Friday, October 18, 2013

Cumulative Injury

It started with a twinge in my right hip, exacerbated every time my Lab, Flicka, pulled from the leash I held in my left hand. Having been a guide dog, she was trained to walk on the left, and there ain't no getting her to switch sides. Much of her good training has gone out the window, however, and now she pulls and sniffs and is in general, a pain to walk. She is also 63 pounds and strong, when she pulls, I go wherever she pulls. Unconsciously I've learned to brace myself from the pulling by planting my right leg when she starts to do so. Over time, I've developed a cumulative injury, making my whole right side - hip, thigh and knee, sore.

I've tried massage. I've tried resting it. I've tried holding the leash in the other hand. I've tried not holding the leash at all, but attaching it to my waist. I've tried putting Arnica on it. I worried and worried that preparing to walk a marathon, would only make it worse. My common sense told me it was silly to keep moving, using muscles that were in pain to start with.

What I discovered, was that when I began training and we walked for hours at a time - without Flicka, my whole right side actually felt better. Over time, it continued to improve, and after walking 26.2 miles on October 6th, it feels the best it's felt in months.

Raising a special-needs child is a cumulative injury. It hurts. It's hard. It hurts. It's hard. It's unrelenting and no matter what we try to alleviate that, it still just is. And the bracing. I brace myself every time the phone rings. I brace myself every time I open the back pack to see what horrors of homework are there to ruin my evening. I brace myself every morning before he wakes up, preparing myself to go into the day ahead. I live in a near-constant state of bracing myself for something, and it's exhausting.

After 17 years of trying and trying to figure out how to make it stop hurting, I've begun to wonder if the answer isn't also counter-intuitive: maybe leaning into it, releasing the brace, powering through, taking the time away from the child as often as we can and exercising the other half of us to balance the side that is way over-used and taxed, perhaps that is the answer.

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Carrie is a parent and advocate of a child with special needs and even more special gifts. She blogs at where this is pretty much her favorite topic. Carrie’s book, WIL OF GOD: Embracing the Relentless Love of a Special Child, is available in print on Amazon and all e-readers.


  1. "every time I open the back pack to see what horrors of homework are there to ruin my evening.."

    Best line ever.


  2. Leaning into it sounds like a good plan, even though at times that also feels like hard work! :)