Someone gave me a diary when I was about six, and all through elementary school I would unlock it once a year or so to write another variation on “My brother is anoeeing when he trys to play with my freinds.”
Shortly after the entry on a possible monster with bloody eyes in the church basement, there’s a whole page dedicated to “I want a Broken arm or fott please.” This sentiment was inspired by numerous classmates who, unlike me, were awesome enough to arrive at school with day-glo casts for weeks at a stretch.
Broken limbs didn’t just get you special permission to sit in the rocking chair for story time; they also proved that you led a life of incredible daring.
I could not compete.
My childhood lack of grievous bodily harm has matured into a lifelong talent for injuring myself in spectacularly undramatic ways. I still get hurt occasionally; I just do it in the least interesting manner possible.
A Few Examples:
- I grew really fast one summer in middle school, which made my legs hurt a lot. I also spent half of 7th grade limping due to not damaging my knee in any discernable way.
- In high school I developed an ingrown toenail, and then I contracted a case of Persistent Wrist Pain Caused by Nothing.
- In college I strained my shoulder by reaching too enthusiastically for a salt shaker, and one morning I was physically unable to get out of bed because I had coughed all night and worn out my core muscles.
Given this history, I wasn’t too concerned a couple of weeks ago when my right arm developed a sudden enthusiasm for random, stabbing pains. Since I could still scoop ice cream, the problem wasn’t seriously affecting my way of life.
Pretty soon, though, my shoulder wouldn’t rotate much without expressing its rage. I started feeling like a poorly designed action figure—one where you try to activate the Kung Fu Grip, but his arm won’t come back all the way because his veiny bicep collides with his rippling pecs.
After a few days of using my left arm for everything, that hand started to hurt, too. A small part of my brain acknowledged what was logically happening, but the rest of it was busy panicking.
Finally, I woke up to a right arm that couldn’t even reach my face and the firm belief that every movement was sawing away at permanent nerve damage. My roommate found me on my bed waiting for the clinic to open, whimpering quietly and imagining the worst possible things that could happen.
When you arrive at Urgent Care with a case of “my arm hurts,” they smirk and send you to sit next to “I have the sniffles” for a couple of hours. My roommate sat patiently while I talked determinedly at her about anything except how I was probably dying.
When my frothing anxiety and I finally got to see the doctor, he revealed that I had an acute attack of tendinitis caused by something thrilling like typing wrong. In retrospect, I don’t know why I was worried. It’s probably not physically possible for me to be injured in any interesting and dramatic way. I’ve never even had strep throat—I’ve just had a lot of cases of, “Oops, never mind, it turns out that’s just another cold.”
I ended up with a sling, some low-end drugs, and a diagram of goofy-looking rotator cuff exercises.
This episode has been the crowning achievement of my lame injury history so far. I had an immediate visual representation of my suffering, but nothing good to back it up when people asked what happened.
I wore the sling for the better part of a week, and I spent most of that time trying to come up with a better story.
Also, it turns out that tendinitis sticks around for quite a while once you develop it. This means that I’m still putting the sling back on about once a week, and all the same sympathetically eager questions crop up again.
(P.S. If you were naming an affliction of the tendons, wouldn’t you spell it “tendonitis”? So would I.)