscles screaming in protest when I ask them to work harder. How it takes everything to quiet the noise, breathe through the pain to get to the other side where the muscle calms, the cramp releases without stopping the exercise, the effort continues, and I can get a little stronger.
How many times have I told my body to, “shut up, because we are doing this no matter what!”? How many more times will I have to say the same thing?
They don’t see that getting stronger and recovering from this injury is all I have right now. They don’t see that the concentrated rehabilitation after spending half a decade down is the hardest thing I will ever do.
They don’t see that every day I really want to stop. I really want to have a break. I really want to feel better. I really want to stop this pain. I really don’t want to go to physical therapy because that will just make everything hurt more…
They don’t see that every morning I decide to crawl just a bit further out of the hole. I have to make a conscious choice every single day, and sometimes multiple times throughout the day, to do the work, to go again, to take the pain that comes from the effort. Because I want to recover more than I want the pain to stop. That is the choice I face and the decision I make.
Every. Single. Day.
They don’t see that now, crawling out of my most broken time, I am the strongest I will ever, ever be.