Shouldering Adult Responsibility


Over the past two months, I noticed a problem with my right shoulder.  At first it was stiff.  I made minor modifications at the gym, like not fully extending my right arm during the 30 seconds of jumping jacks during warmup.  Then it was sore.  I made additional modifications, like lightening weight for overhead presses.  And then, despite these modifications and the passage of time (which I sincerely believed would solve this problem), the discomfort persisted.

Then, during some phase I can't precisely pinpoint, the discomfort turned a corner to outright pain with certain movements, even waking me several times each night.  (It hasn't reached the "actively being mauled by a bear" level of pain, but I'm progressing up the chart.)

I'm now unable to extend my arm overhead or reach behind me, which is troublesome.  When undressing, I shimmy my shirt down my body, then step out of it because I can't pull clothing over my head without getting locked in a fabric entanglement and calling for someone to pull me out.  (So far, this only has occurred in my closet with my husband as the rescuer.  I imagine it would be significantly more awkward, say, in a fitting room with a stranger.)

More puzzling, I don't know how I arrived at this gimpy state.  Did I injure myself while ziplining during my much-needed weekend getaway without knowing it?  Did exercise exacerbate these tweaked tendons?  Am I just getting old?

I don't know.

What I do know, though, is that I felt foolish for landing here.  I wanted my shoulder to get better on its own, maybe after a night of applying an ice pack or popping a few Advil.  I didn't want to hassle with actual treatment because I'm good at avoidance techniques.

But two things -- daresay, two people -- changed this for me.  One gentle and kind woman at the gym asked me what my plan was to remedy the injury.  After looking at her blankly for a moment, baffled that I never had thought of making a plan on my own, I said, "Well, I guess I need to make an appointment with a doctor, except that I don't have a PCP since mine retired last year."

She smiled and said, "That's a good start.  You definitely can do that."

Emboldened by her assurance in my capabilities as a functional adult who does things like find doctors and schedule appointments, I added, "I'll make this my goal for the month of October."

She said, "How about you make it your goal for this week?"

And you know what?  I did.  That very day I called my doctor's office and secured a new PCP.  Yesterday I went the appointment, got a diagnosis (tendonitis of the rotator cuff), and received a referral for a physical therapist.

Then, on a roll, I did the process once more: I gathered physical therapist recommendations, researched the online, made phone calls, and scheduled my first appointment for next week.

A man from the gym who provided a valuable PT recommendation learned that I had scheduled my initial evaluation.  He texted: "It's great you're taking action as your next step.  Well done!"

I think God placed these two people in my life to provide this nudge toward healing.  When I was in avoidance, the woman encouraged me to make an appointment sooner rather than later.  The man applauded and validated my efforts, making me feel as if I were wise, not weak, for doing so.

How wonderful.  Quite literally, it seems, they've helped me to shoulder this problem.

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