Unseasonal winter wear and pain

IMG_6432Before I begin, some apologies are in order. #1. I apologize for the rather lengthy sabbatical (though tbh it was kinda sagreatical) and leaving so many of you without your fix of knitting, puns, and portmantoe socks. I know it must have been difficult. #2. I apologize to my friends in San Francisco who I’ve been texting as if I were in Chicago. Because I’m actually in San Francisco. And have been for the past month and a half. So let’s hang out! But let’s do it soon, because I leave in like, 3 days. And lastly #3. Sorry to the lady in the above picture (rightward gazin’) who gave me a super dirty look. I wasn’t creeping. I promise. I just had to rule-of-thirds that vertical succulent wall garden behind you.IMG_6429This is Beacon, my favorite cafe (ever. except sometimes their sandwiches give me the runs.), where I’ve been spending almost literally all day everyday brushing up on my pattern recognition skills (aka learning how to be a doctor, apparently) in preparation for the boards exam. Step 1 studying was actually kind of fun on the one hand, as cafeing is among my top 5 past-times (also gossiping and gambling), but on the other hand, nonstop eating, drinking, and breathing practice questions (also green tea and it’s its) and spending an inordinate amount of time looking at crusty rashes and men with boobs gets tiring pretty fast (except the it’s its. ate like 20.). So, as much fun as excessive cafeing and people watching was (i saw a woman drinking coffee get hired by a modeling agent ON THE SPOT), I’m glad it’s finally over.

Because ‘better late than never’, here are some of the things that I’ve been working on for the past few months. And yes, I know that it’s a bit warm to be discussing winter wear, but I’ve been quite busy lately. If you have any issues with this, please direct your complaints to preclinical medical education everywhere.IMG_6371I have tried arm warmers in the past, but I have never really given it a full-hearted effort because I am deathly afraid of thumb holes (a niche subclassification of trypophobia). They’re small, intricate, and you have to pick up the stitches just right or else you’re left with a gaping hole–in short, I’ve never been any good at them. But when I was gifted some amazing finnsheep/angora wool from local color fiber studio, I decided to give it an honest effort. So I found this cool/free arm warmer pattern (from a finn no less! coincidence? i think not.), added some of my own creative leanings, and produced a pair of passably thumbed arm tubes! Finntastic!IMG_6403I felt so good about my arm warmers that I got a bit overly ambitious and tried to make fingerless gloves/mittens. It seemed easy enough, right? Well, apparently it’s not. Apparently, it’s hard. Also, apparently, I can’t estimate the size of a woman’s hand at all, because what I made fits the palm of an adult but the fingers of a small child. If you know any such unfortunate individuals with the aforementioned proportions, let me know and I’ll send these glittens their way.

Now, as a rule, I try to keep photos of myself off my own blog. It’s partly a matter of taste, but also I don’t want to take away from the art (like this). However, one of the main things I’ve been working on lately (unrelated to knitting but equally as mind blowing) has been fixing my back, and I think it’s only right that all of you see what months of sweat and dedication have earned me.downloadI also might have thrown in a couple arm days, too. And a tan.

You may remember that I threw out my back a little over a year ago (and lived to tell the hilarious yet poignant tale), and while I portrayed my injury as ironic and light hearted initially, it has since become anything but. Because contrary to what doctors have told me, I didn’t get better. Not after 4, 6, or even 8 months of physical therapy. But I stayed optimistic. In fact, I was so optimistic that I didn’t even see the shift that happened. There came a point where I was no longer dealing with a bad back; I was dealing with chronic pain, something I would spend the next 472 days (and counting) trying to escape.

I’m embarrassed to say, I did not handle my back pain very well. It became something insidious inside of me. It consumed me, and my time and attention, taking space and joy away from the things I loved, slowly eating away any hope of its transiency. In the span of a year, I saw over 10 medical specialists and received the full gamut of treatments, everything from the medically sound to the ethically questionable (one man literally set my back on fire). I had MRIs and X-rays done, my tongue examined, my gait and posture analyzed. They all told me different things (insert overcrowded kitchen adage here) and gave me different explanations as to what the underlying problem was and all the things I was doing wrong (from which I can only surmise that it’s a miracle i’m not irreparably crippled right now), but they couldn’t get rid of my pain. Despite their credentials (everything from MD to DC to ‘in the chinese army they called me the ‘bone-mover”) and expertise, that was the one thing they could not do.

As a future health professional and Christian (#salvation), my back pain has been an unending supply of wisdom (the complexities of modern healthcare, faith in suffering, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a creme brulee torch, etc.), all of which I had consistently ignored. I was bitter and tired of hearing from doctors that promised to fix me and, above all, I was in pain. As a result, I ended up living much of the past year through a filter of fear and avoidance, willing to give up any and everything to escape the pain. But the thing about chronic illnesses is, it’s exactly that. Chronic. It’s inescapable, which means that denial and self pity are just temporary fixes, and inevitably, I would have to face this thing that I had, figure out what about it made it so utterly devastating. I don’t claim to be an expert (especially considering that within the realm of chronic pain, my 1 year is fleeting), nor can I promise that my thoughts won’t change with time, or change with pain. All I have are the things I’ve found myself repeating in my head, when 400 something days feels a couple days too long.IMG_6444One of the hardest parts about chronic pain is the feeling of loss. That I no longer am the person that I used to be. With each day I experienced pain, I felt like I was missing out on a day that I could have been who I was before. And with each day, that person grew farther and farther away. I had demonized my pain and idealized my prior self to the point where I forgot that pain existed (and even flourished) elsewhere. I discounted the suffocating pain of an asthma attack or the noxious pain of a migraine. I selectively ignored the sinking-dread-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach pain of getting pulled over for making an illegal turn onto Market (even when i was just following the car in front of me!) and then, a few hours later, the soul crushing pain of spilling an entire Fage container (costco sized) of granola onto the carpet (bad day for daniel). For so long I believed that pain had stolen something from me, when in truth I just didn’t want to accept what it had given: a reason to think and learn, to exercise and grow strong, to struggle and share and prepare myself for what’s next, for day #473.

***The leading cause of right-sided heart failure is left-sided heart failure.

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