Perfectly Broken

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Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression, anxiety, and self-loathing, and I figured I’d talk about it here, because chances are other folks go through this too and it’s always helpful to know one is not alone. General content warning for the post.

So, first: I want to say that objectively, my life is pretty great. And subjectively, too. I’m engaged to a really awesome person who respects me and my career. We live together in a nice place, in a nice neighborhood. I’ve started a new business and my career as an author is going pretty well. Overall our life is a nice thing.

But of course this does not preclude shitty things happening to us, and of course our lives are not 100% great. There are definitely areas that are causing some long-term stress and, for me at least, depression, anxiety, and all those other fun things I get to deal with already for no particular reason. Except now they’re being given a reason, and I’m finding my already fragile mental state being poked at constantly.

The main thing that’s poking the bear of mental illness for me right now is my physical state. Some of you know that almost 3 years ago I suffered a spinal injury. That’s actually not entirely accurate; the injury itself happened in 2009. It didn’t flare up like a fireworks show, however, until 2012, leaving me bedridden and unable to walk for weeks. After a lot of hard work in physiotherapy, I slowly was able to walk with a walker for short bursts, and then longer bursts, and then finally upgraded to a cane. I’ve been walking with a cane since 2012, though there have been times when I’ve been able to go without for a short period of time.

Likely, had I continued with the physio after getting to that state of wellness, I would eventually have gotten to a point where I could walk without a cane, and probably get somewhere near the state of health I was at before the injury knocked me down. Even in the years I had the injury but it hadn’t flared up I was doing pretty well, despite the new, sharp, knife-twisting pain in my lower spine that I had chalked up to “Another weird permutation of the chronic back pain I’ve had my entire life because genetics is a shitty lottery.”

But I didn’t continue with the physio. I quit in 2012. This wasn’t because I wanted to, or because I thought I was done: I wanted to continue and knew I needed more. But I could not find a new physiotherapist when I went back to Nanaimo after staying in Coquitlam for several weeks, and not only that — the price went up. You only get a few visits at the reduced rate with a doctor’s prescription, you see, and I would need to continue to go every week to see progress.

Fifty dollars a week is too steep for me. Then, and now.

So for 2 years I have lived no where near what “normal” is for me, just dealing with the pain, taking a strong painkiller on the days when I can’t move without it, and continuing to do things that are probably contraindicated for my spine’s condition but hey, what else am I going to do? My social life has dropped off considerably and my ability to do a lot of things in a short period of time has gone to zilch, approximately. I now need a few days to recover after an event that wouldn’t have left me winded 3 years ago.

It has been an adjustment, to say the least. I still overextend myself because I am used to a body that can handle more than it can. And though mentally I have gotten better since it first happened, I still have dark nights of the soul.

So when I broke my leg this summer — 3 months exactly as of this coming Saturday — I slipped into depression again.

Here I was, looking at 3 months at least of not being able to do what I was doing before, which by itself was not *good enough* for me. I was a pretty active person, once upon a time. I was strong. Heck, in high school I was known as “one of the strongest girls in the drama department.” Even with my genetically-diminished back.

But now, I was in a recliner with a broken femur and a broken spine and a broken spirit.

My leg in an immobilizer.

This was my only reality. It was hard to take.

Trauma to the body is difficult to deal with when you’re not already saddled with mental illnesses like depression or PTSD. Those ghosts taking up residence in my brain made it that much harder to accept.

After several weeks of depression, wild mood swings, and lots of crying, I finally got to a more emotionally balanced place — even if I was still depressed, at least I wasn’t having a complete breakdown every five minutes. And then, finally, the day came — I got the news that I’m allowed to walk without the crutches, after 3 weeks of walking without putting full weight on the (now-healed) leg.

Of course what I discovered during those three weeks of sort-of walking with the aid of the crutches was that my spine had gotten worse. Weeks of compensating for an out-of-commission leg meant that now I was in even more pain than before.

Walking without the crutches is possible for me now, at least around the house and for short distances. But it’s agonizing. Getting up for more than a few minutes at a time hurts my back so much I want to die.

And I am back to being depressed and full of self-loathing (even though I have a prescription for physio from the doctor; I’m not able to go until I can drive again, which will happen…???? I don’t know when; and even then, I don’t know how many visits I’ll be able to squeeze in before I can’t afford it again). I am a huge proponent of radical self-love, and I stand by that: but right now? I hate my body. I hate that it’s broken. I hate that it’s slowed me down so much. I hate that it doesn’t listen to me, that the pain is constant, that I can only accomplish a few things each day. I hate that today it was too much for me to shower.

And I hate myself, for being a klutz in the first place and breaking my leg. I hate myself for getting too drunk that night in 2009 to think to move out of the way before 2 people landed on my head and compressed my spine. I hate myself for being so broke that I can’t afford the physio that will give me something resembling a normal life again, that will allow me to no longer be a burden on my loved ones.

I am a broken spirit in a broken vessel, and this has been getting me down for quite some time.

Until tonight. Tonight — I don’t know why this happened, or why the catalyst for it was what it was — and the catalyst doesn’t matter, not really. What matters is that tonight, for some reason, I was reminded of Leonard Cohen.

“Forget your perfect offering
Ring the bells that still can ring
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

I am broken. But I’m perfect, too, because there are still bells that can ring. I am a cracked chalice. Light flows from me and into me. I was made perfectly, and after I broke, I was repaired perfectly. I am still perfect, though I may be broken.

I don’t know how long this feeling will last. But I wanted to write about it, before it went away, so I could remind myself and anyone else who may be reading this, who may need to know this right now: you may be broken but you are still perfect. Your body may be injured but it is still holy. There is room for these strong emotions, whatever they may be, within all this. You can still be perfect, and broken, whether you love or hate yourself right now.

-Katje

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