why dietland matters

Coming off of SaTC week, let’s focus on some very different television: Dietland.  Based on the 2015 book by Sarai Walker, this show tells the story of a “morbidly obese” woman, Alicia “Plum” Kettle, who has put her entire life on hold until she is no longer fat.  She denies herself more than just food: she denies herself feelings, love, sex, socializing, a career, her writing, baking, hopes and dreams.  Her life is limited to a few blocks of Brooklyn (HI PARK SLOPE!) except for days she goes in to her employer, a Hearst Media style publisher in Hudson Yards (which is where L’Oreal is based in reality), where she ghostwrites for a glamourously thin editor played by Juliana Marguiles.  By the third episode though, she’s realizing she isn’t denying herself life because she hates herself.  She’s denying herself life because the world hates her.

Show protagonist Joy Nash – in “normal” joyful clothes as herself, and as the self-denying trying-to-be-invisible Plum Kettle

So far the reviews have been mixed: the show is well written, well put together, and different than anything else on TV, but tries to cram in a lot.  The original material is almost hallucinatory in its surreality at times, so I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise.  The problem is that the sheer density of the book has resulted in reviews which speak too much to the crowded nature of the show, and fail to notice that this is the first show to openly talk about two important topics.  The first of these is the way American society has, for years, taught women to enable and ignore poor behavior by men, while, at the same time, punishing and mocking women for behaving (or appearing, which seems to be considered a behavior in itself) in non-standard ways.  The second of these is the national addiction to antidepressants, and the impact of long term use and withdrawal.  Selling pharmaceuticals to one in four Americans is so lucrative than I’m genuinely shocked anyone called out that it might not be a good idea.

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First of all, I’m incredibly impressed that this show actually depicts and narrates the constant pressure women feel  in society to allow men to engage in the behavior that makes women feel bad, while simultaneously pressuring us to not engage in behavior that would make anyone else around us uncomfortable.  It is the first time I’ve seen a show on TV that portrays a fat woman being sexually harassed for no reason, and acknowledging that she is reluctant to speak up or clap back because g-d forbid she she should make it worse. Dietland actually takes this a bit further, and not only calls out men’s shitty behavior, but actually tries to show us all how to hold men accountable for it, without putting all the pressure to resist on the women who are the victims of said shitty behavior.  In last night’s episode, when a man harassed a woman in a convenience store, the other women in the bodega banded together to film and shame him.   We do not all have to torture and kill rapists as the shadowy “Jennifer” organization does, but as a society, we do need to call out men who harass women on the street or who slut-shame them in convenience stores.

This is one of the reasons why Dietland matters.  It shows men’s response to women who do not follow a socially acceptable code of conduct, which includes not only behavior, but appearance.   Society should hold men accountable for making choices to “grab women by the pussy”, rather than giggling and infantilizing those choices as “boys will be boys“.  And when a man bro’s out at the expense of a woman, making a comment on her weight or appearance for his own amusement (as a custodial worker does, mocking Plum to his buddy in an elevator), it is the responsibility of the other men to tell him he’s an ass.

The second reason this show matters is that it shows a protagonist going off anti-depressants and the consequences for doing so.  There are many voices of reason that remind Plum she was on doctor prescribed pills, that she should, at the least, wean off them rather than go cold turkey.  But antidepressant withdrawal is a BFD as we begin to discover that it is easy to reap initial benefits from medication, but difficult as hell to get back off said medication when it becomes ineffective.  No one really wants to talk about how awful it is to try to come off antidepressants, a consequence that is not well researched and on which patients are certainly not well educated when they start the medication in the first place.  It’s doubtful that I would have turned down antidepressants in 2005 had i known it would be such an awful experience to come off those drugs in 2018.  However, I was not prepared for how awful the withdrawal would be, nor was I really prepared to face the fact that the antidepressants hadn’t been working for years.  The NYT has been running a whole series on this recently, which is as much about the withdrawal as it is about the fact that no one is studying withdrawal.  To have a mainstream TV show address the idea of antidepressant withdrawal feels extremely timely as we start to investigate what the real long term effects of these medications are.

I do wish Dietland addressed the proven fact that antidepressants rarely remain effective for more than a few years.  In the book and TV adaptation, Plum is on Y, an antidepressant that seems to have successfully repressed her feelings ever since she began taking it to cope with rejection from a man she trusted with her feelings.  The show addresses the ready willingness with which we sacrifice joy to avoid despair, the way we are encouraged to embrace antidepressants out of emotional risk aversion.  It does not address the real challenge, which is that if an antidepressant is prescribed for real depression, we are very likely on borrowed time with it – and we must take ownership for hacking our own brains in anticipation of the day it no longer works.

