For a couple of months now I have been feeling like I’m falling into a deep dark hole. There was a feeling of optimism and I was on a real strong trajectory forward before Christmas with steady daily progress and the return of what had been lost. And then the doctor started playing with my meds. Since he has been jacking around with the dosage levels, things seemed to be going downhill ever so slowly but surely. I know right? Those of you who have been keeping up with the blog and/or facebook have seen the picture evidence of my 6 kilometer hikes, my family excursions up mountains (more like molehills in comparison, but mountains nonetheless) and numerous other things that don’t fit into the tale I’m trying to tell you right now.
The truth of the matter is I was feeling like I was on a constant downhill roll with my body giving off more aches and pains every day. My muscles were cramping or painful and my joints were constantly feeling like I could not move them. A couple of days were even spent in bed because I felt so terrible that I didn’t want to get up and move around. It’s not that the bed felt any better though. I may as well have shat myself and rolled around in it for as much relaxation and comfort as I got out of the bed on those days.
I shared my feelings and concerns with Sharon one day, telling her that I was feeling weaker and less able to do things, like I was losing coordination and strength in everything I was doing. Anything that I took on I was forcing myself to do. I was able to accomplish much more than I used to, but still the strength felt like it was slipping away. I’m used to aches and pains because I’m getting old enough to be suffering from my less than stellar judgements as a younger man. But these were no regular old people aches and pains. This was full on misery in a five gallon bucket and it was dumping out right on the top of my head! Sharon patiently listens to me through all of the daily grinds that I go through. But what is she supposed to say? She can’t know anything different than what I tell her I’m going through. And I’m no expert either! This is the first time in my life that I’ve recovered from a stroke, so if there is a problem, I don’t even know if it is or not because I have nothing to refer to in order to make sense of it all. So I have just continued falling into this great big deep dark hole and feeling like everything I have been pushing for has been slipping away.
Enter the physiotherapist. It’s been quite some time since I went to physio as an outpatient. They had told me that they were going to do a follow up assessment of me after a while out on my own, just doing my recovery thing. It just so happened that today, Pi day (March 14th) was my appointment. What would they think and what would happen when they found out that I was weakening and slipping backwards in strength and mobility? Would I be sent in for more tests and assessments to find out if something else had gone wrong and I needed to return for more intensive interventions? All the thought of potentially having to deal with more hospital stuff was enough to make me worry. I don’t know if there is an expression strong enough to tell you how much I hate hospitals. May it never be that I have to spend a great deal of time in a hospital ever again. It’s a psychological load I would rather not have to bear. Speaking of psychological loads, the longer I am in recovery, the more I realize that compensating physical weakness with mental determination and willpower also takes a toll. Walking on one leg instead of 2 would be a good analogy. If you are bearing a load normally shared by using something that doesn’t normally carry the load, it has a tendency to wear out a whole lot faster. And I have felt like I’ve been wearing thin lately. Back to the physiotherapist.
I sat down in her assessment room and waited to be interviewed and checked out. The dread in my head was growing with every second that I waited for her to arrive. There she was. I didn’t know what to say. I made some feeble attempts at humoring my dread and fear. She listened and reflected back to me what I was saying to make sure she understood what I was telling her. It all came out. I had to tell her what was going on. And then the worst happened. Out came all of the measuring devices for grip strength, and the stopwatch for timing how long it took for me to walk down the measured section of hallway, AND THEN RUN BACK! The sweat just about started simply by thinking about the whole mess! I didn’t even want to try. So I didn’t. I grabbed the grip strength device and squeezed quickly but put no extra effort into it. Next came the pinch strength device and I grabbed it and flippantly pinched it together and handed it back to her. Pride was completely out of the picture. I remember the last time I was holding these devices I concentrated and put every ounce of effort into my pinch and grip motions. The numbers got written down as quickly as I handed the devices back to her and then she grabbed the stopwatch. One does not look forward to performing a timed walk and run in the hallway of the hospital if you know everyone will be watching and judging if you don’t expect that you will be able to do better than you did the last time. I complained the whole way to the starting mark and made excuses for why I thought I was going to be slower and oh my aching joints and muscles and pity me.
The tests were done, and we went back to review the whole thing………I sat and waited just a few seconds and expected to get the bad news that I would be sent for more tests.
Grip strength up. Full range of motion, no encumberances. Walking was stable and the stroke was visibly undetectable. Walking was quicker. And running was faster as well. But the real change was in my pinch strength. I gained 8 kg of squeeze pressure on my left hand. That is a significant difference. One that is worthy of note. This was confusing news! I had become smoother, faster, stronger….not at all what my mind had conjured up.
After all of the information sunk in, I finally was able to accept that this was all good news at a time when I was falling into a deep dark hole. I had been going on feelings. And my emotions were wearing thin just as my mental endurance was growing weaker and weaker.
Back in the day when I was counselling kids who were facing challenges and needed someone to talk to, I recall a young lady coming to my office in tears because the teacher had taken some points from her for not having her notes and assignments in order as she was supposed to. She sat in my office and decried the fact that she was so terrible and unorganized and a total failure at being able to do these “stupid” task that the teacher had required her to do because she just didn’t have it within her to do it. Except the thing was, the whole time she was almost yelling with her upset voice and rantings, she had been organizing her notes and assignments in one of the most tidy binders I had ever seen. Right before my eyes, she was doing the very thing that she was ranting about to convince me that she couldn’t do it. I must have had a dumbfounded (and knowing me an idiotic grin) on my face because she stopped all of a sudden and looked at me, only to say, “What?” When I told her that I watched her do in front of me what she was telling me she couldn’t do, she stopped her ranting and just looked at her newly organized binder in silence. Then I asked her if what she had just done was something that she could find 5 minutes every morning to do before class started so that she didn’t have to come to my office and be so upset about it. Her response was a fairly quiet, “yes”.
I have been thinking about today’s physio appointment fairly quietly all afternoon. Feelings……they are really a deceiving thing to build truth around. I can relate to the young lady who “couldn’t organize” herself. I’m glad for a moment to have an objective observation done for me. I’ll be quiet now.