I’m hopeless at being helpless


I am writing this one-handed and I’m wearing pyjamas in the middle of the day.

Eleven days ago I had a shoulder reconstruction and since then I’m sporting bandages on my left shoulder and a sling. I have at least 3 more days off work in ‘complete rest’ mode, and then maybe I can start back at work doing light duties from home.

I have pain in my shoulder and arm and it is different day to day and hour to hour – throbbing, dull ache, sharp at the site of my stitches, not painful at all. They gave me really powerful painkillers, but these make me nauseous, so I’ve been OTC-only for a while.

The shoulder pain was expected and actually doesn’t bother me as much as limitations imposed on me as a patient recovering from shoulder surgery. I mean, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of stuff, but I wasn’t prepared for how that would affect me.

I don’t like it.

I am getting better at asking for help as I get older, but it is still hard for me. It is not a pride thing as much as me not wanting to trouble others with my needs. It’s probably a little bit of a pride thing too, because I am fiercely independent and self-sufficient. I do know the limits of my abilities and at those limits is where I ask for help, but the limits have suddenly and drastically changed.

Things you can’t do when one arm is in a sling and you can’t get your bandages wet and you can’t really lean forward and it hurts if you move too much:

  • make a meal – even putting cereal and milk in a bowl – this is a two-handed activity if you’ve been doing it that way your whole life, and can go very wrong if attempted one-handed – in the mornings, I sit at the breakfast bar and tell my boyfriend, Ben, how many flakes to put in the bowl – I am usually chief cook in our home so it’s frustrating not to be able to whip up dinner in 10 minutes like I usually do
  • wash my hair – the 1000s of times I took this simple activity for granted! My recent hair washing experiences have included plastic wrap, masking tape, the laundry sink, and for the first time ever, Ben
  • putting my hair into a pony tail – girls with long(ish) hair, try it – or even just mime doing it – you can’t do it alone. Ben can now do a neat low pony, but we have yet to graduate to the more advanced messy bun
  • drying off after a bath – when you’re an adult, bath time should be fun or a luxury – at the moment, it is neither – it is solely perfunctory – I feel like an overgrown toddler, needing help to wash under my right arm and to dry my back and legs
  • typing – actually I can do this – it just takes a looooooong time
  • car doors and seatbelts – sure, I can open the car door one-handed, but when I did it hurt like hell – I realised how much that one action relays to my other shoulder, so in this condition, it’s best done by someone else so I don’t bust a stitch
  • opening jars, bottles, etc. – see ‘car doors’ above
  • washing dishes – see ‘opening jars’ above
  • walking – yep, walking hurts – you move a lot of your body when you walk, and here’s a shocker, your body parts are all connected! Ow!
  • carrying – you can can more with 2 hands together than with 1 hand x 2 – this means lots of trips when moving rooms – and see ‘walking’ above
  • working out – I know this is an obvious one, but daily exercise has become vital for my general wellbeing – it gets the kinks out of my body and my brain – I rely on the endorphins, I like being flexible and strong – it keeps the aches and the blues at bay
  • general chores and stuff you do around the house 50 times a day without thinking – I am bumping up against this one a lot

How have these limits on my self-sufficiency affected me?

If I’m honest, I’m a little blue. I don’t like being helpless. I am a doer. I get shit done. All I have gotten done in the last 11 days is read 4 novels, watch 3 complete series on Netflix, trawl Facebook and Reddit 3 times a day, and develop an excruciating headache that sent me to bed for 2 days.

And healing.

I am very busy healing, and even though my current state frustrates me, I know this is my number one priority. I must heal so I can get back to doing all the other stuff.

Very special thanks to my darling Ben who has become my left hand. And thank you to friends for visits and driving me to the doctor and helping me do stuff I can’t do by myself at the moment.


One thought on “I’m hopeless at being helpless

  • I feel like this post should be accompanied by a video montage of Ben tying your hair into a top-knot and removing single flakes of cereal from your bowl while you supervise and roll your eyes and sigh exasperatedly. 😉 – jokes aside, I know exactly what you mean. If I so much as sprain an ankle, I’m sent into a deep funk (of the non-dancing variety) until I feel back to normal. All the best with the recovery. We should try to catch up soon for a healing vino.

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