I BROKE MY BUTT
By: Lauren Anderson
Okay, so did my title get your attention? I’m not being hyperbolic I swear…
Last Wednesday was a rainy day, and it’s also my day to go to therapy. So that morning in the storm, I dashed to my car with my keys, water bottle, book and bumbershoot in hand.
(Bumbershoot is fun word I just discovered that means UMBRELLA. I know you probably knew that… but I didn’t. And as a word nerd, I think I’m in LOVE.)
I was in a hurry, so I wasn’t minding my steps. And in a true moment of D’OY, since my hands were full with therapeutic necessities– I wasn’t using the railing either.
And BAM. I slipped on the wet janky wooden steps that lead out to my parking lot.
I’ve fallen on these steps before… Let me say for the record, THEY ARE NOT GOOD STEPS.
But in this instance, I don’t think it was the steps’ fault. I think if blame were to be placed it would be between the rain and my own haste. My stupid, stupid haste.
It was one of those cinematic falls where both feet leave their footing, and I landed squarely on my butt bone–aka the Coccyx, and right in between my shoulder blades. And then I slid down the rest of the flight of stairs.
I blacked out for a half second, and ALL the wind was knocked out of me. When I got my senses back I was laying on the steps, getting drenched by the rain, trying to take in the full extent of my injury.
I quickly do a Terminator-style body scan:
No blood, except that tiny scrape on my wrist. How’s the head? Good. It didn’t hit anything…Thank God. Legs and arms? Tangled, and for sure bruised– but functional. My clothes are wet, dirty and a little ripped. My Back? It hurts but.. TBD. And my butt? Jesus Christ my butt hurts so bad I feel like blacking out again.
Like that scene from “American Beauty” where she’s laying in the bathtub of rose petals and you get this glorious aerial shot–I was strewn across the steps wondering what made my life come to this.
Picture it. Me in sweatpants and a messy ponytail, fallen down a flight of wooden steps that lead to an alley dumpster. Strewn about is my umbrella…er…I mean BUMBERSHOOT that I remembered to bring, that I didn’t bother using.
-A water bottle that cost me 25 bucks, that I didn’t need and barely use.
-A book that’s taking me too long to finish, that I just keep carrying around…
-And an embarrassing key chain filled with keys to other people’s houses
(People I know who can somehow afford houses)— who trust me to occasionally feed their pets.
I wouldn’t call this shot “American Beauty”. Although the thought of that is making me laugh. I would title this shot, “A Possible Low Point.” And now I’m laughing even harder.
It’s not like I’m mad at myself for falling down the steps. Except…I am. I’m actually mad about it.
Because injuries like these are stupid, and kinda funny, but mostly stupid. And they REALLY hurt.
I gather my wet things and sit up slowly. Another dose of pain shoots through my butt. I rally somehow, and make it to therapy on time.
The rest of the day, I take it easy. But every time I laugh, or move from sitting to standing or vice versa, my butt sings with pain. I contemplated all day going to the doctor. And I don’t.
Cut to the next day– I wake up with new and better bruising. All over my arms and my back are speckled in blue bruises. And every time I laugh, my ribs hurt now too. And my butt hurts even more.
“This is one of those things where it gets worse, and then it will start to get better.” I think. Or should I say, rationalize. And it does– sort of. I take some Ibuprofen and soldier on.
In a rare turn of events, I had taken the weekend off from my shows to attend my BFF’s wedding. So luckily, I didn’t have to run around and entertain for the next 3 days– professionally speaking.
But I was still at a wedding! And those things are not for the faint of heart… or the sore of butt. So what did I end up doing regardless? I ran around and entertained. In shoes that are not conducive to back support. Sigh… Will I ever learn?
It’s getting better– but it’s so slow. I’ve never had an injury quite like this.
I started to get a little depressed. It’s weird having an “invisible injury”. Unless I told you the story, you wouldn’t know why I was acting this way. I hate having to moan and use help getting out of chairs… not even able to pick up something I drop on the floor.
I realized something that I think I have touched on before, but with this fall, it’s coming into a new VERY REAL light.
I think I still associate a lot of my body love/ body worth on my body’s ability to be… well… ABLE.
A lot of how I’ve come to know body love, has been discovering that my body can do incredible things. It can be strong and quick and capable. And when I found that out, I started to view my body in a new way. That was my avenue into seeing my body as something deserving of love.
Which is a good thing by all means! It was crucial for me. It was a turning point.
But this last week I realized, that the love I was feeling is CONDITIONAL.
