Three years ago I had a hip replacement that went terribly wrong. I’ve had two corrective surgeries. The results aren’t that great – one leg is shorter than the other and I have chronic pain. But the worst part is that my ability to do much is curtailed. I have been an avid birder and backpacker my entire life. I miss those activities so much.
Actually, the worst part is that my family is now far too protective of me. My husband clucks over me saying I shouldn’t do things, my children have stopped inviting us on different outings because it’s “too much for Mom.” Baloney. I have a cane. I know how much I can do. Am I crazy to think a little more pain is worth being out in nature?
I know they hate to see me in pain but I feel worse when I sit back and do nothing. How do I get them to understand that I am coping pretty well, all things considered, and it only makes things worse to be treated like an invalid?
One Hipped Wonder
If your signature is any indication of your humor, I’d say you are doing rather well, in spite of such terrible circumstances.
It sounds like all of you have been through the wringer with this one – you quite personally and your family, vicariously. It’s no surprise you want to move on, while your family is stuck in being overly cautious and unnecessarily protective.
What often happens in these situations is that family members try to imagine how they would cope with physical disability. Rarely is their imagination as accurate as the real thing. Your loving family needs some education.
For starters, you are not “crazy” for believing additional physical pain is worth doing some of the things you enjoy. But how you handle this pain might be one of the reasons your family is protective. I’m not saying you should suffer in silence, hardly. But if all your family sees is more pain and none of the enjoyment, it’s little wonder they feel protective.
If you read my column regularly, you can anticipate my first recommendation; honest communication among everyone in the family. If possible, speak to your family members individually. Sure you appreciate their concern but explain how it is backfiring. Look them in the eye and tell what you need: inclusion and opportunities in life. Explain how the isolation is having a negative effect on you, how the over protectiveness is making things worse.
Help them understand the realities of physical activity for people in chronic pain. Contrary to what they may believe, staying as active as you possibly can is the best thing you can do for both your body and emotional well being. Research has shown that when people participate in moderate, low-impact physical activity, their pain, function, mood, and quality of life improve without worsening symptoms or disease severity.
Are you currently working with a physical therapist? If not, I would make an appointment in order to have his/her help with your situation. Have your provider outline what you can and cannot do, and exactly what types of activity would actually be beneficial. Then, share this information with your family. Sometimes, hearing a “professional opinion” carries more weight.
Finally, have a few conversations with your husband. These last few years have been rough on him as well. Let him know how much you appreciate all of his support but tell him you are going to have as much of a life as you can muster. Be aware that if he has picked up many of the domestic chores, he might naturally be overwhelmed. What can you put into place on the home front that many ease his burden? How about a housekeeper a couple of times a month or someone to do some of the grocery shopping? I just wonder if his load lightens a bit if he may be more inclined to support you.