Chapter Seventeen: Mind over Matter

Ten days limp past, punctuated by mum industriously (and bewilderingly) spreading honey on a stubborn back wound, a demanding physical therapy routine of finger wriggles and knee raises, and a steady stream of guests bearing yet more fucking unicorn colouring-in books. 

The only major change is that the pain in my left foot is now burning with an increased ferocity, to the point where it now keeps me awake for most of the night.

*Ding Dong*. 

Mum opens the door to Tim and Kris Hallbom, two wonderful humans and gurus on the NLP circuit. For those who don’t know, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) is a bunch of useful tools you can learn to help you hack your brain, think about things differently, deal with trauma, and basically be a better version of yourself. Tim and Kris had been my teachers for a six-month practitioners course I had taken last year. 

“Hello Lucy”, Kris says, walking straight over to my bed without hesitation. “We heard about the accident, and want to see if we can help you”.  She puts her arms around my shoulders and gives me a gentle hug.

“I’ll make the tea”, Mum disappears into the kitchen to busy herself as we discuss the accident, searching for any major mental health issues it might have thrown up for me. We focus on the moment of the accident at first, but as I relive it in my mind, I just don’t feel much trauma at all. Perhaps it’s too early for all that, but the more we explore it, the more it becomes clear that my suffering is all related to the aftermath, and specifically how much sadness and pain it has brought to the people I love. So, we shift to the thing that is quite literally keeping me up all night, my foot. 

“Describe the pain to me”, Tim says. 

“Well, at its worst, it feels as if someone is ploughing into my toe nail with a pneumatic drill”. 

They wrinkle their noses. 

“Can you think about the pain without attaching any judgement to it? Can you just get curious about it?” Kris asks me. 

I try, honing in on the sensations in my foot without attaching any negativity to them. 

“What do you think the pain means?” Tim asks.

“Oh, I know that one,” I say, proudly. “It’s the severed nerves in my foot calling out to each other, using electric signals. They’re trying to find each other again”. 

“That’s kind of sweet”, he says. 

“Yeah. Mat and I have named them and everything”. I say, imagining them calling out to each other wistfully  …. “Davide!”…  “Sophie!”… 

Kris Smiles at me, having clearly landed on something she is happy with. “So, if you really think about it, the pain you’re feeling is healing pain. And this sensation is just a positive manifestation of your body trying to fix itself”.

I meditate on this for a while, honing in on the pain again, and letting the thought sit with me.

‘It’s good pain’, I tell myself, trying to welcome it in, forcing myself to relax into the sensation instead of tensing against it. As I do this, the pain seems to slowly dissipate and lose its ferocity, it’s razor focus, and it somehow becomes more bearable.

“Does it help if you frame it this way?” Kris looks hopeful.

“It does!” I say, trying to balance my natural cynicism with the reality of what I am feeling. “It really does”. 


The following morning, M&M set their alarm clocks to run my morning routine of injections, pills and bag emptying before the sun is up. Mat carries me to the car, drives us to Kaiser Oakland, transfers me to my wheelchair, exchanges $500 for a printed wristband, and wheels me into the pre-op room, all before the clock strikes six. 

I am lifted onto the gurney, where I snuggle under a heated blanket and begin my courtship of anesthetists, nurses and surgeons. 

“Are you taking any prescribed medication?” each of them asks me. 

We could be here a while.

I am then directed to breathe some sort of vapour into my lungs from a plastic hookah pipe like the caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland. God knows why.

My new surgeon, Dr Grimsrud walks into the ward.

“It should be a pretty straight forward surgery Lucy”, he says, scribbling on my left arm and pulling up my gown to mark my hips. “We’ll be removing the internal fixator from your arm, and the external fixator from your pelvis. I expect it will only take us a couple of hours”. 

I try and focus on the features of the masked faces around me as I am wheeled into the icy operating room, but the sharp lines turn to a fuzzy blur and the room melts around me, flowing through holes in the floor like sand.

I give in and disappear with it.

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