I have been sleeping badly. Which for me means waking up in the middle of the night, and staying awake. I’ve had this happen a couple of times and I know there is invariably a burr in my subconscious which is keeping me from sleep. I am crap when I am tired – everything seems like an enormous burden. I used to swallow sleeping tabs happily, but my body hates the drug now. Even half a tablet has me dragging around like a sick vampire when the sun comes up.
Over time I’ve developed a few tricks to help get me get back to sleep: donning socks to warm my feet, switching on the bedside light and facing it as if it were the sun, imagining only best-case scenarios, eating something. But often they don’t work (like now) and all I can do it wait it out.
On top of it all my left foot has been giving me gyp. The heel is painful and my foot crunches up into a spasmodic bunch. Putting my weight on it, however gingerly, is not an option. On Tuesday at yoga I fell out of Tree Pose – screaming slightly. “What’s up with you?” asked Karin the teacher. She listened as I told her about my foot, frowning. “It’s not just that though is it? You seem out of sorts in general at the moment. Whatever it is, get it sorted. You need to get your balance back.”
She’s not wrong. I do feel out of whack. Assailed by vague shadows and ‘what ifs’, a little fearful. There is change in the air, trouble at the well, a sense of loss – I can’t put my finger on it … but I know it’s these sketchily drawn Grimm monsters that are keeping me awake.
The orthopaedic doctor was unsmiling and matter of fact, but he asked all the right questions. And he knew what I had been thinking: “It’s not cancer“ he told me.
You can tell that already?
“It’s Plantar Fasciitis. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. We see this a lot in runners or overweight people.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“And in the middle-aged.”
“I’m going to give you a small injection into your heel. It’s going to hurt a little. But not as much as the big injection will hurt without it. Are you ok with that?”
Sure – pain doesn’t scare me.
Next thing I had kicked him on the side of his head, the needle had broken off in my heel and the syringe was flying across the room.
“Stop it. Just stop it”, the doctor hissed fixing his skew glasses: “I said it would be painful, for heaven’s sake.”
He had to be kidding: “That you did. But you didn’t mention you would be stabbing me with razor-sharp, red-hot poker. Rather be honest so I know what to expect.”
He looked at me for a long moment: “Ok, then: this is going to hurt like hell. And that’s just the anaesthetic, the steroid is going hurt worse.”
He wasn’t lying. The second injection felt like boiling poison.
When I got up to leave I fell right over. Dizzy with relief, with adrenalin, with an unexpected side effect of the local anaesthetic. “One in ten thousand people.” muttered the Doctor, handing me a glass of water.
After five minutes or so I got back up, showed him I could stand on my own and headed for the waiting room. Where the price of the consult made me want to faint again.
“Walk less.” he said in parting.
Then: “And don’t over-think things.”
On the way home the traffic was snarling, load-shedding had turned off the lights in rush hour. Capetonians are, at their best, mean drivers – but this was a fight to the death. No-one was prepared to give. Worse, I kept stalling the car, getting in their way. My foot was leaden, lumpen, unresponsive. It just wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do. And suddenly I understood what my pal Tash had meant when she told me crossly the other day that no, actually I didn’t really know how it felt not to be able to dance.
A big boil of anger and sadness welled up in my head and I started screaming at the man in the car next to me to “just let me in, let me in, let me in”. He looked startled and mouthed apologies, almost driving up the kerb to let me through. I cried as I drove through the dark. Great gobs of tears rolling down my cheeks.
Then I was home and an excited furry face had appeared at the door. There was a solar light in the darkness, a sofa and a cushion. There was a cup of vanilla chai tea with honey in my hand and a blanket over my legs. My foot was painfree, the dizziness gone and I felt like I had survived a war.
That night I slept like a baby.