Inch by inch ~ on how healing and harm are both incremental
I went to Quaker Meeting recently. I don’t go as often as I might, because the nearest Meeting is about 8 miles away and even if I were willing to drive, Sundays are days when my husband needs the car for work. It was as we were getting ready to go that I noticed it: two minutes after brushing and taming into a plait, my hair looked like I’d been in a high wind. Lots of fluffy new growth, curling its way out of my mane.
My parathyroid tumour, the unlamented Dexter, had affected every aspect of physical and mental health and one aspect I’d paid little attention to was the hair loss. I have enough hair for three normal people; it’s always been dense, coarse, somewhat curly and unruly. I had noticed some thinning near the hairline and along my parting, but given the condition was causing me enough pain to need opiate patches, I wasn’t worrying about my hair. Now, almost ten months after surgery, I can see regrowth in the form of a good number of new hairs, all around four or five inches long. Human hair grows at a rate of roughly half an inch a month. On a day to day basis, you don’t notice hair growth. The difference only shows after months or years.
I’ve struggled to regain my health, even though in theory, my healing began once the tumour was removed. I’d lost a lot of muscle and muscle takes a long while to rebuild. I’ve been feeling frustrated by the slowness of the rebuilding process; I’ve put in a lot of work and time and I still look and feel like a blob. But I know that my core muscles are there, now, and that in itself will help reduce strain on my joints. I had a fall on New Year’s day, spraining an ankle badly; but I realised that it hadn’t been as bad as it might have been as I’d strengthened that joint with the exercises. (I have a wobble board I use while waiting for the kettle to boil; it works on core muscles as well as ankle, knees and hips AND proprioception.)
When it comes to harm, in many cases it’s seldom the bolt from the blue kind, like an accident. In my own case, a combination of my Joint Hypermobility (including the poor proprioception), and my own unique foot shape, meant that my gait was ungainly and over time, it was causing strain on my whole musculo-skeletal system. Not only that, it meant that after being on my feet all day, I would be crying from the pain from my feet. Several joints were often swollen and painful. The last year, I have had custom-made orthotics in my shoes and now, walking without them feels odd and unpleasant. In addition, the damaged joints that had been showing signs of osteoarthritis are no longer swollen and they don’t hurt (often). It took years for the damage to be done, and after a year of support, the results are marvellous. I wish it had been dealt with much sooner.
Mental health problems often take many years, or a life time, to reach the level where they impact so harshly on life that you cease to be able to function adequately. Years of abuse wear down even the toughest of souls. Unhealed emotional pain remains toxic in the system. Every bi-polar episode has lasting effects, both as a result of the experience and as a result of actions taken during the episode. Any medication (including self medicating,) has lasting effects too. So expecting to heal instantly is unrealistic when the damage was done over a long period of time.
Little by little, we change and grow and heal. That’s why I see it as a healing journey, not a destination.