How easy it is to forget what it’s like to feel vulnerable. That feeling of sudden, disabling weakness that sweeps in when not one, but several things go wrong. Individually, none is a big deal, but in combination, it’s a sharp reminder that we’re not really in charge.
When September arrived, I naively looked forward to spring. Facebook was vibrant with images of wattle in bloom. Then, after barely a breath, summer landed, full-throated. New fires licked the coast like hungry dogs; the heat-susceptible among us staggered around our chores.
‘It’s just my usual MS stuff’, I countered to anyone hearing that I was poorly.
Night after night, I awoke with intractable pain down my right side, hip to toe – that is, if I’d been able to get to sleep in the first place. Then one morning, easing myself off the bed, I strained a muscle in my right leg. Unable to rest that leg on the floor, I couldn’t walk, even get to the bathroom, until somehow I could. My kind neighbour brought in his late mother’s wheelchair for me to try out, in case there was a next time.
My exercise program continued to slide as I experimented with different strategies, hoping to pinpoint exactly what I might be doing that could possibly be exacerbating my pain. I felt my strength and flexibility ebbing; exhaustion took over.
In fact, it was more than ‘MS stuff’.
One rechargeable battery in my hearing aids was losing its power. The other was fine. It was time to send the aids to Melbourne for their three-year warranty check. The audiologist gave me another pair for the week, a different model. More technology to master to ensure smooth connections with my phone, my computer, the television; Ken helps me troubleshoot in my stressed state.
And then, I was scammed. One early morning, half-awake, I was browsing the internet when I saw an advertisement for compression socks. The pitch was compelling; I ordered four pairs on special. As my payment summary flickered through, I saw my order (and the cost) had multiplied; eight pairs were being sent and the special deal had morphed into an exorbitant bottom line.
I complained immediately, shooting off several emails to the merchant, and advising PayPal. I’d been the victim of a horribly aggressive marketing scam, aimed to take advantage of people exactly like me – distracted, and in pain. Within a couple of weeks, I received a partial refund (they didn’t want the socks back) but the worst part was the anger and shame I felt for days afterwards.
The accumulation of things wearing me down had left me vulnerable. I’d relaxed my guard and become exposed.
A wrong turn, a mistake, a bad decision is much more likely when one is in that state.
I can list more stressors – illness, hospitalisation and even death in my circle; pleasurable events cancelled due to my incapacity – but I can also list joys. My 14-year-old grandson wins his first after-school job; I read and enjoy more books than usual as I’m confined to barracks; the extra home help we’ve been waiting for finally falls into place; as I slowly reinstate my exercises, Ken resumes his early morning walks.
Cooler weather arrives.
This day I’m gifted a surprise, in this inner-city, sparsely vegetated suburb of mine. Our exterior camera has caught a Red Wattlebird in full flight above the front gate, complete with yellow abdomen and small red pendant below its ear. Caught off-guard, its tender underside exposed, I see a fine, handsome creature – and a vulnerable one. The image fills my day.