The last time I posted was at the end of February, during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I posted not only about how the pandemic has fueled eating disorders but about my unfortunate encounter on Valentine’s Day, when I slipped on black ice and fell, badly fracturing my wrist.
I used to walk around, shoulders slumped, head down, waiting for the next bombshell to drop unannounced from the sky. Even though I knew my father was going to pass away, the impact his loss had on my mental health shattered my then-fragile psyche.
In 2018, when I had my stroke, which left my most precious commodity—the way in which my brain functions—forever changed, I predictably fell into a depression. I returned to therapy with Dr. Lev, my psychiatrist and former therapist, with whom I’d terminated at the end of 2016. It was she who remarked about my resilience and how if I had not already endured what I had with my mental health and come out the other side, then this depressive episode could have been far worse.
Dr. Lev’s comment made me think about one of my favorite quotes from the author Anne Lammot: “I can tell you that what you’re looking for is already inside you.” And it was.
At the time of the last post, I’d had one surgery to repair the breaks with lovely hardware, such as plates, rods, and screws. One night at home, I was trying to take a Band-Aid off of my index finger of the hand with the broken wrist, and I decided to use manicuring scissors. I didn’t realize I’d cut myself until I walked back into my bedroom and saw blood on my sheets.
Blood was gushing from the tip of my finger, mainly because I’m on two blood thinners, due to my stroke in 2018. I looked at my hand more closely, and parts of my fingers were blue. I headed for the ER in a cab, my hand wrapped in a towel.
My finger required eight stitches, but I was more concerned about the lack of circulation. The ER physician used a doppler radar to find the pulse in my wrist, but it took a long time in comparison to my other wrist. Finally, we heard it, and she and I breathed a sigh of relief. The doctor sent photos of my hand to the surgeon, and he said to come to the office the next morning. He explained that the bone that had gone through the skin had injured the nerve.
It was then he told me I’d need a second surgery, a carpal tunnel release. According to Hopkins Medicine, during a carpal tunnel release, a surgeon cuts through the ligament that is pressing down on the carpal tunnel. This makes more room for the median nerve and tendons passing through the tunnel and usually improves pain and functioning.
I saw the surgeon a week after the surgery, and he started me working with a hand specialist right away. My fingers were curled into a ball, and I had no sensation in my index finger. I have partial sensation in a couple of my other fingers.
Source: Andrea Rosenhaft
After four sessions and a lot of home exercises, I’ve made a lot of improvement in my range of motion. The sensation may or may not come back—that is dependent on nerve regeneration, which takes place gradually over months. I wear a stiff brace all the time, except to take a shower. The pain is greatly decreased, and I can manage it with Naproxen. When I first had the surgeries, I couldn’t even zip up my coat, and it was the middle of February!
We don’t appreciate the little things until suddenly we don’t have them. I have an appointment with the surgeon this Friday, and the plan is to take an X-ray to see how the fracture is healing.
At the same time that I was dealing with this visible injury, I was working to cope with another serious, yet invisible condition. My asthma had suddenly flared for an unknown reason, and it refused to be tamed. I reluctantly agreed to go on a continuous, low dose of oral steroids, something I’d been trying desperately to avoid.
The nasty side effects of oral steroids are well-documented, and I know they affect me both physically and emotionally. I’ve gotten racing thoughts, become snappy and irritable, and the steroids triggered intermittent though short-lived episodes of psychosis. Physically, I’ve experienced insomnia, gained weight, and steroids are detrimental to bone health.
The week before, I’d e-mailed Dr. Lev to advise her that this was a possibility. She expressed her concern, saying she didn’t think it was a good idea for me to become steroid-dependent.
Before I could think about whether I had a choice, my asthma got worse, and my pulmonologist raised the dose to what is considered moderate to high. My chest and back became tight, sometimes I was wheezing, but regardless, I wasn’t moving air well through my lungs. I had to stay at that dosage for 10 days, which is a really long time. Every time I walked Shelby, I needed to use my inhaler and sometimes my rescue inhaler.
I ended up in the ER one evening when the pain in my chest and back became severe. After listening to my lungs, the doctor asked if I wanted to be admitted, to which I replied, “Not really.” It was a busy night, and I barely saw the doctor.
I literally had to beg for medication for the pain. After 10 hours (at 7:30 a.m.), I’d had enough and simply walked out. I needed to feed and walk my dog.
My pulmonologist called me at least every other day to check-in and make a plan, whether that was to stay on the same dosage or adjust it. She’s been awesome, and I’m grateful for her caring and empathy.
We are coming down on the steroids very slowly, for fear of a relapse. Asthma is very much an invisible illness. No one can tell that I’m struggling to catch my breath as I climb that last hill to my building with Shelby pulling faster than I’m able to motor. No one can see what a trip to the supermarket cost me at home later as I lay on my bed, perfectly still, no wasted motion, every bit of energy focused towards breathing. After an hour, I dare to move an arm or a leg, testing the waters. Can my lungs tolerate the effort?
Source: Andrea Rosenhaft
Just as many illnesses and injuries are visible, many more are not. Asthma is one, but so is depression, some eating disorders, and many other mental illnesses, depending on where the person may be in their treatment.
Please, be kind and tolerant.
Thanks for reading.