From Hiking Poles to Wizard Staffs

My ankles are unreliable.

When my rheumatologist presses the weird puffy bubbles of swelling at my joints, he says things like “this is rich with synovial fluid”. That WD40 of the joints is supposed to be IN THE JOINTS not poufing out my fingers and feet. The lack of bio-lubricant sometimes makes for painful situations.

When a tendon goes awry due to the pressure, or when the fine bones around the top of my foot or in the knot of ankle bones grind together instead of slipping past one another, that really, really hurts. It also makes it impossible to put weight on that foot at all for several minutes until it sorts itself out.

In addition to this occasional seizing of all operation, my ankles also frequently feel wobbly, and like I’m going to fall down. They are weak, and this inflammation isn’t doing them any favors.

My wrists are as bad as my ankles, but I don’t have to use them to stay upright as long as I steer clear of downward-facing dog.

I meditate by walking.

I used to do everything by walking. I’m a walker. I’m the kind of person who thinks a three mile walk sounds pleasant. I use to be that annoying human who reset her fitbit goal to 15,000 steps a day because “I average 12,500 everyday anyway, I wanted to have something to reach for.”  I did my best writing while walking, my best problem-solving. I commuted on foot and train. I ran errands the same way. I get to know a city best by meandering its sidewalks and its transit system.  (It’s pretty safe to say I don’t know anything about Santa Barbara.)  Moreover, walking was my introversion time. It was a thing I did by myself for myself, at my own pace.

I gained 60 lbs after I got sick because I stopped being able to walk 12.5K steps a day.  And because my wobbly, weak, wrecked ankles are unreliable, even though the meds have covered the fatigue part of the psoriatic arthritis, I still can’t walk by myself.

Enter this purchase:

wooden walking stick with a golden eagle handle

“that’s not a cane – that’s a staff” ~ Lora

When I first considered getting a cane, I texted my husband that I wanted to travel the world as digital nomads and put all of our stuff into storage. My adventurer’s heart was rebelling at the idea of purchasing yet another orthopedic device. My world shrinks in around me repeatedly, and each arthritis aid tool seems to hem the margins in a little closer.

The emotion I have been wrestling with the most this spring is despair.

It’s hard for me to think optimistically about the future. I have a hard time making plans, or planning ahead at all really. I have a hard time getting normal things done. I immerse myself in work. I immerse myself in reading for school. But I’m not really there. I’m not really anywhere.

I’m battling depression so hard my primary care doctor made me cry last week because she made me promise not to commit suicide. I’m not suicidal, but to her, I sounded like I could be. If you know anyone who has chronic pain, give them an extra hug. I promise you, they need it.

I desperately need woods time. I need walking time. I need to move or I’m going to lose my mind. So, I bought this cane that makes my hand smell like pennies when I use it.

And this weekend, my wonderful husband took me here:

Anna Ruby Falls

The creek on the way to Anna Ruby Falls

The main waterfalls were .5 miles from the parking lot on a paved road. (I was sad that there were stairs at the very end, or the whole place would have been wheelchair accessible.)  We walked a single mile, out and back, with the help of my goofy cane.  It is the farthest I’ve walked in a really long time.

Walking with a cane was… weird.

I have an invisible disability, and it suddenly became visible because of this device. I was prepared for a good bit of the visibility thanks to the wheelchairs at airports. The curious looks. The you-poor-thing pity-face that is its own weird experience. At the same time, by making it visible, I didn’t feel like I needed to explain myself. I didn’t feel like I needed to make excuses, or apologize for going so slowly.   Most of all, it felt like freedom.

Brett knew why I got the cheap, cosplay cane instead of the real deal. The real deal was still a little too 42-going-on-82 for me. He also knew – as I did – that the daggummed thing worked. And that it was too weak and frou-frou for any serious mileage.

When he went into the National Forest Service’s gift shop at the trailhead, he had found the solution.

hiking walking stick cane

It’s a hiking-stick…

The telescoping, cork-handled walking stick that is more like my hiking poles than a cane. It’s sporty. Yes. I needed a sporty cane. I can live with that about myself.  (In case you’re wondering, the vertical handles on my hiking poles were not ok for my wrists or fingers. Yes, I did try it.)

I took a rest day today, because I was in more pain than usual after all of the activity yesterday. But you’d better believe that my neighbors are going to see my wobbly, slow self sauntering around the block tomorrow.

No, my pain isn’t really getting all that better. My depression isn’t really either, but exercise is supposed to help.  I’m not going to sit around and wait for it, anyway.




4 thoughts on “From Hiking Poles to Wizard Staffs

  1. I so relate. I find my cane often to be very freeing. May it boost your energy, lessen your pain and help return a bit of outdoor oomph to your life. 💙 #40GoingOn80 #InvisibleIllness

  2. Pingback: I don’t know where to begin | Alicia K. Anderson

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