So for these two threads alone – Dietland matters.  It’s got its clunky parts, and can be jarring and unfinished in places.  The reviews are not wrong in that it is trying to cram a lot of plot and theme into a single hour long episode.  However, I believe this is important TV.  The more we portray these issues in television, the more we address the way we, as a society, still choose gender inequality.  This show reminds us that as women, our inequality is constantly reinforced through the beauty and body image standards imposed on us, both by men and by ourselves. The more we show the methodology in which women are made lesser, the more we can find ways to make us equal.

 

 

 

happy 20th to impressionable women everywhere

Parts of the Internet this week have been celebrating Sex & The City: The 20th Anniversary, since the show debuted on June 6th 1998.  These articles and discussions seem to be based in one of 3 major streams of discussion:

  • The show is fantastically dated, in a way that makes it a time capsule of (white, middle-class) Manhattan at the turn of the 21st century.  It is from that parallel dimension of existence, modern life without the Internet or smartphones or even widespread email.
  • The show was both forward and backwards for its time.  Forward in its focus on female relationships and for its lack of judgement of pre-marital sex, backwards in that it only includes LGBTQ+ characters as caricatures and punchlines.

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#WokeCharlotte is the BEST 

(There is a good post up on Jezebel illustrating the blinding whiteness of the show, btw)

  • THE MEN ARE ALL GENUINELY AWFUL.  In hindsight, every single one is terrible.  Except Harry.  And Smith.  But it took the show until season six, five minutes before ending, to come up with these grown ass man characters who could be in genuine equal partnerships between a man and woman.  (Also, no one should be Team Big because I agree with the Dirtcast podcast that he is likely a Republican BUT THATS OK BECAUSE NONE OF THE GIRLS EVER VOTED LOL WTF)

The show, however, did apparently inspire an entire generation of women to move to New York City and live fabulous, SaTC type lives.  This mostly applies to women my age, women who were in our impressionable 20s when the show was at its height, who then went on to use it as a model of sophistication and worse, a model of potential for what life should look like in a big city.

I actually think the portrayal of New York City was limiting to what is possible here.  This city is a kaleidoscope of experiences, and is never the same two days in a row, a constantly shifting myriad of possible experiences and storylines told through the eyes of millions of people from thousands of cultural backgrounds.  If anything, Sex and the City had blinders on to the majority of experiences possible in the city, limited as they were to their stratum of society, their parties and galas and balls and weekends in the Hamptons and only the most two-dimensional of art.  It calls into question how one should define sophistication: should it be familiarity with a conventional white upper-class culture, or should it be the ability to know one’s city from multiple perspectives?

However, I didn’t pick up my drive to live in a big city from SaTC.  I’ve wanted to live in a big city since I realized there were big cities to live in.   What I did absorb was a lot of  modeling for heterosexual relationships with emotionally immature men.  This is fine when you are 24 and you are dating a Jack Berger type and you need a framework with which to understand what the hell his problem is.  This is not fine when you actually find the love of your life and find yourself actually afraid to express emotion because you have picked up too many bad lessons from a TV show.

It’s this latter point that worries me a bit about Sex and the City.  Are there other women my age who use the show’s storylines as one way to map out our experiences with males?  By creating characters for a dramedy, could Sex & the City have inadvertently have given us a set of male character references that we’ve internalized by mistake?  Did the show contribute to the normalization of emotional immaturity in men by providing us with those models at a vulnerable time in cultural history?

I do not hear my friends actively making statements like, “oh, he’s just being like Big” because a) they’re not idiots and b) that reference is two decades old.   Still, could the idea of Carrie and Big’s relationship dynamic, where he is an emotional man-child who sabotages all her other relationships to keep her attached to him, and she still ends up with him as a reward for his bad behavior – has that permeated our culture as acceptable?  Could the idea of these insecure men like Steve or Berger, men who couldn’t accept high earning women (and yes, I know Steve got over it) have entered our brains as an acceptable thing that we should just put up with and make excuses for?  Has SATC reinforced these behaviors as acceptable or did it just reflect our own inter-gender dynamics back to us?

