apprehension |ˌapriˈhenSHən|
1 anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen: he felt sick with apprehension | she had some apprehensions about the filming.
2 understanding; grasp: the pure apprehension of the work of art.
3 the action of arresting someone: they acted with intent to prevent lawful apprehension.

Yesterday, as I tried to rest, as the pain began to settle somewhat, I came out of mental crisis mode and realized that there were a number of housekeeping tasks that needed attending to, tasks that, both before and after the surgery, I have by and large continued to do for myself. Before the surgery, if I needed help with them, it was because of pain. After, it was because of weakness.

But yesterday, it was neither of those. I was afraid to do them. I was afraid of what they might do to my body. The pain has ratcheted down slightly, but I’m terrified that even relatively easy tasks like making a bed will set my shoulders off again. And so, although it took the better part of yesterday afternoon and all of the evening, I was finally able to swallow my pride and my maladaptive, self-sufficiency-to-the-point-of-injury tendencies and contact a friend to come over and help me out today.

I have once again run up against the realization that the inner workings of my body remain unknown both to me and the medical team that is taking care of me. What is going on in there? How long will I be like this? How long must I walk around with this invisible disability, getting dirty looks in the parking lot of the grocery store even as I imagine it must be patently obvious that I am unable to bear the full weight of my grocery bags, and that I must use my whole body as leverage just to push a damned shopping cart?

People don’t realize how much activity goes into keeping one of those carts going in a straight line, by the way. Their shoulders automatically engage, alternately and together, to apply the right amount of pressure or restraint to each side to keep it from listing one way or another, to turn it around corners, to get it started from rest or bring it up short.

A lot of back and shoulder muscle involvement is required to maneuver it like that. And I don’t dare do it.

I don’t dare do anything with my shoulders. Even as I stand and type this, I worry that the mere action of pushing my arms slightly forward and resting my wrists on the laptop is not good for me. My shoulders have arrested me, and I am sick with apprehension about them. I am filled with self-pity, and worse, with fear.

I remember the last time my pain took over my entire thought process, and it was this time last semester, a month before the end of the term. Enforced daily attendance sitting in lecture hall desks on campus had deteriorated my already unwell state into something approaching, and often arriving at, unbearable. It was at that time that I chose to schedule the surgery. To look back, five months later, three months after the surgery that was supposed to keep this from happening again, and realize that it is, in fact, happening again, almost exactly as it did before, is demoralizing in the extreme.

I feel as though that surgeon lied to me. He said I could get back to normal. He said that after a couple of months I’d be able to do lots of things. He referenced a client whose whole demeanor had changed after the surgery, how he’d not had a bad result from a single procedure of this type, how that the only time he’d had to go back in was to fix the other shoulder. And I remember thinking that he didn’t know me, and I remember having this quiet suspicion, deep inside me, that I was not going to respond the way his other clients had. And I remember letting him talk me out of that suspicion. He was so certain. I wanted to believe. And so I did.

And now, finally, that fantasy has run its course and I am back in the reality I inhabited before, the reality that I was so sure the surgery had rescued me from, that my body is broken, likely beyond repair, and that I will never, ever, get back to the state of health I had before this happened, no matter what surgeries or other drastic measures are taken.

And that means so much more than just not being able to work, or swim, or travel. It means not ever being able to take care of myself and my own apartment ever again. And I am so angry at the surgeon because before we did this, I had made good progress on achieving some sort of peace about that. But now that peace is gone and I don’t want to have to find my way back to it. I just want, desperately, to be well again. I hate being physically disadvantaged with every single fiber of my being. It doesn’t go with my self-perception, doesn’t match my personality, and doesn’t work with my plans, what few of them I allowed myself to make when it appeared that I was recovering normally.

I don’t want my friends have to see me and deal with me like this again. I do not have a good poker face, and those closest to me have learned how my demeanor changes when I am in pain, even if I seem normal to everyone else. I haven’t had to see them yet (except for the one who came over to vacuum), but the more days this goes on, the less likely it becomes that I’ll be able to keep that up.  In fact, if things don’t improve soon, it will be more than just close friends that will have to be brought in; it will include my fellow lab mates, the head researcher, my professors when I start graduate classwork.

And I just do not want to have to apprehend anyone with this, including myself, which is probably why it took until late last night for me to break down and ask for help. I don’t want to have to admit that despite the surgery, I’m still broken in ways that no-one seems to be able to fix.  I don’t want to face the shift in my life that such an admission entails.

I want this latest setback to be just that, a setback, with discrete and knowable boundaries. I want to believe that it isn’t forever, and that I won’t have to expand its circle to engulf any more of my life than it already has. And I am sick with apprehension that the circle is already expanding and it’s already too late; that I will never be able to function normally again and that I’m only staving off the inevitable, trying to box it in and keep it from bleeding into the rest of my life.

But I have to think that I can. Because if I don’t, it is despair that will apprehend me next.

About C. M. Condo

I am a late-diagnosed, high-functioning autistic living with chronic pain. I started this blog in March of 2014 as a way to try to process what was happening to me. It is my hope that by sharing it with you, we can both gain something, or at least learn something, from my experience.
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