Bringing Hauntology Home

I wrote a blog post almost a month ago in which I broke down the various life hacks that have helped me go from exerphobic to exerphilic (those probably aren’t words, but humor me). Near the end of that post, though, I revealed that I was currently sedentary, for reasons beyond my control:

[My fitness hacks] worked for a while. I even logged a hundred miles on my new bike! But then I started feeling some pain. I took a week off and it went away, so I got back to working out. Maybe I got too excited—I always feel good while I’m working out—or maybe I should have taken more days off. Point is, the pain returned… and it hasn’t gone away.

… I haven’t worked out at all in almost two weeks, and it still hurts to walk. I’d actually built up some visible muscle over the past month or so, but it’s now melting away before my eyes. And I can’t really do anything about it.

Travel plans being what they are, it’s going to be a while before I get to a doctor. The worst case scenario isn’t really that bad, all things considered, just inconvenient. Minimize your physical activity, they’ll tell me. Rest. Take pain medicine.

The whole thing kind of pisses me off. I guess the one thing you really can’t hack is your own body.

Well, a month has passed, and things have changed, but not for the better. Yesterday morning I finally accepted reality and broke out one of my old crutches. Despite a month and a half sans-exercise, my condition is worsening, and my mobility is increasingly compromised. I can walk unassisted, but it’s not a pleasant experience. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting this turn of events.

I remain optimistic that I’ll be running around causing trouble in the very near future, but the fact remains that I have a series of hurdles ahead of me in the coming weeks. Some of these hurdles are physical, some logistical, and some professional, but the biggest hurdles—and the ones over which I have the most control—are emotional. I get depressed when I feel limited. The pain is uncomfortable, yes, but its true power (at least in my case) comes from its ability to activate bad memories.

I’m hoping to have a diagnosis and treatment plan in place within a week or two, and even before that process begins I’m truly convinced that the worst of my mobility and health issues are in my past. So I’m not mustering the courage to go on another medical odyssey, not really. No, I’m a seasoned traveler. I’m steeling myself for a confrontation with my past. I’m coming face to face with ghosts. I’m being haunted not just by my own medical history, but by those of so many people I love who’s physical challenges I’ve been witness to, many of whom have passed away.

I won’t be posting medical updates on this blog, but—given my interest in increasing accessibility in both the academy and the world beyond—I suspect there will be many posts in the coming weeks inspired by the issues I’m currently facing.So, get excited for that, I guess?

There’s good reason for me to be optimistic in spite of the pain I’m currently in. I’m an historian of patient advocacy because of the time I spent as a patient. As hard as those years were—and they were very hard—I don’t regret them. Whether the journey I’m in for this time around is long or short, easy or hard, I know that I’ll be the better for it, as long as I stay positive, and continue living an intentional life.

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.


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