This isn’t going to be the polished blog posts that you’re used to getting from me, full of self deprecation and witty metaphors about my adventures in kink, laid out like a comic book narrative. Instead, it’s a story about healing.
Since I started blogging, almost five years ago, I’ve tried to write something at the beginning of a new year that resonates with the promise and possibility the new year will bring. Because like most people, I hope that the new year will be better than the last. Around this time last year, I wrote a post about being woke and sex positive in 2018, written with the hope that the year would be full of possibilities and growth for everyone, including me. Little did I know that about six weeks after publishing the post, my year would take some turns and changes that I couldn’t possibly imagine. I’ve had a hard time writing, trying to reconcile last year while looking ahead to 2019. That’s because 2018 was a bit extra.
How the injury happened
I didn’t get upset about my ankle until I realized I couldn’t cut grass. Now, the timing of this realization was odd, after all I was in the lobby of a hotel in February and grass cutting season was at least two months away. But in hindsight, I think grass cutting was part of my mental checklist as my brain conversed with my body, telling it something was very wrong. After all, I’ve cut grass every year since I was 13 years old, the same year I started working out faithfully. How could a simple moment change so many things about me so quickly?
But there I was, watching as my ankle stiffened and swollen to the point I could barely bend it or walk. The reason I hobbled down to the lobby was because my calf hurt when I simply laid down and pressed it against the bed-sheets, which I’d later learn was the result of a fracture. Then the cascade of thoughts came. I wonder if I can lift weights? How will I get around? Won’t this get better in a couple of days? ( The answer to all of those questions was no).
I’ve never really been injured or ill in my life. Sure, I’ve had muscle pulls, that were taken care of with a plunge in ice filled baths. Or the time I dislocated my shoulder, and it slipped back into place, as though my body knew I couldn’t tolerate the downtime. Even in the decade where the stress of care-giving slowly eroded my health, my terse assessment of being “fine” was my mantra, my declaration that I was OK, even when I wasn’t. When my time as a caregiver came to a close, I used steel kettle-bells to restore everything to my body I felt I’d lost to time or commitments. After all, being injured or ill is a fundamental change and that’s something else I don’t tolerate.
A new reality
The year 2018 had its own ideas about what I’d have to tolerate. Everything would be different. I dealt with a high ankle sprain and broken leg and months of recovery. I confronted the raw emotion of how the injury occurred. I was humbled by weakness, pain and fatigue that I couldn’t shrug off. Depression crept in at just the right moment, when I couldn’t elevate my mood with a long walk or push ups (you’d be surprised how hard push ups are when you can only stabilize your body with one foot). As I worked on recovery, my uninjured leg hurt when I pushed too hard, because of an increased load. My conditioning dropped. I got tired (and frustrated easily). I went from being able to balance and walk on iron fences to needing to hold a handrail when climbing stairs.
Because I literally slowed down so much, I began to pay attention to a breathing problem that seemed to become worse, or at least more noticeable because of being sedentary. About a month after finishing physical therapy a trip to another doctor confirmed a tumor that had to be removed surgically. I learned that at least a month of recovery would be necessary. I didn’t mind the prospect of being in pain or the risks of the surgery. What did bother me was yet another thing occurring in my life that seemed like a setback. More recovery would be required from my body, and more patience required from my heart and mind.
Shortly after I began physical therapy, I decided not to do suspensions until I was healed and regained a good portion of my strength back. Learning that you can’t stand and balance on one leg means it’s an inherent risk to try and manage a suspension; that was a risk I wasn’t willing to take.
Of course, other parts of my kink life was affected in 2018. My leg was injured in a kink space, due to someone’s thoughtless, careless behavior. I was angry at myself for letting the injury happen. For not keeping my guard up. I regretted the things I couldn’t do for people I love. I resented the opportunities I missed. I dearly missed my workouts and walks. I’d already developed some nagging doubts about kink before my injury and the uncertainty I faced after being hurt seemed to magnify those concerns. BDSM, something that’s central to my life joined the mental checklist of things I couldn’t do. The people, places and things that once felt like home now felt hostile. What felt worse than the realization I couldn’t do something in kink was the bitter thoughts that maybe I shouldn’t be doing things in kink.
So, 2018 was a dumpster fire, right? One that I’m eager to put behind me and solely focus on 2019. I’ll be completely honest, 2018 was one of the most difficult years of my life. I wouldn’t want to repeat a lot of the experiences I had last year. But last year was full of profound growth and healing, despite the rough times.
Granted, I wish I had never incurred an injury, especially one that could have been avoided. Surgery is never fun. Physical therapy was demanding. I lost time and connections with people and things I cherish. Depression and feeling like you aren’t doing enough isn’t fun. Despite this, 2018 gave me as many good things as bad.
For me, last year was like a forced reboot. There was no choice but to take care of my health and body, because circumstances demanded that. I had to reset my values and boundaries. I experienced moments of grace and love. My bonds with the important people in my life grew deeper. Healing my spirit renewed my sense of purpose. I learned that my emotional health required as much work as my physical strength. The labor of healing and recovering reminded me how strong I am. I even managed to cut the grass, albeit fewer times over the summer.
During my time in kink, I’ve probably asked several hundred people do they have any injuries or illness that could affect play or demos. Now I have a greater empathy and understanding when someone tells me about their issues, because I have a more informed perspective. I’m profoundly grateful for that. I’m content with the fact that I removed the person who injured me from an event and have seen him disappear from the kink scene, which hopefully means he won’t harm anyone else. I truly realize the importance of safe spaces in a way I couldn’t have before. I have a renewed commitment to safer, risk aware kink spaces. I’m much more likely to call out toxic practices in kink spaces when I see it. My experience could have driven me away from kink. Instead, it helped me to be better.
Now, this isn’t fiction and things aren’t perfect. If it were, everything would be fine and last year would be like a bad dream that’s barely remembered. That isn’t the case. At times I continue to struggle, mostly with my own self judgement and self criticism. The person who used to say he’d never been hurt is learning to make peace with someone can now say he’s been hurt and ill. I’ve had the experience of finally acknowledging that it’s OK to admit that I’m not always OK and that I’m not less than because of that fact. Almost a year later, I still limp a bit if its cold and I push too hard. That’s OK too. Healing is process and that demands its own course and time-frame.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll revisit the the space where I was injured. How will I feel? Have I processed and healed in the right ways? My leg is stronger than ever (I’ve checked). But is the heartbreak healed? Have I replaced the trepidation with contentment? Maybe, but I’m not certain. Ask me in a month.
I’m going to revisit themes from this post (Kink, recovery, healing, safety) throughout the year. Sometimes that will mean personal posts like this one, other times it’ll be reflected in the work I do with Ms. Pomegranate. That’s my promise and possibility for 2019. I hope your 2019 is full of what you need, that your own promise and possibility is realized. Be well, family and keep it kinky.