This is my second time through physical therapy. The first was also for ankle trouble, after consecutive major sprains in the right. Then I was much younger, in early adolescence, and enjoyed the attention my injury granted me.
That first day in therapy, I found Stephen King's personal acronym for P.T. (pain and torture) apt. I found the practitioner cold and irritable, didn't like the hurt, wanted to get at least a little coddled, and got lazy with at-home exercises. Our sessions lasted a short while and didn't get me very far. I wouldn't be surprised if I quit before we could make progress.
This time around, my left ankle -- which had always been my trusty and true appendage of strength -- is undergoing a longer process, which I hope will get me back to my usual levels of speed, strength and dexterity within my six weeks of prescribed therapy.
Going deeper into these sessions, I'm seeing that this time of healing through effort shares similarities with the creative process. What I put in, I get out. The more I attend to the rigorous and painful work at home and at the P.T. office, the more mobile I get. At the same time, I have to listen to my body -- in terms of pain, weakness and exhaustion -- and use that as a meter for when to slow down or stop my assigned exercises.
As an artist and writer, I have to deal with tough stuff, too. Emotions and thoughts and fears, examining traumas of mine and the world, and going into the heavy, durational work of inquiring into what is unseen. I've practice every day, and sometimes pushing and pulling ideas, materials and curiosities gets wearing. Sometimes it hurts a great deal. I have to listen to my body/mind/heart/spirit, and not damage myself as I create, sending me back into overworking, obsessive or self-destructive habits brought about from panic, anger, depression, grief or mental instability.
On the other hand, I can't coddle myself either. When I find my limits and break past my comfort zone, I find progress, joy, breakthroughs. Idle, I weaken and, if left in a creative stupor, am likely to break down and fall apart. Overdoing (over-scheduling, making too many things at once, swimming too far into traumatic territory I'm not yet prepared to traverse) can leave me broken as well. So I listen, work my muscles into that "hurts so good" vulnerability place, push further and seduce my body/mind into more courageous, complex and risky lands.
There is a difference between the discomfort zone -- where the magic happens -- and the unproductive alarm zone, which can snap a person backwards.
This time, I appreciate my physical therapist. I don't think he's a jerk or insensitive. He pushes me to healing through daily effort. Maybe this practitioner is better at connecting with me than the last, but more so I think I'm better at understanding the physical demands ahead -- and the purpose for the strain. I don't need to glorify my pain or do less to remain injured because it makes me feel special -- I don't find joy in that kind of special anymore. I'd rather be able to walk, run, dance, swim, bike, hike, stretch and train with ease again.
My creative process is better, too. In my pre-teen years, I might write a poem or a story when I got an idea or an assignment. In my teen years, emotional undoing and mental breakdowns became additional reasons to make a thing. But otherwise I let my heart and make muscles go languid as my physical rehabilitation commitment, and my dedication to mental health care.
Now the daily practice of art and writing readies me to challenge my work/life habits, delve into new ways of creating and widen my periscope to the world, larger with each project. As a topic troubles or terrifies me, I plunge in further, but also listen, attend to self-care and step back now and then. So may my daily rehabilitation practice make me more present in my body.
Process notes on a work in progress. This page serves to invite you into the way I work, with weekly posts to show you the hows and whys on the whats I make.