published Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Recovering one step at a time

Last Thursday, after more than three months of enduring crutches, hopping on one leg and limping, I finally stood up and walked.

The day began like any other day. I went to work. I walked the halls on one crutch, a major accomplishment. Then, suddenly, I thought I’d try to take a step with no assistance. I was able to hold myself up. Before, I’d buckle from the pain of a tender heel.

The reconstructive foot surgery I’d had in February was a success, and my doctor was pleased with the progress I was making.

Every bit of progress I made seemed a mountain wrestled with and overcome. The day my bright blue cast came off, I sat and looked at my wilted, swollen, and bruised foot, no longer recognizable to me. It seemed to belong to someone else’s body as I made out its new shape, complete with a new arch.

I made peace with my foot and gladly took it home with me. I welcomed it back, and pushing through my fear of touching it, I bathed and lotioned it again. I had graduated to a boot.

When I could finally put some pressure on my foot, I proudly walked, balancing half my weight on my crutches still. I began physical therapy. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I pushed ahead.

During recovery, I felt thankful yet self-conscious about the attention and help I received from others. I didn’t always want to be noticed for my limp and crutches. I cringe to think of what I would’ve done without the help and kindness of friends.

When I spoke at a conference in April, I used a wheelchair all day and was helped by a devoted colleague. I developed a keen respect for others with permanent disabilities and weaknesses, marveling at the strength and endurance it requires to live vibrantly — mentally, physically, and spiritually. Those who are able to focus on other accomplishments in their lives have learned to expend their energy wisely and keep their focus outward toward the world around them. I was still learning that.

Living life on one foot shone a huge light on my tendencies toward impatience, my insane love of rushing around in activities that don’t really matter, my self-centered style that has prevented me from really honing in on the challenges others face daily, my over-the-top enjoyment of comfort, predictability, and ease.

The night I left my crutches at the house and went to dinner with a friend, I reveled in the beauty of the warm spring night. I wobbled as I walked to the car, feeling triumphant, grateful, relieved, free. The joy I experienced as I put one foot in front of the other, walking finally, was the sweetest dessert.

Tabi Upton, MA-lpc, is a therapist at CBI-Richmont Counseling Center. Email her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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