It was just around this time last year that I broke my elbow.
I had a picture come into my mind a few days ago of what that experience was like for me. I saw myself as a fully inflated balloon into which a tiny little pin was poked. There was the initial popping sound after which a lot of air escaped. The rest of the air slowly leaked out as pressure mounted around the balloon until all that was left was a crumpled piece of latex with a tiny little hole in it.
For most people, the experience of breaking a bone isn't all that traumatic. Sure, it hurts. Yes, it's awkward and difficult to maneuver through life as you usually would but before you know it, you're healed and back in the game.
It hasn't been like that for me.
I've struggled with mental health challenges my whole life. It wasn't until my early 30's that I was able to put a name to it and with some help, work towards getting healthy. What's easy for some people just isn't so for me.
You might think a move across the country to a new city would create upheaval and stress for someone like me. I would have thought so too. But we'd both be wrong. Our move to Vancouver was smooth. Free of pressure and expectations, I felt relaxed, peaceful and free.
Then I broke my elbow. And after the pop and as the air was slowly seeping out of the hole I was glaringly reminded that I wasn't as strong and well as I thought I was. And that hurt a hell of a lot more than the fracture.
I hated that realization.
It took work - getting back to being the one who is mostly relaxed, peaceful and free. Work and time and space and contemplation. Did you notice the word mostly in the sentence you just read? It wasn't put there accidentally.
Fast forward a good many months. Months of physiotherapy appointments, painful exercises at home, a still-swollen and stiff joint and an elbow that just will not become straight. It's not for lack of trying. It's not for lack of reading about it and doing all of the right things. It's the nature of the injury. And it's disheartening.
After a follow-up doctors appointment and another x-ray I was encouraged to keep working on it. Find another therapist who might have better success. And so I did. I booked an appointment for a therapist downtown who mostly works with elite athletes. He's my last hope for this elbow. If he can't get success, I don't know who can.
And so I've been making my way downtown to see him. He looks at my whole body - doesn't just see my elbow as an isolated joint that won't cooperate. He takes his time. He doesn't just strap me up and turn on a machine. He uses his hands to manipulate my muscles and tendons. As we talk and relate, he makes observations about how my body works and about who I am. (Puts his finger on things in more realm than one.)
This manipulation of my body and soul confronts me again with who I am. The muscles in my arm fight him for control. I can't relax them and give in to what he wants them to do. I try, I really do. And sometimes for a moment I can.
But it hits me. How the scar tissue from my elbow doesn't just exist in the physical. It all comes together for me as I ride the bus home.
And so the next time I am there, in his office, I tell him. It's important for him to know, I reason. Of how things are intertwined and connected - though I suspect he knows this already. I want him to know the significance of what he does and how it's helping to unlock more than a stubborn elbow.
I wipe a few tears away and he hands me a kleenex and says "thank you". And I know he gets it.
We've got a long way to go, me and this elbow of mine.
But for the first time in awhile, I can see we're making progress.