Broken left little toe

A month ago I was carelessly (as usual) walking barefoot in my flat and basically penalty-kicked the granite stone door stopper of my bedroom. I felt significant pain right afterwards, but didn’t suspect anything until I tried to put a shoe on and basically couldn’t move. I took off the shoe (I was supposed to leave the house in the next 10 minutes so I just automated myself into getting dressed and everything) and sat for a bit, thinking what to do next. I called to decline the appointment I was headed to, and crawled back to my living room.

I limped and crawled around the house for the rest of the day, with peaks of pain when I put weight on the foot. The night was just as painful and the next day I carefully hopped to the doctor, then to get X-Rays, then to visit the local surgeon, to be told the little toe was indeed fractured, but needed no surgery, just buddy taping and some care when moving around. This is how it looked like the second day:

I honestly was quite OK with both the pain and the inability to move around as usual, and got a lot of well wishes and so on, which I did welcome, but didn’t really absorb. The pain from moving the broken bone fragments was pretty specific and localised in the first week and was triggered only by movement, so if I could take enough care I was able to avoid it altogether. In comparison, I experienced period pain in the last 25 years that was much harder to handle, as it was unpredictable, unavoidable (I didn’t use painkillers that much) and did cause significant external bleeding, which was not the case for this fracture.

The bone healed relatively quickly, the puzzle of fragments (it was a spiral fracture) stabilised in a couple weeks thanks to the initial blood clot then temporary soft tissues holding the bone pieces together, while the stretched ligaments between the toes kept hurting for the following month and prevented full movement range of the foot (the last movement I restored was walking downstairs, even after hopping/running). In the meanwhile I read a lot about bone healing! The little toe does have a bulge where it broke, which I assume is the callus, but it can withstand movements quite well and today I even wore a shoe for the first time (until now it was sandals or nothing).

My thoughts about this are around the fact that for me this has been a very minor disruption in my plans, and even a welcome break (no pun intended) in my otherwise borderline overloaded timeline, while it was perceived by others as a hindrance (if that happened to them; so they assumed for me as well) and a major pain highlight. Honestly, I would trade even a fraction of my mental strain with recurring pain as from this fracture, not only because it is orders of magnitude easier for me to handle (for more or less healthy reasons), but also because it is perceived as a true boundary from everyone around – something that is respected without question: of course you need time off, do you need us to help you with anything, and so on. With my mental struggles I mostly heard either nothing or sometimes even dismissive comments.

I don’t want to look thankless in any way, but I feel like my little toe was a better ambassador than my brain when it comes to obtaining help.


Stereoscopic vision (lack thereof)

I am reading Oliver Sacks’ “The Mind’s Eye” and I first want to say that I am fascinated and soothed by how Sacks talks about some of his patients – with humanity and empathy. It is difficult for me to explain how reassuring it feels to always be treated as a human being, who deserves respect and consideration: physical and mental issues can bend your life in unbearable ways, but the person, the “you”, should remain out of their reach.

(It sounds easy to say, and I feel I am not entitled to talk about it because on so many levels I am healthy and functioning; but as I have experienced how temporary malfunctions have hit me hard, I feel guilty for having been so weak, ungrateful and doubtful about my recovering potential, when others face permanent changes in their bodily abilities and fight so bravely.)

Back to the book. I started Chapter 5 “Stereo Sue” with expectation and curiosity. Sue (Susan R. Barry) grew up stereoblind without relevant difficulties, but at the age of forty her sight process worsened in a way that she seeked professional help, started vision therapy and surprisingly acquired stereo vision at 48 years of age – against all odds, because it was (is still?) commonly considered that stereo vision must be acquired within the first 3 years of life.

I was so touched by her story that I kept reading page after page, speechless, breathless. I cried when she described her old way of seeing the world and her former issues, because I recognised my daily life. Stereo blindness is not a rare condition: many people (5 to 10% of the population, according to Sacks) have grown up without acquiring stereo vision but developed a bunch of alternative ways of estimating depth and distance of the people and objects around them, and most live normal lives.

I am unsure of what to do. I must say that my stereo blindness interferes with several activities (driving a car, playing ball games are extremely difficult for me, among other things) but enhances others (drawing from real life is easier: I see it flat already, and I even guess how hard it is to draw for people who see in 3D!). However, I would hate to see myself as “in need to be fixed” and that stereo vision would bring me “closer to normal”. I am aware that I am missing a piece of functionality that most have, and that most make good use of, but I also feel that it’s not that crucial for me to get it too. I would hate to get stereo vision to get a step closer to how others perceive the world, just because my way of seeing the world couldn’t be understood.

Sacks himself lost stereo visionĀ  after an operation to his right eye, and considered it a net loss of functionality – that his perception of the world was changed for the bad and the false – I understand his conclusions, but they are not mine; I have always functioned differently, and that should have equal dignity. I was grateful to Sacks for his admiration for all the clever workarounds that Sue was putting in place – he admired her ability to use other senses and ways to compensate for an ability that most people give for granted.

I want to let these thoughts simmer for a while. I am for sure excited to discover that it’s possible for me to gain stereo vision, but I want to think well about the motivations that would lead me on that path. In the meanwhile I keep sketching.