Friday, January 9, 2015

One Year "Ampu-versary" and Looking Ahead...

It occurred to me earlier in the day (once I realized the date) that today marks exactly one year since my amputation.   What a year it has been!
Life as an amputee.....each day brings a new and 
different challenge! 

The year has had its ups and downs for sure, and while it has been filled with frustrations, excitement, learnings, grieving, and constantly morphing expectations, it has also been a rich year packed with some wonderful experiences.  While one year ago I had envisioned that I would be crushing life's obstacles along the way by forging ahead in this new "amputee" reality, it has really become more of a gradual embracing of what life really is......

As always, there is an ideal as well as the real.  There are things which we strive for and realities we learn to accept.....and sometimes, coming to terms with reconciling these can be challenging.   Keeping this in mind, these are my goals for the new year

To be Gentle.  I have strongly considered getting a tattoo under my collarbone reading the simple words:  Let It Be One thing I have learned from healing from trauma and adjusting to life as an amputee, is that the human body has a way of healing itself on its own timeline.   I tend to get stubborn and judge myself harshly if I'm not able to meet the goals I set for myself as quickly or easily as I had envisioned.  Having grown up a competitive athlete, this is a tough pill to choke down because I had always thought that hard work and dedication generally win out in the end.   While that IS often the case, there is no way I can force my leg to not change shape (affecting socket-fit and comfort...expected in the first year or two), or to deny that I've got some nerve damage that is permanent and long-lasting.   At this stage of the game, my driven nature sometimes does not serve me well.....I'm much better off listening to my body and laying off of the self-judgment (easier said than done.).   Of course, stubbornness is still my default-mode (probably always will be, dang it!)     

To Seek Deep, Abiding Joy.   When dealing with stuff that can get stressful quickly and easily (such as behavioral challenges with my kiddos, a socket that is fitting sub-optimally, or persistent back pain), finding deep, abiding joy is hugely important.   These moments can be found in shared heartfelt conversations, rich and meaningful experiences with friends and family, getting crazy and silly with my hubby and kids, connecting on a "soul" level with those who really "get" you, or laughing with someone so hard that you pee in your pants.  For me, it has meant finding my tribe and embracing the understanding that life with a disability CAN really suck, but it can also be beautiful, rich and deep......and yes, extremely FUN too!

To bring hope.   I know it sounds moralistic and simple, but the concept of hope is delicate and powerful at the same time.   I remember clinging to stories shared with me by others who had gone through very difficult circumstances, and these stories were like manna from heaven.   They stayed with me even during really painful, challenging times, or days when I wanted to give up. 

The most therapeutic experiences for me the past few years have been getting to know other "survivors," through the adaptive climbing program we've started, and the trauma survivor peer support program we are creating at Froedtert Hospital.    It is POWERFUL to be with people who you know KNOW struggle.....To share in the experience of their getting up on the rock / wall, climbing....perhaps doing something they never believed they would ever be able to do.   To give folks an experience of embracing life fully and doing something that feels amazing....THAT to me, is sharing hope.   Every night we have a climbing program, I leave feeling exhilirated and empowered from hearing the stories of others.

When people are newly injured and grasping for any last shred of reassurance (as I remember all too well), to be able to say, "Look, I know this is reeeally hard.  It will be hard.  But you WILL get through this....I know you will, and it will be worth it." is a place of great honor and priviledge.    When I'm having a tough day emotionally or am dragging, connecting with newly injured survivors helps me to remember how far I have come, which is pretty important (it is easy to forget!).  It is helpful to know that we are not alone, as we look around and are hit smack-in-the-face with how our lives have changed.      

To keep moving.   While this is probably an easy goal to list, the temptation to inactivity is constantly there.   I am intimately aware of the propensity toward inertia and depression that is always right around the corner, lurking behind every excuse: "I'm too tired, I'm too sore, my leg isn't fitting well, it is too cold to go out, etc.).   It is true that exercise boosts our levels of endorphins, which are our body's natural pain killers.   It is also true that movement is one of the best ways to keep arthritis at-bay (one of the natural by-products of lots of orthopedic injuries unfortunately.)   So oh yeah, doing whatever I can to keep my mind and body active will continue to be important.

As 2015 begins, I am thankful for all of the amazing people I have met, the cool experiences I have had, and I look forward to what lies ahead.