In February of 2000, I fell down a flight of stairs and was badly hurt. I spent months in bed in terrible pain. When I started physical therapy, progress came slowly and then stopped. At the same time, my mother was in the midst of an 18-month battle with cancer. I wanted to help her, and did, but it was so difficult to walk or stand. In August, my mother died.
I threw myself into physical therapy again, desperately wanting to get well and get back to work. I had worked 24 years and wasn’t the Susie Homemaker type. My doctor finally decided that surgery was needed, which meant three more months in bed.
Shortly after this news, my employer fired me. It was a small company, and I’d been off work for a year. They could no longer hold my position open.
After surgery in February 2001, my time in bed stretched out like a prison term. My sons, age 15 and 6, were getting out of control. They helped enormously around the house, but our lives lacked the structure and discipline they needed.
One day in May I was driving to physical therapy, when suddenly I “woke up” to find myself at an ATM machine. I had drawn out $500 — planning to run away from it all. Scared, I went straight home, then saw my doctor. He diagnosed depression. Months of work found the right dose of the right medicine. I was ashamed that I had not gotten help sooner, but my doctor said that depression affects all of your thinking processes, not just mood. One can’t just “snap out of it.”
As the anti-depressant did its work, my mood and thinking improved, but I still wasn’t mobile. Sometimes I felt like a chained-up animal. After one bad day, my husband smiled and told me to get dressed to go out for a surprise. We drove into the parking lot of the local giant chain store.
“Honey, you know I can’t walk around such a big store,” I said. He convinced me to crutch in for his surprise. Here came my husband driving up in a motorized cart the store provides for handicapped people. After learning to drive it, I cruised around the store for two hours. My husband couldn’t keep up with me and I didn’t care. The sense of freedom was awesome! I felt independent for the first time in over a year.
My husband took me back to the store several times. I even ventured out a couple of times alone. He helped me to shift from thinking about what “I can’t do” to what “I can do.”
I now work two evenings a week for an attorney, doing secretarial work. It is far from my old career, but the challenge of learning something new has helped me tremendously. Focusing on what “I can do” has made all the difference in my life.