One of my biggest life changes in recent years has been finding out I have arthritis and a couple of degenerating vertebrae. I denied to myself that there was anything wrong with me when I first noticed that I couldn’t stand at the sink and wash dishes. It caused me quite a bit of pain in my back and it felt as if my knees were going to buckle on me. I kept telling myself it was momentary.
Then my knees would almost give out on me while I was just standing still. Sometimes it would happen when I was walking or just from going from a sitting position to standing. Pretty soon after that, my knees started hurting so bad I couldn’t walk the mall.
Then I couldn’t finish my grocery shopping without leaning heavily on the basket.
Then my arms wouldn’t support my weight.
I bit the bullet and started riding the electric carts that had just come on the scene.
Soon, it started interfering with the only fun I had — going out with my best friend two or three times a week. We stopped going out as often and we wouldn’t go to the mall anymore. This went on for a while until it started making me angry. I used a cane for a while, but that didn’t stop the pain. I took anti-inflammatory drugs and while they helped my knees, they did inflame my stomach. I’d had enough by this time. It took all I had to climb the stairs to my second- story apartment.
One day, or maybe it took several days, I was musing, thinking about and analyzing my life. I didn’t like it one bit!
Throughout my childhood, my mother wouldn’t allow me to do much in the way of fun because she didn’t trust me. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire when I married the first time; stiffer control and no trust.
I divorced and remarried and was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. Then I was legally separated and left with an empty nest. My mom, my constant authority figure, had passed away. For the first time, I realized that I could do anything I wanted. There was no one to answer to.
Did I want to sit at home and spend most of my time on the computer? No. There was a life outside of that screen. Life was there to be lived and by golly, I was going to live it! Everything inside me screamed “Live Life! You’re too young to give up and do nothing but sit and wish!”
The first thing I refused to give up was going out with my best friend. I had never been so in tune with someone else as she and I were with each other. The second thing I wasn’t about to do is let someone else do my grocery shopping, even if it was my best friend that offered to do it. Another activity I wouldn’t give up was spending time with my kids and grandkids. I missed being able to walk down my four steps to do my gardening. I love “playing in the mud.”
So what was I going to do about it? Was I going to let my depression and my physical state get the best of me? At 60, was I going to give up, fold my hands on my lap and say “that’s it?” Judging from my grandmother’ss and mother’s longevity, I still had a good 20 years left. Was I going to spend it wishing to myself “if only,” or was I going to say, once again “Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes?” I chose the latter.
My doctor confirmed that some knee injuries had caused quite a bit of degenerative arthritis in my knees. I also had it in my shoulders and my hips. That’s when I found out about the degenerating vertebrae, also from a past injury. I slapped myself on the forehead and said “no wonder!”
So now what was I going to do about it? What were the possibilities? What were my options? To this day, I haven’t taken another anti-inflammatory drug. I’d rather my knees hurt than my stomach get upset. The pain in my knees doesn’t bother me as much as my stomach hurting and having everything I eat turn sour. Two vertebrae, I don’t think, is enough to have surgery on. Besides, I had a friend that had degenerative disk disease and was always under the influence of painkillers that made her even more irrational than she was normally or she was in pain, anyway. She’s had several back surgeries. She’d also had some gizmo implanted where she could pump morphine to the painful site. That much suffering wasn’t for me. No surgery.
Given that I was already on disability, I broached the subject of a power chair with my doctor. He was willing to write a prescription. There was quite a bit of hassle with my insurance but in the end, Medi-Cal paid for my chair.
I had accepted the fact that I live with depression, but I don’t “suffer” from it. I had accepted the fact that I couldn’t walk for more than just a few steps, but I wasn’t going to “”suffer” from arthritis and just two degenerative disks. I decided that depression, arthritis and degenerative disk disease did not and would not define me as a person. First and foremost, I am a living, breathing human being. Secondly, I am a woman with a few passions and various interests still left in my life.
I also know that everything has a purpose and things will happen when we are not following that purpose. It is also a strong belief of mine that obstacles are put in our way for a reason — to strengthen our spirit and our resolve, and to give us experience in dealing with life’s circumstances. From experience comes wisdom.
The fact that I have accepted my lack of physical mobility has made it possible for me to run my new dog, breathe fresh air and feel the breeze in my face and hair. From that has come the benefit of making new friends throughout my neighborhood. This in turn, has become a natural medicine, if you will, in my fight against depression. I can now outlast my best friend when we go to the mall. I can go into every single store and look at and touch everything if I so choose, because, by golly, she won’t be outdone. At the moment, I’m on the brink of taking a large step, the biggest in my life, and that is to start my own small business. At my age, I’m on my way! It’s never too late and unless we are on our death bed, it’s not over!