Feeling Guilty to Gutsy
Updated: Jul 25
I have chronic ankle pain resulting from tripping off the curb. Yes, it’s as exciting as that. In the early days (years, actually!), I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to keep up with the demands of my job, however, my mental and emotional health was in shambles as the tools I’d use to support myself were suddenly inaccessible.
I would sit in our living room just looking around at all the stuff to do, failing miserably at truly allowing my body to rest. I’d minimize the things I needed–both practical and emotional, and just kept trying to persevere. I felt guilty all the time. Guilty about needing support, not being able to heal and constantly feeling behind. Furthermore, overdoing it was such a regular pattern that I felt guilty for not understanding my pain and how to work with it.
Over time, as I started recognizing that my pain is here to stay, asking for help became a regular occurrence. My partner and I learned how to communicate, both anticipating the other’s needs and then working as we could to honor them. I grieved. I started therapy, wrestling deeply with the “why” and “how”, and if this truly is me how do I do this for life?
Moving forward looked like slowing down. Pausing to name and reflect upon what kind of space I needed. Analyzing tasks for their energy and weighing that against my other priorities. As soon as I paused to not only recognize, but also honor my limitations, everything became manageable again. Let me also say this has been the stage where loved ones are the most confused. Many are having a hard time accepting that pain is my reality– both presently and in the future. To them, it means giving up. To me, it means freedom.
Freedom from looking behind me, trying to get back into a previous mold. Freedom from the never-ending appointments, braces, medication, and suggestions. And lastly, freedom to finally look ahead again. Dreams, goals, realities, all seem attainable again. Yes, limitating. Yes, emotional. And yes, heavy. But also freeing.
This was not linear. I didn’t just suddenly wake up one day and decide I was going to finally accept the unacceptable. It took years of learning and unlearning, grieving and growing.
As I look back, I know I moved from feeling guilty to being gutsy. I take risks. I extend beyond my baseline and comfort zone. I even wrote a children’s book– Adalene Plays Many Ways!
The story is about Adalene, a young girl looking forward to spending time with her Uncle Everett. As we see them prepare for, and go to the park, we start to see how Everett’s needs affect Adalene. Later we learn that Everett has chronic pain–which affects both him and those around him.
I wrote the story after my nephew, Larson, started asking me questions about my pain. Turning toward children’s books, I couldn’t find one that reflected some of my own journey of navigating the ups and downs. So, I wrote one! Adalene Plays Many Ways invites perspective with the goal of highlighting our currently under-represented community.
If you’re reading this, chances are you can relate. I’d love to hear your story and connect with you further. Feel free to reach me at erikajoysneath.com.