I am afraid I can’t answer this through my own experience: I’ve been with my husband since I was twenty-seven, when the guys I was dating were also in their late 20s and early 30s, and were all still emotionally immature.  My knowledge of male behavior by men over the age of 30 is therefore limited to third-hand insight: pop culture, advice columns, and the tales of my friends.  Therefore, the idea of this kind of poor male behavior being normalized may be a pop-culture stereotype.  But as we begin to hold men accountable for their immaturity and entitlement , we have to re-evaluate what behavior women have normalized and internalized over the years as part of heteronormative dynamics – and SaTC may be one of the sources we have to question.

Still.  Happy birthday to Sex & The City, happy 20th to all of us for having the show, and all its modeling of women, their friendships, their sex-positivity and their ability to pursue vocational callings in the big city.   Even if their characters still couldn’t figure out how to use a smartphone (aaaaaaaargh) in 2009, we still should celebrate Miranda having a BlackBerry in 1999, buying her own apartment and being an unapologetic “Esq”. We should still celebrate Charlotte eventually recognizing that Harry’s love and devotion to her was something special.  And we should celebrate the merciful death of the movie series thanks to Kim Cattrall, whose Samantha was the best of the characters, not because of her sexual independence, but because she was a business owning badass who loved herself more.

For that, and for silly women everywhere, happy 20th.

 

 

where’s the revolution? (everything counts in large amounts)

Paul and I went to see Depeche Mode on Wednesday at the Barclays Center. And I think it may be our last time seeing what are purportedly one of my favorite bands

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I haven’t seen Depeche Mode for years – at least three years and three albums. Part of that is the expense, because when you go see a band that big, the venues are expensive, and the stadium/arena/ampitheater experience is just not that great to begin with.  Part of it, however, is the ever-present fear that one is going to go see a beloved band and it just won’t be the same.

I fell in love with Depeche Mode’s live shows on the 1999 Exciter tour, with the combination of sorrow inherent in the song material and the joy they took in performing. I went to see the 2005 Playing the Angel tour in L.A., and happily wrote a very long recap of the concert. And then we went to see the 2009 Sounds of the Universe tour at the Hollywood Bowl and it kind of felt…flat. Despite the venue, despite the band, it wasn’t the (reach out and touch) faith based experience I wanted.

The world is a terrible, shallow place, full of heartbreak and pain, misery and hopelessness, but there is still such perfect joy to be had in the music, in the singing, in the expression of those ideas. — from my 2005 “Playing the Angel” tour recap

And so I didn’t try a Depeche Mode show again until this tour. Although, to be sure I did get the best experience possible for this show, I bought floor tickets on fan club pre-sale, expensive even for Barclays, paid for with my unexpected March bonus. We skipped the opening act entirely, so we were settled in by the time the band came on, time we used to discuss the last few albums and why we just have not been able to get into them. I often wonder, is it me and my inherent laziness that is preventing me from getting into a beloved bands later albums? Or is it just that not everything a band puts out is something I am going to connect with? Is it fair for me to feel like Depeche Mode are “phoning it in” just because I’m not reacting to a “Going Backwards” the same visceral way I reacted to “Precious”?  Or is it just that these albums don’t have the same intensity that the past productions did?

And then we saw Depeche Mode spend two hours performing and trying to evoke some sort of emotion in their audience without feeling it themselves.  It should be no surprise that the emotional connection I expected never happened. I understand that Depeche Mode have been playing for almost forty years and can’t be expected to have the same connection with the music and the emotions and the audience that they had half a lifetime ago when I first saw them in Vancouver.  Still, Wednesday’s show felt too much like a performance, like a play performed by jaded actors who have been playing the same parts for too long, but who love the spotlight too much to stop performing.  The band, so joyful to share all of their cynical, depressing songs in the past, seemed to have no emotional connection with their own music.  I couldn’t pick up on either the despair that drives the songs, or the joy at sharing and performing that music I saw at past shows, and the absence of both made me sad.

I can’t blame the band.  It’s been thirty-seven years since Speak and Spell came out.  It’s been twenty-four since Ultra.  There is less time between the Erasure-and-Yaz Depeche Mode and the depressed, dark, drug hazed mid-90s band, than there is between Exciter and now.  It’s a lot of time.  These are humans.  They’ve lived a lot.  I understand that rationally, but I’m still irrationally disappointed to miss that emotional connection at a live show.  (I was also irrationally disappointed that Dave Gahan has chosen to grow a pencil moustache that makes him look like a goth rock Walt Disney but that’s another sidetrack.)

