Tuesday, December 2, 2014

All for a Handstand

                Handstands! Since childhood, I have always admired the grace portrayed by acrobats and gymnasts through their rhythmic and impeccable coordination of their limbs which literally sing beautiful tunes. Every single split, headstand or flip depicts vividly the magic of the human body which, like a paintbrush, dances around the canvas and paints rainbows. Unfortunately, being almost obese for nearly a decade and cannot be bothered to even take a stroll, those beautiful movements only appear in my wildest dreams, and I could only imagine myself doing these artistic moves in my head.

Image sourced from Google. Handstands are really beautiful but demand core and arm strength.
                In fact, I only started being interested in these movements since I picked up aerobics in high school. I was always green with envy whenever I saw my friends performing stuffs like splits and handstands. I told myself: “Why can’t I do it?” They have limbs and so do I, except that I had a little more “buns” and “rolls” hanging over them.  

                So I started attempting handstands ever since, but failed. Giving up is not in my dictionary unfortunately (or fortunately?)

                It was on a day in late June 2014 where I worked out in my hostel room as usual. I tried to attempt a handstand by supporting my body against a chair. All attempts went well until one, where I almost succeeded in a supported handstand and then “WHAM!” it went. There was a loud thud on the ground. There went my left knee. Pain seared through me but I decided that the work out MUST GO ON. I switched to lighter workouts like busy-people workouts on chairs because, guess what, I STILL HAVE THE STAMINA OKAY? Well, the zeal to workout was there except that I was struggling to walk down the stairs. It was no big deal since my knees often screamed for mercy when I climbed the stairs anyway.

                Come nightfall and my left kneecap became as puffed as the head of a Rohan fish. Walking felt like a gymnastics stint. It only worsened as the days passed. I felt like cursing. Why can others do handstands? Why can’t I? Heck, I know that I’m old for such tricks but there are people who only learn these as adults!

                My parents came at the weekend to visit me. The bruise was (deceptively) small, so of course, the ointments brought were meant for small bruises because nobody knew the exact condition of my kneecap. My mum even suggested that light massages would do since it was a light case of injury. To be honest, the injury really did look light-just a normal swollen kneecap. That was where my nightmares began. The massaging proved to be useless because on Monday, I found myself hobbling to the lecture hall. What used to be a five-minute walk looked like at least a hundred miles’ journey. At least I could walk.

That was my left knee, right after the fall.

The left kneecap, about two hours after the fall. Note the bulging appearance.
My injury only came to light while chatting with a friend from Tzu Chi Society. Only when my friends from the society fetched me to the nearby clinic on Tuesday night, 2 July 2014 did I realize the severity of the “minor injury”, when even the doctor at the clinic could not detect the cause and referred me to the Penang General Hospital instead. It was an arduous and restless two-hour wait at the hospital because there was a curfew at my campus which required students to return to the campus by 11pm, whilst we only arrived at the hospital at around 8.30pm! By the time I met the doctor, I got all but a vague diagnosis and strange “treatments”. According to the doctor, my injury was “very bad”, but all he gave was a few colourful pills. I did not understand what the pills could do to my injury but hey, the doctor should be right, alright?

Alas, the injury took a turn to the worse and I was unable to walk at all by Thursday. I hobbled my way to the volleyball court as there was volleyball class in the morning. I excused myself from the session since I could barely walk, let alone perform other “complicated” actions like squats and jumps. That could not go on and my condition got so bad that I had to seek help from a friend to take me to the office to get fetched to the hospital. It turned out that I had a soft tissue injury which happened UNDER my skin. The doctors, who were in fact housemen, actually checked through my injury and bandaged my knee. I could not believe my eyes. The housemen actually checked through my injury while a qualified doctor just dismissed me with some pills? I could just imagine the chaotic scene in the medical world…

Worse was yet to come. I was not allowed to carry out physical activities for a month and I need at least six weeks to recuperate. A MONTH? I could not fathom myself being confined to the chair or the bed for more than an hour a day, let alone being inactive for a month! Oh hell no… Six weeks sounded like six centuries to me. Bye jogging and HIITs, hello to troubling people to stress over my chores!

This is LIBERATING! I don't know if I can ever do something like her though... (Image from Google)
Yes, I was even given a medical leave from 3 July 2014 to 10 July 2014. I could get another week off for my injury, but one week of troubling my friends over homework and missing lectures was beyond my level of patience. I need to study and my friends have their lives too.


                It had been almost five months since my injury. During my injury, thanks to my immobility, I gained about 10 kilograms within two months. Of course, it took more than two months to lose them all and I am still working on it. My clothes were literally wrapping me like a dumpling. It was torturing and humiliating indeed as I walked around, with people laughing behind my back. "Oh she's gained weight!" "Oh she's too fat to have a boyfriend!" What matters more, though, was the MONETARY FACTOR. If I eventually became too fat for my clothes, I would have to empty my pockets on new but ugly clothes, get mom to sew new skirts (which is like adding salt to wounds as she was already busy and unwell), and may have to see the doctor more. Now THIS is the ultimate insult!

                    That was not the major focus, however. This injury taught me to be grateful and treasure my possessions, be it my wellbeing, material possessions, or the people around me. In this case, my knees and legs are very precious. A hurt knee proved to be a huge handicap because knees support movements; thus when one is injured, locomotion becomes difficult. Imagine being able to only move around by dragging my bottoms or walking with crutches… it was very inconvenient. I salute those who are handicapped but living strong; I realized that I need to respect my body and do not take it for granted. As much as I love to learn new tricks, I need to take baby steps. Rome is not built in a day.

                Without my family and friends, I may have to be hospitalized and give up exercising forever. That SUCKS. The doctor told me that had I delayed my treatment any later, I would need to go under the knife. That translates to-no more strenuous exercises in the future and more troubling for the people around me! I was grateful that there are people who care and provide support when needed... my parents, classmates (albeit some bad hats), friends from Tzu-Chi society, lecturers…

                Remember, be grateful and count your blessings, and treasure them by making the most use out of them and use them as tools towards achieving your dreams. As for learning, learning takes time, so be patient and persevere! Lastly, remember that no man is an island.

                And yes, I will NEVER give up in learning handstands. Maybe I should work on my core strength first, which was only so-so.

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