December 16, 2018

The Doorway

The following is a slightly edited version of something I wrote during a free writing session at one of my memoir workshops. Will any part of this end up in my book? I have no idea, but if it does, a lot more work is required to flesh it out and make it come alive on the page. Welcome to the writer’s process. You saw the first draft here.

It happened so fast. It was only a cheerful hello, but in a split second, my knees buckled and I was down.

I had just finished lunch and was cleaning up the dishes. As in many old houses, there was a good-sized kitchen and in behind, a pantry with cupboards and a double sink. The pantry could be accessed through one of two door openings on each end of the wall.

Just as I approached the left doorway leading into the pantry, a loud HELLO broke the silence, the type that ends with a question mark. Taken by surprise, I jumped, somehow swinging my right leg at the same time. As my bare foot made contact with the door frame, I heard a crack.

“Ow, shit!” I yelled. My sister-in-law came around the corner into the kitchen. “Are you ok?!”

Through clenched teeth, I stammered, “I kicked the door frame.”

I hobbled over to the table and sat down. My sister-in-law pulled another chair closer so I could set my foot on it. By now, my foot was swelling and a big patch of purplish blue was forming from by big toe right across the base of my other toes and half way up my foot.

“Jesus, that hurts,” I moaned.

“Let me get you some ice,” my sister-in-law said as she pulled the ice cube tray out of the freezer. “You’re going to have to get that looked at. It might be broken.”

“Let’s see how it goes,” I said. I had good pain tolerance. Plus, the throbbing in my foot was welcome relief from the misery in my mind. A banged up foot was tangible, easily explained. It hurt, but it would heal and everything would be ok. My mind – that was another story.

When my husband got home, his eyes widened as I stuck out my foot which was now a nice blackish color and markedly larger than normal.

I can’t remember if I went to emergency and had an x-ray or if I simply saw my doctor in his office. Sprained? Broken? Memory fails me to some extent, but I think I cracked a bone. I do remember coming home with a set of crutches and not being able to wear shoes for a few days. Even my rubber boot didn’t afford enough space, and my attempt to put it on led to a significant amount of swearing.

I’ve never been one to complain much when I’m in pain, physical or mental. Instead, I get quiet and retreat like an injured animal. However, even though I suffer in silence, I seek out human company, someone to help me feel more secure.

That said, I don’t do well with support groups. For some people, they work really well, but when I’m hurting,

I don’t want to listen to other people who are in the same situation. I don’t want to hear about all the medications they’ve tried that aren’t working. I don’t want to know that they can hardly get out of bed in the morning or that no one understands their suffering. None of this helps me. In fact, it creates negative energy that drains me.

If I’m having issues, I prefer to talk to one person, someone close to me whom I trust. My other choice is an objective professional who gets paid to listen. In either case, what I look for is someone who sits and holds space for me while I recount my struggles and attempt to figure out solutions.

I kicked a door frame and injured my foot. For a while, it hurt like hell, but then it healed. I’ve lived with mental illness that hurt a lot more. I’ve healed from that too. Neither physical nor mental pain is easy to cope with. However, having experienced both, and given a choice, I’d opt for the broken bones.

(To be continued…and revised many times over…and possibly trashed. It’s all part of the process.)