You can see my house from here: Dave Gahan’s video for “Cover Me” was shot in Venice, CA. When it played on the screens at the live show, I recognized my old neighborhood instantly.

The most telling example of where the band just couldn’t make the connection for me was in the back to back pairing of “Where’s the Revolution” with “Everything Counts”.  The former is Depeche Mode’s answer to the era of Brexit, Trump and populist overlords, a call back to the Beatles song with which they opened the show (The opening sound clip when the house lights went down was “You Say You Want A Revolution”, which was apparently a theme set-up)   “Everything Counts” is a song from the Thatcher years, and yet it speaks even better to our current era than it does to the 1980s capitalism it was written for.  As Dave Gahan asked, over and over, “where’s the revolution?”, in front of six-storey high images of marching feet and pumping fists, followed by the line, “come on people you’re letting me down,” I cringed.  Depeche Mode have never called for revolution, they have only, somewhat cynically, described a merciless system, a “competitive world”.  When they went into “Everything Counts”, that was the call for revolution, a relentlessly upbeat song about the evils of capitalism to remind us that the graph on the wall tells the story of it all (and the graph is very likely data from Cambridge Analytica).

Grabbing hands grab all they can, everything counts in large amounts

Depeche Mode have been a groundbreaking band for decades, not just because of the way they use their instruments, but because of the way they pushed synthpop into telling stories of the human condition and our desperate need for faith and love, our common conditions as humans.  They are unlikely global superstars, a mega-band that are emotionally and musically complicated enough inspire fierce devotion in their fans, yet are approachable enough to fill arenas on tour (Barclays especially was packed to the rafters).  Yet this tour, perhaps their own lyrics, from “A Pain That I’m Used To” on Angel say it best:  “I don’t need to believe all the dreams you conceive / You just need to achieve something that rings true”.   The Spirit tour just wasn’t something that rang true, and for that, while I still love Depeche Mode, this may not be a band that I see again live.

making work friends

This morning, I was skimming Facebook and saw that a group of women from my office had gone out for drinks last night to celebrate a former colleague’s.  My absence from this group is not particularly telling or indicative of anything to do with me or my value as a person, colleague or friend.  It is just a group of current co-workers who have been going out as a group for years, while I sit anti-socially at my desk.

In fact, my anti-social status at the office is so extreme that I am missing the company picnic today because I didn’t cross-reference my work and personal calendars before making plans for the school closure dates.  Therefore, I am hosting Ben’s friends for a day of “please entertain each other” activities instead of re-bonding with my own co-workers.   Part of this is because I’ve been offsite for the past year, and upon returning, instead of attempting to re-bond with colleagues, I decided to hide at my desk and pretend I don’t know anyone anymore.

My failure to prioritize this kind of in-office socializing is probably why I am rarely invited to events outside the office.  On a daily basis,  I make the choice not to get up from my desk and talk to people, which results in not being invited to events outside of the workday.  And for the past few years, I have prioritized my son’s birthday over the company picnic – and then this year, the one year I could have gone, I invited three of his buddies over to hang out instead of sending Ben to chess camp for the day, so I am now committed to staying home with a houseful of ten year olds.

It therefore should not be a surprise that I’m  not invited to office social gatherings, and yet, I’m still sad and disappointed when it happens and I see it posted about retroactively.  It’s just so hard to get over my fear of socializing at the office.  I worried for years that people didn’t like me, and only put up with me because they were obligated to engage with me, a fear everyone has but that I actually had reinforced in me twenty years ago by a co-worker who told me that was how she felt.  Now I not only worry people don’t like me, but also worry that the obligation to engage positively with me is higher since I am management and sometimes, I am someone’s direct or indirect boss.

This is not a surprising phenomenon to many people, I’m sure.  There’s mixed feelings on work friendships.  TV teaches us that it’s the norm to have a workplace social circle, but I  have never had that kind of extended work/social life.  I am friendly with co-workers, and often remain good friends with people after leaving a job, but it isn’t a regular occurrence to have that kind of interaction.  I do not believe this is abnormal, especially for people with children and/or other priorities outside the office, and the New York Times seems to emphasize that work friendships can be weird and inconsistent by running articles on a regular basis talking about issues that crops up in these strange hybrid relationships.

Is there a not-awkward, non-creepy way to make friends as a grown-up?

