I had on my brown Ecco shoes. They have rather large, funny heels anyway, but when I looked down just moments after the car accident, my right heel was moved over to one side. I put my right hand on the bottom of my thigh and my left hand on the top, and knew it was broken, but my heel is the daunting memory from the accident. It reminded me of someone who has a permanently deformed, disabled, disfigured foot.
I didn’t see my heel again for three weeks because it was in a cast. However, when my sister took me to a doctor’s appointment to have the cast changed and an x-ray of my femur and heel bone, my heart was in my throat. I was scared. I determined to keep my eyes shut so I would not have the picture of that ugly foot to burden my mind. I wanted to remember my heel as I had last seen it the week before the accident, walking the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, sand-covered, tanned, and perfect.
The whir of the cast cutter buzzed in my ears, but I kept my eyes shut. While heading for the x-ray table, the nurse was holding my leg and moving with me, but my eyes had to remain open in order to maintain balance. And there it was. My heel and ankle, swollen to twice their normal size and bruised badly, repulsed me. There was a spot on the inside of my foot the diameter of a racketball which was black like the skin of an avacado, but oozing. I could not force myself to look at the pin that came out of my heel as it hung over the edge of the x-ray table. How could anything that looked so raw, tender, and misshapen ever heel?
Each time the cast captured my attention, I fearfully kept a picture of a perfect foot in mind. The blue cast with the ugly toes sticking out and the swollen knee and thigh belonged to someone else. I wanted no part of them. I couldn’t even wash my toes; first, because I couldn’t reach them, and second, to touch them forced me to acknowledge my foot.
I shared with good friends my approach of seeing my perfect leg and foot instead of the one I had. I intimated my distaste and repugnance for my heel; our discussions covered several phone calls and visits. No one thought this strategy was a beneficial idea. I was exerting so much energy on removing the picture of my injured right leg that I had none left for healing. With their help, I came to believe that accepting my foot was what I had to do.
This accident was now a part of all the pleasurable and unpleasant events that make up one’s life. My foot and leg needed my understanding, and the less energy I spent on disconnecting them from me, the more strength I had to rehabilitate those injuries.
My mind raced back to my struggle with depression 10 years earlier, which I fought strenuously. I hated myself and did whatever it took to not be that woman anymore. The harder I struggled against depression, the more hopeless I became. All the groups and therapy in the world would be pointless as long as I continued to hate a part of myself; depression was still upon me. Eventually, my mind was able to grasp that this condition was the motivation I needed to look at my life. The pain of depression proved to be the inspiration I required to live a different way. I learned there were avenues to express feelings, and there were ways to hold all parts of myself gently and lovingly. When I began to accept my as I was, I began to heal.
Elaine Voboril has been published in Women’s Press. This article first appeared in the November / December 2011 issue.