These Fickle Expectations & Their Ill-Fated Casualties
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi
The warning signs had been blinking red for months, but my youthful naivety pushed these fateful beacons aside, a dismissal which rapidly emerged as my life’s gravest regret in the months and years ahead. Two thousand nine hundred and twenty (2,920) days later, the fallout continues to cascade consequences, both fortuitous and cataclysmic in nature.
Eight years have passed since I underwent the inauspicious (minor) surgical procedure for which its complications would shepherd me towards the diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), away from a lifetime of aspirations pursued, dreams conceived, and work persevered. My unanticipated journey has resulted in untold heartaches and ambitions thwarted, a convoluted exercise in futility.
In the protracted seventy thousand and eighty (70,080) hours elapsed – more than thirty five thousand (35,000) of which I altogether disengaged from humanity and embodied an inconspicuous former colleague, friend and storyteller alike – my loyal readers may benefit from a cursory synopsis of the calamity that jettisoned my pursuit of this **Journey To Optimism**.
Adversity’s Adversary: A Road to Optimism
A highly ambitious young woman, I was employed full time as a Journal Manager for a peer-reviewed scientific/academic chemistry journal in addition to attending graduate school full time at the George H.W. Bush School of Government & Public Service. Having reached the midpoint of my capstone research project for Congressional Research Service, the first derailment of my intricately diagrammed career path struck with the diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
In my early teenage years I suffered a minor injury to my right foot when my sibling playfully pushed me. As my foot landed half on the grass and half on the concrete sidewalk, my ankle rolled creating such a tremendous spike of pain that I was unable to place any weight on it. Over the years, the pain never fully subsided; in my late 20’s my husband eventually coaxed me to seek counsel of a medical professional, who ultimately advocated for surgery to remove an extra bone which appeared on my x-rays – believing this to be the source of pain.
The December 2011 holiday hiatus appeared the most suitable respite from the grindstone to undertake such a minor surgical procedure. By the fourth week of recovery, the podiatrist concluded that the incision had healed amply to reintroduce showering. This instruction would spiral my health in unimaginable ways; this first shower cultivating the conditions necessary for the wound to serve as the perfect host to feed the development of two serious and severe bacterial infections: a resistant form of Staph and clostridium perfringens.
Soon deep purple emanated within the foot and outlandishly inconceivable burning pain ensued. Among the many complications of CRPS is the presentation of non-healing wounds, this time extending the healing process by eight months (plus several weeks of dead tissue debridement) to fully close. Eight weeks IV antibiotics coursed through my veins 24 hours a day / 7 days a week to wipe out the infections. To promote new tissue growth and encourage wound healing, a wound vac was attached to the open wound for several months (pictured below), and eight skin grafts were required. I lost track of the number of months of intense physical therapy required to teach me how to walk again. Throughout these months of battling my own body, I crawled through graduate school, often arriving to class in my wheelchair attached to one bag of IV antibiotics with a second lined up to be changed mid-lecture.
As I close my eyes and reminisce, the taste of IV antibiotics and heparin courses through my palate; the exhaustion harbored within every muscle of my body cannot be obliterated from memory. Although I would triumphantly trudge to graduation with the assistance and modifications offered by compassionate professors, in a matter of less than three years the disabling effects of CRPS would compel me out of the workforce, ravaging the core of my identity.
The Brilliance of Polished Jewels
“Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.” – Thomas Carlyle
Two hundred and sixty weeks of therapy…a reminder that the journey towards healing is an interminable process requiring the deepest of commitments, willingness to afford yourself the grace you deserve, and acceptance of a whole of body and mind approach. As the ultimate perfectionist, I have been forced to learn that the toll of the mental, physical, and emotional realities forced upon you by this disease most often leads you down a much longer, bumpier road than I ever imagined – which translates to the need to be gentle to oneself when full body recovery seems to drag on an unending path. All we can do is push onward, following the advice of our trusted medical professionals, and never forgetting the need for help mentally and emotionally processing this disease.
With pain and adversity comes strength and wisdom. The lessons I have learned along the way have, no doubt, been birthed by great suffering. And yet they have also deepened my character and enriched the lives of myself and my loved ones. Somehow…through consequential work my path along this Journey to Optimism has never been barricaded by my pain.
I look forward to sharing with you those hard-fought lessons which have helped shape new outlooks on life, perspectives less pessimistic than where I first began. Together, we can share our life stories, learning from one another, and discovering methods to reduce the negative effects of the CRPS mind-body connections that can create what I refer to as “pain loops”.
Crystal N. Davis