"Is she stupid?!"

Maybe she is. Let’s see…

Something in the mechanism of writing this blog prompted me to be honest with myself about my depression, and prompted me to be honest about needing to seek help, which I did. The counsellor at university, whom I’ve now seen twice, was very good, and his acknowledgement of how I’m feeling about life has prompted me to think a little harder about things.

When I applied to university to study physiotherapy, life was very bleak. I had a dead-end office job that I largely hated, lived in a shabby house in a busy corner of London, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a decent man anywhere and was beginning to feel that I was destined for tragic spinsterhood.

When the offer from the university came through, and it was unconditional, it felt like the start of a new life ahead. I’d get a decent qualification in something that would be a good, solid career, and still live in London so that I might yet bump into that nice, wealthy banker who would eventually marry me and install me in a house in suburbia where I could raise organic children and go to yoga.

Then I discovered Cowboy. I had been determined not to discover anybody, but they say it happens when you stop looking, and after a whirlwind summer with him, suddenly I was in love with a man who was neither wealthy nor a banker, and his ambitions couldn’t be further from a house in suburbia, organic children and yoga.

It was early days in our relationship, so I threw myself into my new degree with enthusiasm and enjoyed my first term immensely. I lived in a lovely little house in Tooting (they do exist), and I waited out the long months until Cowboy would visit for Christmas with a rosy optimism. It wasn’t clear where this relationship was going, or if it would last that long, so I kept my sights on finishing my degree.

After he left from his long visit over the Christmas holidays, depression hit me hard, and I told myself it was just because I missed him. Looking back, it was the first sign that my goalposts were moving. After my trip over there in the springtime, I felt less and less interested in my degree, and more and more interested in how I was going to end up where I wanted to be: with him, raising partially organic, free-range children and probably working so hard I’d never have time for yoga.

And now? I spent long, glorious weeks with him this summer, and it was obvious where this relationship is going: marriage. Let’s gloss over the part where I don’t have a ring on my finger and he hasn’t learnt that he can’t propose with a bottle cap that says “Marry Me?” on the inside. His intentions are noble.

Now I sit in my lovely little house in Tooting wondering how best to forge our life together. Now I sit in lectures and tutorials imagining how long it will take for me to finish this degree here in London, move to America and get established before we’re in any position to start a family. Then I think about how I could make that time shorter.

I could stop studying physiotherapy. I could enrol at a manual therapy school in Seattle and study there for 11 months, and come out with a diploma that enables me to be licensed to practise in America without any further hassle (glossing over the whole Green Card thing). I’d be educated in the requirements for running my own practice, I’d be informed about how to be accepted by insurance companies. I’d be two hours away from Cowboy instead of 24 hours.

This is of course dependent on being accepted to the school, on being granted a student visa, on finding somewhere acceptable and affordable to live. It’s a little terrifying to imagine just flying over there and landing myself in a whole new city, a whole new country, but I have friends over there already, and the prospect excites me.

It’s all theoretical just now. Cowboy is doing his best to be supportive and understanding, although I can tell he is freaking out. He confided in a friend of his that I was thinking of leaving my course.

“Is she stupid?!” was the response. Time will tell…

Ouchy

So, last Friday I drove to meet my friend for supper, and because London is currently a hot, sticky, sweaty hell hole, I had selected flipflops as my footwear, and because I get worried about them jamming under my pedals in the car, I kicked them off and drove barefoot.

I’ve done it before, I quite like it. I like how much more sensitive I can be.

There was a fair amount of traffic, a lot of stop-start, a lot of clutch control needed. Half way to my destination, my left foot began to feel a little sore where the clutch was springing back up into the ball of my foot.

Reluctantly, I chose an opportune moment to stop and put some trainers on, continued driving and thought nothing of it.

Then three days later, I donned my beloved riding boots (Mountain Horse Mountain Riders, if you care) and stomped around in them at the yard for a bit, rode a horse for a bit, and thought “My foot sort of hurts. Oh well.”

