Those are tough words for me to wrap my head around. I've worked all my life to fix things, to mend whatever is broken. I grew up thinking if a person worked hard enough, they could do anything they set their mind to. To now accept that I can't do something I love, no matter what, because I am physically incapable is both frustrating and humbling at the same time. After discussions with my general practitioner, physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, and gastroenterologist, they all agree that I have no choice but to limit my daily activity to things that will not continue to overstretch the joints in my body. My shoulders and knees are shot and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Since the problem is my connective tissue and not the joints themselves, surgery isn't an option.
The worst part was the looks on their faces when they described how this was going to play out.
You see, my body didn't come with enough collagen. It is called Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. My body can best be described as being similar to a marionette. Very little is holding all the joints together and what is there has no strength to keep me upright. Everything is controlled by the strings, or in my case the muscles. If the muscles are allowed to go lax, I'll end up a big old pile of bones. If I stretch too far in any direction, I risk injury. If anything were to yank on my arm, for instance a goat, I would have to start all over on the healing process. Which I have done three times in as many months and I am still nursing the last one. I've pretty much used up all of my physical therapy allowance from the insurance company. Now I am being transitioned to an exercise physiologist who will teach me how to avoid further injury, but still strengthen the muscle.
The doctors winced because it's not going to be pretty.
I am going to be in pain every day for the rest of my life. But the reality is, that's nothing new. I was born this way. I've already been in pain every day of my life. Now I just know why. Now I understand why I had horrible growing pains as a youth. Why I've had so many sprains and dislocations. Why my neck is constantly out of alignment. In a way it is a relief because now I know I'm not a wimp. There is a reason I hurt. There is a reason I have trouble keeping up with everyone else. I get it. Now that I fully understand it, I can work within those parameters.
It does, however, mean I am going to have to change my lifestyle.
They were very specific when they told me, "No more catching escaped goats or flinging hay bales." Pretty much every farming task you can imagine is on the things-to-avoid list. At this point I can't even walk my dogs on a leash. Which, by the way, the dogs were thrilled to hear because they want no part of this whole exercising thing. They are far too busy holding down the porch. I will have to give up the full-time ag position at work. A position that would be my dream job, if only I had an able body.
It would be easy to have a negative outlook on all this.
But the reality is, I know far too many people in much worse situations. I have lost far too many friends and family. I know far too many people living with chronic disease. I am not going to sit around and focus on what I can't do. I am going to focus on what I can do. I can get up and walk across the room, many people can't. I can fix a meal for my family, many people can't. I can still enjoy some of my hobbies, many people cant.
I'll miss the animals, but I can still visit. Many others can't.
Someday I will be able to look back on this and understand the reason this has come to light in this time of my life. There is always a reason. Until then, I'll just keep swimming.