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</script
 

It would be easy to be safe and just cocoon further into my loner, anti-social status, but that isn't what I want.  I know that my co-workers are people I would like spending time with if I wasn’t so anxious about it.  The problem is that added stress of thinking, “does this person like me or are they just putting up with me” kills most of the joy I would get from the encounter, and makes it difficult for me to reflect positively on the fact that this is a cool, smart, interesting person with their own perspective on the workplace we share and have in common.  It’s difficult to engage in a positive, meaningful conversation during a workday as it is – I’m always worried I’m  keeping someone from something more important – and then my fear of whether or not my presence is received the same way makes it even more difficult for me to engage in a verbal exchange that would add collateral to the friendship.

Therefore, I’ve  been hiding at my desk, nodding at people when I see them, smiling and saying hello, and praying I don’t have to actually engage because THAT IS HARD AND CAUSES FEAR.

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I empathize with this SO HARD.  It’s how I know Daria is really covering for insecurity!

I’m asking myself now, what can I actually do about this?  Do I have to come out and talk to people and put myself out there despite a crippling fear of rejection?  Do I have to make going to company events and happy hours more of a priority?  We’re moving to a new office soon, after all – can I make it a priority to talk to people there?  Can I engage more through the “Women in Leadership” initiative, making sure I show up for those events?  Would it help if i went into the office more days instead of working from home all the time?  What if I reached out more to co-workers, current and former, attempting to get to know them on a 1:1 basis and setting aside time to do so?

The answer to all of these things is yes, and the answer to everything is that I have to just work a little harder at engaging in meaningful social interactions, both in creating the opportunity to do so and in finding conversation to make that isn’t awkward when those opportunities come up.  That isn’t easy for me – I sometimes feel like I’m missing a critical part of the human personality, the part that puts people at ease and makes people feel comfortable with me, the part that makes me likeable.  That, however, is an insecurity for an entire other day.  For today, I need to go problem solve a way to get to that company picnic!

Confessions of an Angry Lefty with a Big Mouth

This morning, upon exiting the B/D station at 53rd and Broadway, I almost ran right into a high school tour group wearing MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN shirts.

I almost walked away but then turned and asked the chaperones, “Hey, how’s that swamp draining going? You guys having fun with Manafort and Pruitt?”

They gave me what I assume were rehearsed careful blank looks, no doubt practiced in anticipation of their trip to NYC in what I’m sure they think are their “brave” T-shirts (Note: Trump supporters are not brave, they are bullies).

I shook my head, turned and left, impressed at their careful restraint or deliberate ignorance, I’m not sure which. Clearly they were not going to engage, and in that moment, I wondered why I had said anything at all.

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And this is the justification for electing Trump and his pay-to-play cabinet

After all, what can possibly be gained by reminding Trump supporters they were hoodwinked and are, well, wrong? If given the opportunity to heckle, I enjoy reminding Republican voters of Trump’s corrupt Cabinet picks and associates, since many claim the corrupt Democrat party was why they voted for Trump (instead of, y’know, xenophobia, racism and a desire to Put White People First). I am especially fond of harping on Pruitt since his environmental policy is horrifying and he is happily destroying America’s parks and environmental legacy for the same generation of teenagers that were wearing MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN shirts this morning.

The problem is that, although these people were putting their beliefs out there by wearing Trump T-shirts and hats IN THE MIDDLE OF NYC (#irresponsibleparenting) it doesn’t justify trying to pick a fight with them just because I’m furious that they voted this wannabe dictator into office.  Reminding them they were wrong in that they voted in a completely corrupt slate of Cabinet members that each make Hillary Clinton look like a corruption amateur also isn’t going to appropriately convey the consequences of their actions.

Perhaps I should just be reminding these sort of people that they’re responsible for bringing their own poison to rivers, as well as the financially motived shrinking of parks, or the downfall of the NPS or the plight of the Department of the Interior.  All people from “real” America need constant reminders of the corruption that threatens the most beautiful and precious aspects of the country they claim to hold so dear. In that moment, though, I had just come off the train, where I was reading the NYTimes and I was reflecting on the sheer audacity of this administration in the selection of an almost completely pay-to-play Cabinet, and that’s what I chose to heckle on.