I had a bruised sort of pain in the arch of my foot. The next day, the pain was vastly worse, and on the sole of my foot, I had a hard, hot bump where something was obviously wrong. Weight-bearing was painful. Shoes were out of the question.

I applied some of my physio training and also some Google searching, and reached the conclusion that I had managed to tear my plantar fascia whilst driving with no shoes on.

If the foot bones were a bow, the plantar fascia is the bowstring that maintains the tension in the bow that makes it strong and powerful. I had bent my bow in a strange way, and applied compression to the bowstring, and the bowstring had torn. Not fully, probably just partially, but nonetheless, it is very painful.

Plantar fascia is ligamentous, which means it doesn’t have a very rich blood supply – this is why it’s just reddened and not bruised. A torn muscle will bruise, as muscles have a rich blood supply. Muscles heal quickly, because they have a ready source of nutrients and other good things that help repair the damage. Ligaments heal slowly, because they don’t have such a good supply.

I’m looking at 4-6 weeks recovery time. The best I can do at the moment is ice, gentle stretching, and rest. It’s boring, and it’s very painful. I don’t recommend it.

Drive with shoes on, people. Unless you have an automatic.

One year ago today, I broke my elbow

Whilst out on my ridiculous adventure last summer, I found myself out in the middle of nowhere with all of the other tourists staying at the ranch that week, feeling my horse test out how well he could round his back under my saddle.

Turned out he was pretty good at it. As he bronc hopped his way through the sagebrush, sending me cartwheeling through the air, I knew I was coming off. I knew I was aiming for a hefty blow on my back when I landed.

And all that went through my head was: Oh my god I’m not wearing a hard hat, I am going to break my skull and die.

Some of the rudimentary judo training that I had when I was 10 must have stuck somewhere, because I managed to land quite squarely on my biggest back muscles, protect my head, and break my fall a little with my forearms. The ground was nonetheless as hard as concrete, and knocked the wind right out of me.

At least Cowboy isn’t here to see that, I thought to myself as I sat up, trying to encourage my lungs to expand fully again.

One of the other wranglers who was on duty that day came over and offered to take me back to the trucks. We had barely started our ride for the day, and I could hear Pony Club wisdom ringing in my ears: Just get straight back on the horse.

“I’m fine!” I said cheerfully, dusting myself off and standing up a little gingerly. “Let’s go!” I got back on the horse, and we rode on.

Five minutes later, the horse bucked me off again, this time choosing a rocky, slippery slope, where I jettisoned myself as carefully as possible from where I clung in the saddle. I rolled, slid, absorbed a good amount of Montana dirt and gravel into the skin over my hip, and eventually came to a rest.

“Could I maybe trade horses with somebody?” I asked, getting up again and discovering I was bleeding from a couple of places.

I had tested all my joints, and they had appeared to work, so I climbed aboard a different horse who carried me home gently and carefully – although this took three hours. When I slithered off at the end of our ride, my left elbow had completely seized up and my back was ridiculously sore.

I had a good cry in the bath back at the ranch house, and then gave myself stern instructions to man up.

Long story short: the next day I insisted I was fine, despite a complete inability to move my left elbow, and attempted to climb on to another horse, with Cowboy’s capable hand firmly on my bottom to help me up. I screamed in agony, and then again insisted I was fine.

He took me by the shoulders, whilst I tried desperately hard not to cry in front of him in case he thought I was being a girl, and he said gently, “You’d better get that looked at.”

“It’s definitely not broken,” I told the doctor, who looked at me as if I was crazy.

“It’s definitely broken,” he told me, after the X-ray of my radial head had been processed. “Would you like some pain relief? I’ll bet it’s pretty sore.”

“No, no,” I said, not wanting to cause a fuss. He gave me the look again. “I’ll be just fine.”

Well, I was. Bones take a long time to mend, so it’s still a little squiffy, but it gave Cowboy the perfect excuse to give me a little extra attention over the next two weeks: saddling my horse for me, helping me mount, taping my elbow. Perhaps it was the making of us.