On June 8th, 2018, I fell off my bicycle and broke my leg into five pieces. My leg broke at a clean angle across the upper tibia and fibula, and my upper tibeal plateau broke into three triangular pieces. The break was so bad that when I was checked into Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, Montana awaiting the surgery required to piece me back together, the nurses, CNAs, and other attendants who frequented my room kept initiating this conversation:
Them: “Wow! That’s bad! How did you break your leg?”
Me: “I fell off my bike.”
Them: “What kind of motorcycle do you ride?”
Me: “It wasn’t a motorcycle. It was a bicycle.”
Them: “You must have been going fast!”
Me: “No. I was just stepping off. The bicycle was barely moving.”
That accident has seriously interrupted and changed my life for going on two years, now.
I had already become overweight from years of public school teaching, a job which can cause you to neglect yourself because of the ridiculously long days and continuous demand to respond to the urgent needs of children and other emergencies regularly created by circumstances beyond your control.
Ironically, I had already decided months earlier that I was going to stop neglecting my health and ride my bicycle every day and everywhere that summer. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in April of 2015, and it has become harder and harder for me to swing my leg over the back of my bicycle. I had gotten in the habit of laying the bike on the ground, standing over it, then lifting it upright between my legs, because it was so hard to mount with the arthritis.
So I decided to get a Biria Easy Boarding bicycle, the lowest-clearance center-mount bicycle in the world. I had just gotten my bicycle, spent two days assembling it, and had ridden it for two days and, LOVED IT! I had also been riding my regular bike to school and back for a month at that point, so I had been getting some good exercise. Add that to my usual 10,000+ steps/day and I was reasonably fit for being overweight, and I was not out of practice on the bike.
However, on day three I got a bit too ambitious, went a little too far, took on a hill that was a little too steep, wiped out my quads so that they were giving me no support, and when I stepped off my bike my leg completely gave way and hyper-extended. I had only been out of school for a week and my summer was GONE. If you are a teacher, or if you are closely associated with teachers, then you KNOW how terribly devastating it would be to have your summer of outdoor recreational fun all lined out and then have that snatched away in an instant because of an accident.
I spent the next nine days in the hospital, had surgery (bolt through the upper tibeal plateau, external fixator bar installed), and arranged for the convalescent equipment I would need once I got home. I was fortunate to have bought a house and moved into it just two months before that was already ADA outfitted. My bathroom is the second largest room in my home with plenty of room to cruise around in a wheelchair. It has a walk-in shower with grab bars, grab bars around the toilet, and doors that easily accommodate the width of a wheel chair. My house even has a porch lift for a wheel chair. We had been planning to take all of that out and remodel. After the accident we decided that it would be stupid to take it out, and it’s going to remain exactly as is until after we move on to another house (which will be ADA outfitted–all homes should be ADA outfitted, because you never know what is coming down the road, and it’s better to be prepared; it’s also nice to be able to accommodate guests who require ADA accommodations).
I’m a positive person and live my life by the law of gratitude. I held it together emotionally, stuck my chin out, put on a stiff upper lip, and decided that I was going to stick with my weight loss plan regardless of the accident. I had planned to do it riding my bicycle. Now I was just going to have to do it counting calories, since I couldn’t walk. So I counted calories.
I lost 37 pounds just counting calories over the next 12 weeks.
Then school started.
Then other stressful things happened.
Then the avalanche of unhealthy life situations just kept on rolling.
I gained the 37 pounds back, and haven’t been able to get it off since.
A few weeks ago I made some really good choices about rearranging my life so that I’m not set up to fail at health, happiness, or achieving my goals. It was long past time for me to do so. I immediately felt better. I’ve also finally gotten to a place where I feel no remorse when saying “no” to other people’s demands on me. I’ve returned to a healthy sleep cycle, healthy food choices, healthy scheduling changes, and healthy psycho-spiritual practices. Just this morning I finally found an online video exercise program that I not only can do, but am willing to actually do. My husband joined me and enjoyed it, too.
So, what changed? It’s simple, but also not so simple: the pain of not doing things that are good for me became more painful than continuing in these unhealthy patterns. I was angry all the time, irritable, frustrated that I couldn’t do the things I want to do, resentful that my time was being usurped by the needs of others, which always seemed to be more important and urgent than my own needs.
I just decided to prioritize myself.
I am 55 years old, and I finally decided to prioritize myself.
Something is different, now. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but I will attempt to do so in the coming weeks as I continue to choose myself and my own priorities over others for a while. Stay tuned and we’ll figure it out together.
Life is good and I am grateful.