Still, I ask myself, why say anything at all? It isn’t standing up for my beliefs to heckle people wearing Trump shirts in the street. It won’t change their minds or get them to see reason. It will only reinforce their worldview that all lefties are determined to project fault onto the Trump administration instead of on Hillary where it belongs (even though she lost, which is something I enjoy reminding every Trump supporter who does that childish whinging about Hillary being corrupt: she’s not in charge! your guy is! grow up and take responsibility!). Heckling isn’t about the person being heckled; it’s about the ego and issues of the heckler.  This was about me and my emotions and rage at the state of the country.  (Also about my raging period related hormones and four hours of sleep and constant leg pain but that’s still basically me and my emotions)

I also then asked myself, would I have said anything if I’d been in any sort of B-PSA or WAGGGS associated uniform? And the obvious answer is no. I would not have sought to try to shame people who are visiting NYC by reminding them they voted for a corrupt, power mad, dynasty seeking despot against their better judgement, probably because they are racist themselves at heart.  After all, how does that make me any different from any other public verbal attacker (like Aaron Schlossberg)? Other the the fact that transgression is only yelling at someone without provocation, and not being racist on top of it, it’s still not acceptable behavior.  It’s definitely not following the Guide/Scout laws of being kind or a friend to all, even if anyone wearing a Trump shirt in New York Freaking City is deliberately trolling 90% of the population (and the other 10% are the Aaron Schlossberg’s of the world)

My list of reasons for not wanting Trump in office extensive and go far beyond the corrupt Cabinet, too.  Trump has normalized and encouraged racism and hatred for his own voter base gain.  He is trying to gaslight an entire country into thinking CNN and the New York Times are “fake news”.  He uses the power of his own platform as POTUS to attack anyone who tries to mock him, which is trending dangerously towards suppression of free speech.  He has inadequate grasp of foreign policy that is leading to trade wars with my homeland; he refuses to admit to basic science which is causing a catastrophic environmental policy, and did I mention that he is willing to cave like a bitch to any bigot that brings a substantial enough voter base with them, resulting in executive branch endorsed hate and prejudice on the increase against anyone who is not a white cisgender person?  However, the corruption and the plights of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture are, I think, the areas that would most resonate with people from a state where it’s acceptable to wear MAGA hats in public.  I don’t and wouldn’t know, because I’m a lefty, raised on union marches (Dad) and civil liberties (Mom), on workers rights and equal rights, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand how people who voted for Trump are still supporting him despite nothing he does being in their best interests.

So.  Today, I’m not proud of my behavior.  I was an overly angry lefty.  I reinforced the cliche of being a dogma driven left wing attacker.  The only consolation I have is that I’m sure someone is going to call those poor brainwashed high school kids “baby racists” today, and that’s much worse than me asking their chaperones if they drained the swamp yet.

still benched

Last Tuesday, I got up, traveled ten stops on the Q train, and returned to the Weill Cornell Health complex on the Upper East Side for a scheduled MRI on my ankle.  The MRI itself was almost relaxing: I got to lie down and listen to Beethoven piano sonatas through headphones while practicing meditative breathing.  The results, however, were somewhat less relaxing:

<i>1. Complete tear of the anterior talofibular ligament. Small hematoma along the anterolateral aspect of the ankle contained by the extensor retinaculum. Subcutaneous ankle edema.
2. Partial tear of the deep posterior fibers of the deltoid ligament at their tibial attachment.
3. Focal osteochondral injury of the superolateral talar dome.
4. Medial talus and sustentaculum talus congruent bone contusions.
5. Posttraumatic tenosynovitis of the tibialis posterior and peroneal tendons.</I>

As my doctor explained to me the next day once he reviewed the results, this basically means that I completely tore my ATFL, the connective ligament between my tibia and my thalus, and have a slight bone bruise to boot.  No actual breakage, just a lot of ligament damage and bruising.  All I can do is continue to wear the compression sock and AirCast, ice the area a couple times a day, and go to physical therapy until I completely recover.

The problem with this kind of injury is that it’s entirely too easy to tell myself, I can’t.  Because I found out that it’s worse than initially diagnosed, my immediate response is to tell myself I have to stay off it, which is very different than the initial attitude of “it’s getting better I just need to be careful”.  So now instead of actively trying to work around it, I find myself using the injury as a crutch to mentally reinforce inertia.  It’s become the self-justification for staying inside watching TV on a nice day, this concept of I can’t because my ankle.

Pilates class?  I can’t, my ankle.  Too far to walk.

Bike ride? I can’t, my ankle.  Can’t ride.

Going outside?  I can’t, my ankle, too many stairs.

