Toughing it out.

So, it turns out I have a broken elbow from that fall I took a couple weeks ago.

Which is funny, because, when it comes to broken bones, you assume you’d know. Right?

Apparently not.

It hurt a ton when I went down, but I assumed that since I could still move everything it was probably just a bad jam. I couldn’t tell if I had much swelling (it being my elbow, I had needed a mirror to compare the two), and the bruising took about four days to show up. So I think it’s understandable that I tried toughing it out for a bit.

However, there were some warning signs which I should probably have paid more attention to. I will list them here for the benefit of other obstinate folk who feel tempted to forgo a doctor’s visit.

  1. Basic tasks leave you feeling winded. Why is pulling on socks suddenly so hard? I mean, it’s not like it’s a ton of physical exertion, right? Well, it is when your body is also trying to repair your fractured elbow. Funny thing, that.
  2. Naps seem like a really good idea. Do you feel weirdly exhausted? Probably it is because you fell and hurt yourself, and pain is exhausting, and healing takes a lot of energy. Take a nap, and go see a doctor.
  3. Small movements hurt in surprising and unexpected ways. Can you not really rotate your wrist? Are you not able to lift a mug of tea? Does closing a car door present a challenge to you? Maybe you should get that looked at.

Granted, it’s a small fracture. Essentially, the top nobly bit were one of my forearm bones meets my elbow cracked. And lucky for me, it won’t need surgery or a cast (unless next week’s ultrasound shows soft-tissue damage). In fact, I’ve been told to try to use it, to build up some mobility, and not to favor it too much with a sling. So even with the official diagnosis, it still feels like I’ve made too much of it. But broken bones are broken bones, and it’s important to get them looked at lest they heal badly and cause more problems in the long run.

And yet, I—like so many others I know—often hesitate to have things treated, not from lack of insurance (thankfully), but from an anxiety about being too precious about our health. The thing I feared most was that the doctor would tell me there was nothing wrong with me at all. Because obviously that would mean the pain wasn’t real, legitimate pain, right?

Which, now that I’ve introduced that topic, I suddenly realized is a long and complicated problem to untangle. Essentially, how do you balance a need for external validation against your own judgment? How do you weight the legitimacy of certain kinds of validation? Is it purely an objective vs. subjective thing? Also, how does this fit into medical treatment, and our willingness or unwillingness to seek it out? If I go to the doctor and find out there’s nothing wrong with me, was my visit unjustified? Because, you know, clearly there are some dramatic, hypochondriac folk who run to the emergency room every time they come down with a cold, and there’s no chance I want to be perceived as one of them. And yet, it is just as idiotic to be the kind of person who ends up in an even more dire position from a desire not to appear weak. As my dad used to say, “it’s a damn fool who doesn’t take their medicine.”

Anyway, maybe I’ll come back to some of those thoughts in another post. For now, it’s nice to know what I did to my elbow, even if it means I need to go track down a physical therapist.

Peace out for today. Stay safe out there, Michigan friends. Or anyone else living where it is cold and icy. Don’t fall.

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