A few months ago I threw my back out. It was the kind of injury that left me screaming in pain, crying from frustration, moaning in agony, and constantly squirming looking for relief. I have never known pain like this. Every step was fire shooting through my leg. I left the couch only to use the bathroom and go to bed. Over two weeks, I was able to walk with less pain, but was still far from fully functional.
I’ve witnessed Garreth go through this several times in our marriage and handle it well. He requires very little. I help mostly by taking care of the kids by myself which is fine. I married a man with an already busted back which seemed to guarantee that it would never be me to be broken, until it was. And my physical pain bled straight into emotional pain. I’m not sure this should be surprising, but oh my gosh was it hard to battle life’s big questions about identity and purpose and worth while writhing in anguish.
This all happened over winter vacation when Aidan was home all damn day. My sister called to ask what our Backup Plan is – when I’m down for the count, who takes care of Aidan? Well, there is no Backup Plan and yes, that was a significant part of my emotional spiral. Between Liam (who is leaving for college in the fall) and our home health aide (services we only have every now and again) I was able to piece this week together without touching Aidan. I didn’t touch him for at least two weeks. He’s a grabber and one wrong squeeze of love from him would be horrible. Of course I had feelings about that as well.
On day four of this injury, Liam was running in his very last ever high school indoor track meet. Grief. More feelings. I’m the Cross Country mom and the outdoor track mom but Garreth is the indoor track dad. Garreth was going to have to miss the meet because I still could barely move, much less take care of Aidan. While this was incredibly sad for all of us, there was no way around it. Until there was. My brother jumped in his car, drove 3 hours south, spent the night and said he’d take care of me and Aidan. This is what showing up looks like.
And it’s a good thing he did because Liam broke a school record and qualified for Regionals. He went out strong and had his dad there to witness it.
I say this not to complain but to make two points:
- Families dealing with disability have a harder time making Backup Plans. We just do. I have an incredibly supportive family and community and still, the fear of what if lingers a little.
- The services provided by our home health aide are covered under Medicaid and are considered non-essential. If states are given block grants from the feds, as is always proposed as a money saver, it seems logical that non-essential services would be the first to take a hit. This is why the health care debate matters to me.
The doctor has said that this is part of my new normal, that I must be vigilant because this pain will always be lurking. Once again it reinforces the need to put our own oxygen masks on first. I’m useless to Aidan without a functional back.