Swimming?  I can’t get to the pool.  (Although the pool is also in Manhattan, with my gym, so on this one I give myself a pass unless I’m working at the office)

Never mind that for the first month of this injury, I did actually do a lot of things, with minimal effect, or that I know I can wear the AirCast and walk literally thousands of steps with minimal ill effects.  The ankle is now the all-purpose cop-out, a reason to avoid everything.  And while there is definitely an element of self-care and of extreme caution here, since I do not want this to be a permanent issue, I’m afraid of going past the point of caution and into outright self-pity and excuses.  There are plenty of things I can do without ill effects, and lots of resources to do so: there are even entire workouts on YouTube geared to ankle injuries

And also, I did go to Pilates on Saturday.  I wore my compression sock and AirCast the whole time and found out the hard way that not focusing even on upper body work for the last month has cost me dearly.  It’s harder to do planks and push ups than it has been for years, even from my knees.  I’ve been so focused on my inability to do cardio that I willfully blanked out the concept of doing other work, mostly because it’s a lot easier to say, I can’t than it is to look for ways that can.

So it’s back to strength training, or at least, what I can do with one leg.  It’s time to continue the cardio, to put on a water brace and get back in the pool.  And most of all, it’s time to say, “I can” again, with a provisional clause, that I can will only extend to things that do not put weight on a tremulous ankle without a brace to support it.  The list of things I can do are limited; the list of things I can’t do should be as well.

still benched

I went to the doctor on Monday to check in on my foot, which continues to go from Fairly Normal at the start of the day, to Bloated Puffy by the end of the day.

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First thing in the morning, minimal puffiness.  Or puffins.

On Monday, by the time I got to the doctor at 4:30pm, it was puffing out of the top of my ballet flat shoe like rising dough. I took it to the specialist I saw back when I first sprained the ankle, and he pressed down on the swelling with a concerned expression. “Hm. This shouldn’t be,” he said, and I felt my heart sink.

“So the swelling isn’t normal?” I asked

“Nope. Let me just see how you’re healing. This may hurt,” he said, and then poked my ATFL tendon, where the tear is, connecting my leg to my foot. I winced and exclaimed, “OW!”

“Yep, that’s the ATFL we talked about. This isn’t recovering as much as I’d expect for six weeks in.” He asked if I had been doing the exercises he suggested, and I told him I had, and showed him the range of mobility in my foot. That was actually better than expected, as the doctor was quite pleased with my ability to rotate and flex my foot. He asked me to walk across the room and stand on one foot, and I did. Then he looked at my foot critically, and said, “I’m going to prescribe you an AirCast”

“Oh,” I said, “you already issued me one.”

“Then why aren’t you wearing it?”

“It was slowing me down?” I said, and then started laughing. The AirCast was making it hard to walk quickly, but I did wear it for the two weeks I was supposed to wear it. Now I’m supposed to wear it if I’m leaving the house, again. I’m also supposed to ice my ankle (which I’ve been doing!), elevate it at night (ditto), and wear a compression sock (which I already own). And, most of all, I have to stop pushing myself into activity and telling myself I’m “working my ankle for recovery”. I did manage to regain a lot of mobility doing that, but not a lot of actual healing has taken place.

So yesterday, Tuesday, I dutifully put on my compression sock and AirCast and went to fetch my son from school and take him to a dentist appointment for a chipped tooth. I took Lyfts when we could have walked (we did walk a few blocks here and there, but less than we usually would). I THOUGHT that would be the end of the physical stress on my ankle for the day, and settled back in to work, ankle propped on a stool under my desk, while Ben worked on a school project.

Then Ben managed to slice open his thumb with a knife cutting a carboard box – and I ran with him to Urgent Care, a half mile away. It was only after the adrenaline wore off that I realized how exceptionally bad an idea it had been to run with my bleeding son, his hand compressed and elevated in a dishtowel, across Prospect Heights.

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I got him to urgent care for stitches within twenty minutes of the cut!  Parenting win!

Now I have re-trashed my ankle. Even if I wasn’t committed to resting it and getting better, I would be now because it hurt more today than it has in weeks. The bright side is that it actually isn’t puffy at all: the compression sock and the rest for the past two days has actually reduced the edema. The original ATFL tear, however, is still there. There will be no hiking on Mount Misery this weekend (it’s quite pleasant despite the name!), but there may be a trip to the MRI if it doesn’t improve.