A while ago I was attempting to change the light bulbs in our 13 feet ceilings. Seriously, who ever decided it was a good idea to put light bulbs up that high, must never have had to change them. Lucky for me, these were the flood light kind of lights that didn’t have a cover. So, I was able to whip out my handy-dandy light bulb changing tool I got on sale at my local Lowes.
I had four to change. One by one I carefully removed the expired bulb and replaced it. I moved slowly and carefully because, even over carpet, a 13 foot would shatter the strongest of bulbs.
Finally, I made it to the last bulb; which happened to be over tile. Having done this a million times before, I was confident enough to know I could do it without making it fall – and yet careful enough to make sure of it.
Carefully, I suctioned the tool to the bulb and began, ever so slowly, moving the bulb away from the socket. About six inches from the socket, I realized I hadn’t suctioned the bulb well enough at all. Not even close. And before my mind could finish this thought…
It fell. Shattering in an infinite number of pieces; pieces that we would undoubtedly be finding in the rug or the skin of our bare feet for weeks to come.
It is always annoying when this happens – we have all experienced it. But for me it was one more defeat; one more reminder that I am not whole.
You see, I identified with that bulb on a very tangible level. Seeing how light bulbs are not real and carry no emotion at all, you might think it impossible. But, my friends, I was able to find a connection. At this point, you are thinking I must truly be insane. Well, I am not going to argue with you there, I truly might be. But hear my reasoning.
You see, I feel every day as though I balance a very careful, a very fragile existence. Living with chronic pain – which I choose to not medicate beyond Ibuprophen – has changed my life in ways that are beyond frustrating.
For years and years, I have lived with so much pain that the thought of rising from my seat to get a napkin overwhelms me. Bending over to pick up toys ended long ago when I realized it only made things worse. And laundry? Don’t even get me started… even with a special laundry set up that is supposed to make it easier, I still struggle. Day after day, I struggle just to do the basic things that other can do without thought – say, putting on a pair of pants.
Over a decade of this has played such mind tricks on my body that I don’t know if I am completely mentally ill and just making this up or if my aches and pains are legitimate. Years of multiple doctors telling me its depression has made it difficult to really believe that what I am feeling is real – and even harder to stand my ground. I know what depression is. But I also know what pain is. I got tired of people dismissing the pain because depression is the one they know how to fix – or because they felt these were psychosomatic symptoms.
I finally found a doctor who listened; who didn’t tell me it was depression. Instead, he tweaked some of my hormones and after a year of treatment, I have made HUGE improvements. I am able to do small things. Things that wouldn’t have taken me more than a couple hours before can take me over a week now. But at least I can do them. So there is a start.
I feel like that bulb. Teetering on the edge of a set back. Ready to shatter at the slightest sign of stress into a million shards at any moment.
I talk to myself, give myself words of encouragement. I tell myself that it is worth the risk of trying to get better. I tell myself that the more I don’t move around, the harder it will be to get better. I tell myself that I can do hard things.
And so I try. I keep trying.
I keep trying to improve my health. I try to go slowly. I try to be careful. I consult multiple health care professionals. I take every precaution possible. All in the hope of getting better, making my quality of life something more than a slug. And, so far…
I always crash.
I crash like the bulb. And all those millions of pain receptors ignite and flare and spread like millions of pieces of a glass light bulb. The shards burrow into places in my body that I will be finding weeks later. Three weeks of physical therapy can easily set me back for 3 months.
So, I slowly begin to pick up the pieces. One by one. Piecing my body back together in a manageable mass of discord. Hoping this set back is different than the last. Hoping I will be on my feet sooner.
Just so I can start the process all over again.
That part is frustrating. True. But it isn’t the worst part. No, the worst part is hearing your daughter explain that it would be okay to go to Disneyland because they have beds there. The worst part is explaining to your children that the house is too messy for them to have friends over. The worst part is watching your children mimic your behavior – behavior that isn’t really who you are but only a manifestation of your pain. The worst part is desperately wanting to apologize to every neighbor, friend or UPS driver about your messy house. The worst part is knowing the children need you to be more involved and realizing there is no more to give. The worst part is knowing that you are giving all you have and knowing that it just isn’t enough – not even close.
What it comes down to is this… It doesn’t really matter if what I am going through is purely physical or purely mental. Or a mixture. The only thing that matters is that I have to find a way to go from shattered glass to a functional person. I am even ok if I still have to have pain, as long as I can function.
Some time ago my husband and I watched “Everest” which follows people who attempt to climb that great mountain. One man, with metal rods, pins and caging around his spine and other places on his body, made the climb. Hiked through the pain. An asthmatic made it too. He said the desire to conquer Everest had very little to do with the mountain and everything to do with conquering his body.
I know that feeling. I want that. But no matter how much inspiration these men are to me, I still get conquered by my own body. I have yet to learn how to work through the pain and the fatigue and the ever-present brick wall that is cemented in my path.
Some day I know I will be that fully functional, fracture free light bulb. And I will shine. I will do all the things that I am meant to do. Until then, I just keep going. Picking up the pieces and trying again.
It isn’t always the easiest thing to do. But, it’s not impossible. If I can just remember that and not give up, I will succeed. But that is the hardest part… not giving up.