It’s like saying to my body, “Okay, you can look however you want as long as you show me and the rest of the world that you are strong and healthy–and that your body doesn’t need anything from anyone.”
I have heard this phenomenon referred to in other books/ articles as “The Myth of the Good Fatty”.
Meaning you can have any kind of body you want, as long as you are still “healthy”. As long as I can run around and say, “Look everyone! I work out! I eat well! I’m not a pre-diabetic risk! My heart is fully-functioning!” then I am still deserving of love. Of attention. Of basic medical care.
The phenom also includes a prescribed personality type. There is also this expectation that you have to be extra-kind and/or mothering. You have to be jolly like Santa. That you aren’t to be taken seriously. That you can be “cute” but not “sexy”.
Basically, there is no room for the down and dirty. Or an injury. Or a bad day. If that happens, you are quickly labeled dumb, sick, or gross. Mean and lazy. A strain on everyone’s insurance. An epidemic.
I’m talking about the “Myth of the Good Fatty” here, as I’ve come to understand it.
But I think a version of this applies to all bodies. You can be old, as long as you’re not sick and do yoga and look like Helen Mirren. You can be very young as long as you’re wise beyond your years and able to “know your place”. You can be black, as long as you “act white”. You can be small, but you better be a “firecracker!” or “stronger than s/he looks!” And if you’re a short man, you better at least be RICH.
I’m just listing stereotypes that we all probably know and HATE. But there they are. And in the shock and pain of my own stupid injury, I realized I have been applying these stereotypes TO MYSELF!
Why? Why would I do this?! That’s bullshit right?! But I think it’s true.
I have been “sitting” in this discovery for a few days now, but it all came to a head yesterday when I finally broke down and went to the doctor.
My official diagnosis is “Deep contusion on my coccyx” which is basically fancy medical speak for deep bruising on my butt bone. EXACTLY WHAT I THOUGHT. There are also some pretty major bruises in other areas, but nothing is officially broken, thankfully. I imagine I will be seeing a veritable “Northern Lights” of colors on my body in the coming week though.
And there is also nothing to be done except wait it out and be gentle with myself.
Then my doctor said something that changed everything. She goes,
“You’re lucky you’re so muscular. Those muscles are probably what protected you from a much worse injury. They will also help you heal quicker.”
She was off-handedly saying this, but I could feel myself perk up. I was suddenly proud of myself for having those muscles. I was proud of the work I’ve put in over the years of gaining that muscle. I was happy that even though I was injured, I had done something “right” in the eyes of a medical professional.
But by the time I was sitting gingerly in my car again, I had this overwhelmingly complicated realization. I perked up because my doctor complimented my “healthiness”. I know she didn’t mean to, she actually provided me with really good care. But she still inadvertently reinforced the “Myth”.
And I loved hearing it.
Am I really still this desperate for proof that my body is good? And the answer is YES.
I hesitate to use a word like “desperate” because again, that makes me sound out-of-control and/or needy. Something I’m not allowed to be if I adhere to the “Myth”.
But desperation just might be the closest word to the truth, I’m afraid.
I’ve never had the capacity to express it, because I don’t think I was “strong enough” to show that much vulnerability before. It’s like I had to work all this time to be able to admit that I still have a need.
Because I discovered, even my own love for my own self is sometimes CONDITIONAL.
It’s me standing in front of all of you with my palms out and a “broken butt” saying– “I still need help learning that I am okay. That my body is okay. I can do a lot of this for myself, and I have, but I can’t do it all.”
And the truth is, we’re not on this planet alone.
The truth is, somedays Lizzo probably doesn’t want to put on her body suit and sing about feeling “Good as Hell”.
The truth is, is that for as far as we’ve come with loving our bodies, there is always going to be someone like Bill Maher, who thinks that Body Shaming is “Good for You”.
And the truth is, It’s taken me years of concentrated effort to get here. And for as much body love as I’ve discovered and gained for myself, I am still DESPERATE for that love to be reflected back at me by the society I live in.
I can only do so much, prove so much, knowing what little I know.
And I can’t do much of any of it right now, when my body aches just from sitting.
I hope you all stay with me as the butt bruises from this ridiculous yet painful “Invisible Injury” heal.
And hopefully we can help heal each other from the bruises of these “Invisible Myths” that hang over us, as well.
I personally can’t wait to watch them fade from blue to purple to yellow to green to gone.
If my “broken butt” has taught me anything, it’s that being gentle with myself is sometimes the only thing I can do.
It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s okay to admit the depth of my own folly and my need.
We are stronger together, and we are not alone.