The Mighty Logo

The 'Mortar' Holding My 'Bricks' Together as I Heal From Chronic Pain

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

You know that song “Brick House?” Well, I’m starting to believe I’m made of brick. Just like a patio paver, actually. Hard enough that I can take a beating most days, but once there is a crack, or if I get hit on the corner, I fall apart in an instant.

I was raised on a farm in deep Southern Illinois. I was a competitive gymnast, and so between the farm work and the time spent in the gym (almost the equivalent of a full-time job at the height of my career), I was extremely strong. I kind of still am, so I do a lot more than most women I work with. Most days, that isn’t an issue. I don’t get hurt doing the things “normal people” get hurt doing, like picking up too heavy of an object, or twisting too far, or falling. No. I get hurt in my sleep (dislocated a kneecap), or getting out of the truck (ruptured a tendon in my ankle) or from picking up my own toddler (bicep tendon came out of place, resulting in it needing surgery) who weighed less than half of my warm-up curl weight.


The last one though is my favorite, though. I have just had my most recent surgery: a left sacroiliac fusion surgery to correct the hypermobility in that joint from the years of gymnastics followed by childbirth issues. My husband is in the U.S. Navy and is deployed, so my mother made plans to come out for a couple weeks until I had the hang of things. I was placed on crutches for three weeks after the surgery to keep the weight off the joint so the surgical site can heal. There lies the issue.

About five days after the surgery, my right shoulder (which is the one that had previously been operated on for the bicep tenodesis) started to hurt any time I used the crutches to the point of excruciating pain and hysterics. I returned to the orthopedic surgeon who completed the SI fusion to have him look at my shoulder and give his opinion to find that I have most likely torn my rotator cuff. Yet again, my brick has cracked. Something found my edge and I crumbled.

But, this time is different. I still could not bear weight on my left leg for another 16 days, and now I was in a restrictive sling to boot!? The decision was made that I would use a wheelchair at all times, except for the steps into and out of the house, which I could just carefully hop.

So, here I am. A one-armed, one-legged, situationally single mother of a 4-year-old little girl who can’t figure out why Mommy can’t play floor puzzles today. But, as I found out, there are good “feel better” hugs and kisses when you are the Mommy. There’s a little mortar for my poor little brick.

My mother decided she would stay for my entire recovery period instead of just the week she intended. She saw the panic in my eyes when I was trying to sort this all out and knew how to chase away my fear. Another reason she’s the mother I want to be. A bit more mortar added to my cracked brick.

I am pursuing my Doctorate right now, because for some reason two years ago I decided it sounded like a good idea. I always say I don’t have enough time to work on my school work. Now, I have the time because I’m kind of limited on where I can go by myself. That is more mortar putting me back together.

I may not be a whole brick again right now, and that’s OK. It may be a while before I find the rest of the mortar I need to put myself back together. That is fine. I heal and heal my soul at the rate it takes me to heal.

It’s OK to take time to be a broken brick and be mad that you’re a broken brick. It’s OK to get the emotions out that you just want to stop being broken over and over. It’s reasonable to be mad that other “bricks” don’t understand how you can be broken all the time! It is because they don’t live our life. They physically have nothing to compare it to, and so they literally cannot understand. Heal at your rate. Wear your scars proudly, because it means you put yourself back together again with the help of your team of doctors, family and friends. If your scars aren’t visible, understand that your mortar is your strength. It holds your cracks together and makes you stronger each time you break.

My other message to you is more of a challenge. Be someone’s mortar. Be something to someone else that can help hold them together. Whether it is a call to a friend who may need to talk, a hug to someone in need of some reassurance, a meal for a new mom or someone in recovery, or even being your own mortar if you haven’t taken care of yourself while you are feeling well. Build someone up today. It will make you stronger through the action.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via forrest9.

Originally published: July 28, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home