My thumb doesn’t know how to be a thumb anymore. It feels awkward and doesn’t know how to sit with the rest of my hand. It trembles, quivers and spasms; its confidence has taken a tumble, and it feels almost alien to the rest of me. It’s either burning hot or burning cold, and it feels like it’s going to explode at any moment. Yet, I think it’s the identity crisis that I’m struggling with the most. When I close my eyes I don’t think I have a left-arm hand or thumb, and when I open my eyes and look down to my left, it’s all blurred (I also have this problem with my left foot and leg). My brain is really messed up.
I’m fairly sure my thumb has lost all sense of itself, it just doesn’t know what to do with itself. I guess at the end of the day, thumbs are cumbersome and awkward digits, but they are essential to so many things. It only when we lose the use of a thumb, we realise just how useful they really are. Thumbs help us to open doors, open jars, cut food, dress, undress, write, type, drive and generally function on a day-to-day basis. I miss my thumb more acutely and profoundly than I ever thought possible, after all, it’s just a thumb, one of ten digits, but I’m grieving its malfunction all the same. I miss it.
It’s hard to describe how it feels to have so much pain and yet to feel so completely disconnected from that limb. A profound and intense wave of grief overcomes me when I think about my thumb and the other bits of me afflicted with CRPS (my left arm, hand, leg, ankle and foot). Afflicted is a strong and cruel word, but it’s a powerful and wicked condition. I rarely use such words but it’s hard to find positives. and today isn’t a good day.
As my thumb goes into spasm once again and the rest of my body fights it creating a contorted look that runs deeply into my heart and soul, it’s hard to find anything positive. Although I’m not particularly keen on so-called ‘illness inspiration’, I do try to seek out meaning and inspiration in my pain and ill-health, more for my sanity than anything else. Seeking meaning gives me a foundation ; I guess it’s my muse, but as the condition in my hand has developed over the last few months, a deep well of anger has started to surface with the constant and relentless barrage of health issues that keep battering down the door to my soul.
I’ve had enough. I can’t take anymore knock backs. I’ve always fought back, smiled and pushed on but smiling just doesn’t cut it for me anymore as I’m too outraged to pretend. Yet, my protests don’t matter, my illness doesn’t listen or take pity on me; it keeps on and on, slowly squeezing the life out of me.
Some have told me to adopt a ‘positive mental attitude’ which annoys me intensely as it’s my PMA that’s kept me going all these years. Yet, reality check! PMA doesn’t make things better or easier, I’ve learned the hard way that it creates a martyr who then can’t admit everything’s turned to shit as it creates enormous cracks (well, gaping chasms) in the concept of PMA, making me a hypocrite, so I smile and push away the anger in order to keep up appearances. Yet, this doesn’t work in the long term; it can’t.
No, what I need now is to adopt a “FIA’ (fuck-it attitude) – not smiling as a facade, smiling if I’m happy, but being sad, angry or whatever I happen to be feeling at that time. In other words, KEEPING IT REAL. This isn’t about turning into a negative, whingeing, whining, moaning, negative old cow, although I have days when I am all of the above. It means being real, dealing with my reality and trying to do the best I can. I have days when I’m raging but that’s okay. Honesty is really the only way I’m going to handle this. I can’t wax lyrical about the wisdom of living with CRPS as it’s still eating me up from the inside, out and although I’ve not given up, for now, I need to be gentle with myself and find a new way through this.
Today I need to rant and rage at the seemingly inherent unfairness of my life, but tomorrow I’ll be smiling once again, feeling philosophical at the randomness of it all. A ‘fuck it attitude’ is essential for me as facades create layers of pain and prevent me from facing and accepting the truth of my reality. Denial crushes me. Falseness is corrosive and smiling is exhausting, particularly when I’m not actually happy.
By keeping me real, I can face my pain and try to befriend my alien thumb that currently feels like a wild animal angrily tethered to the rest of me, constantly fighting to break free, trying to resist me and seemingly not liking me very much. I can’t hate it as it’s a part of me, I don’t love what’s wrong with it but I’m doing my best to love my thumb and hope it will begin to re-integrate into my consciousness along with my left leg and foot. My thumb has lost all sense of itself but I need to help it find it’s way back to me…