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Broken bones (on recovery. burnout?)

This was originally posted on Medium.

Holding space for myself is one of the most difficult things. I think I might actually be doing better, but I don’t know. I did have a thought today about what it feels like. It feels like I’ve had a broken leg and I’ve been wandering around on it, and people don’t even notice. I mean, I was limping a bit, but I can still get around, right?


It feels like I’ve finally went to the doctor and put a cast on it. Maybe I’m still in the cast, or maybe it’s been cut off and I’m in physical therapy (I’m hoping I’m at this stage).

When I was in fourth grade, I was playing outside in December and fell from a play-set, perhaps a 5+ foot fall to the ground (n.b.I was small, my distance judgments are unreliable) but I landed on my arm and my elbow hurt a lot. My mother thought I was fine and didn’t want to go to the doctor (doctors are expensive). I spent two days with a broken bone before I complained enough that it was worth going to the doctor and finding out that I had fractured my elbow. That was … “fun.”

If you’ve ever broken a bone and been in a cast, did you ever continue to hold your limb like that for a while, afraid to extend it or bend it? That’s what I did when I got the cast off my arm, and it’s a bit what it feels like now. A bit terrifying, like if I extend I might just break again. And given that I didn’t even know I was broken the last year — years? — that thought is truly terrifying.

But like the broken bone, the only way forward is to extend. For me, that’s writing a bit again. But it’s scary. Like in physical therapy, you don’t start from a broken arm to doing push-ups, you start with straightening your arm a little. Bit by bit. It’s beautiful in this way because you can measure it.

How do you measure the recovery of broken creativity? The measurement itself seems stressful, but maybe that’s why your physical therapist doesn’t measure it every day. Perhaps it’s every week. We also know how long it takes generally to recover from broken bones, based on your age (I am clearly not a physical therapist). We don’t know how long it takes to recover broken souls and spirits (I’m also not a regular therapist). Especially when set-backs are so possible.

Just like I couldn’t keep holding your arm in the same position, holding back isn’t a viable plan either. Living without recovery isn’t living to the fullest. If I didn’t recover form my elbow break back when I was in fourth grade, I wouldn’t be doing dance in the way I do now, I wouldn’t ride my bike like I do now, I wouldn’t be doing so many things that I do now.

But even today, when doctors see x-rays of my arm, they see that the bone isn’t touching. There’s a cool medical word for this that I forget, but they always seem a little piqued. You can’t tell from the outside, but it’s very obvious on the x-ray. Maybe that’s a bit like spiritual recovery. Even when I am fully functional (will I know it?) there’s still the scars of the past, even if you can’t see them (but maybe deep conversations, or a good bottle of whiskey, end up bringing them to the awareness of others. or emergent Medium posts).

So here’s to recovery. And trying out being out there again. It’s scary, but the other option is untenable.

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