A year ago today dislocated my left shoulder.
No healthcare coverage. No job to pay for medical costs. No spouse to help me.
I was living alone for the first time in my life, transitioning from three decades as a homemaker to life as a middle-aged divorced woman.
As I slipped my backpack off that Friday afternoon, I felt a pop, and then a dull pain. I assumed it was a simple tendon strain and tried to ignore the throbbing. The next morning I had strapped my arm to my ribcage with a belt and was swallowing a steady stream of ibuprofen, hoping to dull the pain so I would stop moaning like Casper the ghost. I knew I couldn’t afford to walk into an ER, so I determined to wait it out until I could see my chiropractor on Tuesday.
I didn’t have healthcare coverage
Remember the old Western movies where the frontier doctor uses a pocketknife to dig out bullets from wounded cowboys? First step: a shot of whiskey. Second step: cowboy’s best friend gives him leather strap to bite on during the primitive surgery.
You got the picture, right? Man strapped to table, empty whiskey glass, a leather strap between his teeth to stifle his screams, horse tied up outside and the determined doctor digging around for the bullet in dim candlelight….
Friends, had I known the pain of getting a shoulder popped back in after four days of dislocation, I would have brought a flask of cheap whiskey and my snakeskin leather pumps for my own pain management. Damn. Double Damn.
The following is a quick and dirty description of the shoulder reduction:
Using my own body weight as leverage, the doctor carefully positioned my shoulder and quickly dropped my torso on his adjustment table, attempting to push my shoulder back into place. Excellent idea, especially had it completely popped back in the first time. The second body slam was when I could have really used that cowhide leather strap to muffle the shrieking eff bomb erupting from my primal brain as my shoulder slid back into the sweet- Baby- Jesus- socket.
After the second adjustment, he gently checked my shoulder, as I lay on the table, quietly sobbing. Overwhelmed with pain and feeling defeated, I ran through a mental checklist to confirm that my life really was the dumpster fire I suspected it was. No job-check. No career- check. No healthcare- check. Very few friends-check. Hadn’t washed my hair in days- check. Extreme anxiety about my future-check.
Yup- I was a certified hot mess.
My worst fears had come true
That day, a year ago, some of my worst fears had come true. I was in pain. I was unable to afford healthcare or physical therapy. And I was facing these things alone.
And yet, I found a way forward.
Repeat after me: There is ALWAYS a way forward.
The point of this story isn’t to impress you with my questionable decision to avoid the cost of an ER visit. This is not a humble brag about my ability to bear physical pain. Trust me, that injury affected me in so many ways, I lost muscle strength and struggled with a mini depression over the loss of my physical abilities. I didn’t go to physical rehab; I couldn’t afford it. I was so afraid that I would never regain complete use of my left arm. I went from bench pressing 70 pounds at the gym to making spider leg walking motions with my fingers up the wall to trick my shoulder into lifting my arm above my head. I found Youtube videos on how to rehab a dislocated shoulder, mimicking the exercises as I watched physical therapists work with patients on restoring shoulder strength. I couldn’t sleep on my left side for two months because the pain was too intense at night.
I was messed up. I was scared. But I was determined to go forward, letting my body set the pace for recovery. And a year later, I am giddy to report that I am back in the gym, bench pressing again. I have full use of my shoulder and I no longer experience residual pain as a result of that injury.
A year later…
Today on Instagram, I was encouraging midlife women to move toward their goals. After I posted my content, I realized that it had been a year to the day I dislocated my shoulder. In the weeks after my injury happened, I struggled to believe that I would ever be healthy again. The emotional weight of discouragement combined with the pressure of my personal issues tempted me to believe that all my good days were behind me. But the smallest seed of hope had been planted in my soul. I made the choice to spend my energy on moving forward, micro steps might be all I could handle, but it still moved me closer to my goal of total shoulder mobility.
The time will pass anyway
So, the reality of life nudges again: the time will pass, why not begin to set our goals into motion? Standing on the mountain of today, I can look behind me and see the year that has passed. Joy and pain. Hope and healing. Strength and weakness are all woven my past year. Looking forward, I can’t see each victory and I am unable to identify every obstacle, but I KNOW that his year, like every other year, will quickly pass into history. And I have the choice, today, to begin to create something new for my future self. It is up to me to choose to build a foundation for tomorrow, for next month, for next year and for decades to come.
Although recovering from a shoulder dislocation is a great blog story, don’t wait around for the inevitable butt kicking that life has scheduled for you. Today is the day for you to take midlife micro steps, even as we inch forward, we experience personal gains
I have included some suggestions and ideas to get you started on your journey. Where do you want to be a year from now? A year from today, I will be an intern, finishing up classes at grad school for my Marriage and Family Therapy license. I will be one year closer to creating my private practice and helping my clients find their inner wisdom.
Do you have some goals to get?
Try one of these simple but powerful action steps for achieving goals and preventing midlife crisis.
Nine Steps To Prevent Midlife Crisis
- Make a small choice that results in personal growth. Read a book, attend a therapy session, keep a daily gratitude journal, practice some intentional personal silence each day.
- Stop procrastinating for a month.
- Commit to a goal and give it a year.
- Fail fast (this is a result of taking massive action toward a goal or desired change, as you challenge yourself for results, anticipate and welcome failure as a teacher)
- Make quick decisions.
Push yourself for One More:
- One more rep in the gym
- One more dollar saved
- One more hour of self-development
- One more conversation where you choose to practice focused, judgement free listening with a spouse, child or friend