I have always prided myself on being a model patient. I was the one who never complained. I stayed cheery and upbeat. My tolerance for pain and discomfort was a real source of pride. Ask me how I felt and the answer would always be “Fine. I’m doing great.” I wouldn’t stay down for long. Always in a hurry to get back to work and my “normal” life.
A week ago I had surgery on my left foot. It was planned, elective surgery to correct malformations of three of the five toes. I was sent home with three pins in my toes (which will be removed) and two permanent screws. I’m on antibiotics and pain meds. I have a hard plastic air cast and instructions to rest and stay off the foot.
And I have become a bad patient.
Maybe it has to do with my age. The older I get, the more intensely I feel physical discomfort. What I would have barely noticed a decade ago, now stops me in my tracks. Ask me how I’m doing and you won’t get the chirpy “Great!” I will tell you that my foot hurts and I’m exhausted. I will tell you that the meds sometimes make me nauseous and give me intestinal distress. So don’t ask unless you really want to know.
My husband stayed home to take care of me until yesterday. He finally had to return to work after being my nurse for six days. I knew he had to go back and I also knew that I had to start figuring out how to do for myself. But I hated it. I’ve never been like that. I was always so apologetic if I thought I was disrupting another’s life. Even though I know he wanted to take care of me, in the past I would have rushed to get back on my feet so he wouldn’t have to. But my first day alone, I cried with frustration over everything. It was all such a struggle and I had a very bad attitude about it.
My doctor wants me to stay home for a month at least. But I know I need to get back to work. As a matter of fact, I’ve been working remotely since Tuesday. I tried to start on Monday, but was still in too much of a fog to think straight. I said originally that I should be back after two weeks but I can’t imagine doing that now. I don’t even want to be thinking about work. I want to be doing the bare minimum. The stress of work responsibility is too much on top of the stress of healing. In the big picture, the time I need to take care of myself is really not that much but I’ve always hauled myself into the office no matter how badly I’ve felt. I don’t want to do that anymore.
So I’ve become a bad patient, an old crank. Or maybe I’ve discovered that my feelings have value too. All the years of smiling and saying I’m fine when I’m not have finally worn me out. Hiding the more unpleasant part of me to make others feel better doesn’t work anymore. Burying those “bad” feelings doesn’t make them go away, it just hides them. They will find a way out eventually.
For the time being, my foot hurts, it’s hard and tiring trying to do for myself, I don’t feel like doing anything and I don’t care if I ever see my office again. And I’m cranky. That’s OK. Having a bad day or even a bad couple of weeks doesn’t make me a miserable person. It just makes me human.