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Regaining My Independence!

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller


THE “EARLY/UGLY DAYS”

After my first week in the hospital where I was ‘out of it’ and remembered very few things, I began to become more aware of my condition, and especially my limitations. I didn’t like what I saw!


As my perplexed stupor began to fade a bit, the realization of my “new life” started to set in:

  • I couldn’t use the restroom without being rolled there in a wheelchair, while a nurse (or nurses) stood beside me during the entire process. This was required to ensure I didn’t fall off the toilet, and to measure the amount of urine I voided to ensure I was able to do so effectively. I didn’t like this whole process one bit!

  • That being said, I began to experience a new complication - shy bladder! This is also known as paruresis, a condition when a person is afraid to use the bathroom when others are nearby, resulting in extreme anxiety while in public restrooms. I continue to wrestle with that, even after 4 years post-stroke, even at home. To this day, I find it necessary to close the door to our toilet room at home. Do you have that complication?

  • I was restricted to brushing my teeth in my hospital bed, not the bathroom. I recall telling Jane, “I can’t wait until I can stand up in the bathroom to brush my teeth!” I was eventually able to do so.

  • As we all know, SLEEP is extremely important for us, so here goes another complication….

  • Showering was interesting! The first time I had a shower was in the hospital in Flagstaff, where the nurse and Jane wheeled me into the private restroom in my room, placed me on a shower stool, and immediately fell over to the left! But, Jane was right there and caught me!

  • At the acute rehab facility, I had to be wheeled down to an all-patient shower room, where your assigned OT helped you shower. Talk about feeling like “a little old lady!” UGH! And, forget any modesty you had pre-stroke! Gone! As you can relate, I don’t recall much about those showers (I probably blocked it out - LOL!)

  • Every single night for about 4 months, I worried that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning or that I’d have another stroke (PTSD), so much so the doctor had to prescribe a powerful sleeping pill, until I had to be removed from taking it because it was an addictive opiate. I then worried the OTC (over the counter) medication the doctor prescribed wouldn’t work, but it did!

From DEPENDENCE to INDEPENDENCE

Once I worked hard in therapy to overcome those “early days,” I became able to:

  • Use the restroom alone, without anyone hovering over me

  • Brush my teeth alone, standing up, in the bathroom!

  • Shower alone, without assistance.

  • PTSD was resolved through psychotherapy with Kathleen Todd.

  • Driving Again. THIS was the biggest feeling of independence! Click here to read an article I wrote about this.



CONTINUED DEPENDENCE

Once I accomplished the above, I had the mistaken impression that I was “totally independent!” WRONG!


Allow me digress for a minute… I just realized this week that feeling like I’ve become really OLD - WAY before my time! Yes, I’m 70 years old, but I’ve always felt young, but now I feel so old, and it’s not a good feeling! I need to work on changing that feeling!


Another side-note. This morning, I was preparing for my morning walk, pulling everything together to make the short trip around our complex. Well, it took me like 45 minutes to get everything together just to make a 20-30 minutes walk!


First, I unplugged my leg Bioness from the bedroom, then to the kitchen to wet the pad inside the device, dabbed off the excess water on the pad, put it on, tried to pull down my sweatpant leg, which presents an issue because it’s elastic, so trying to do that one-handed doesn’t always work due to problems with getting it over the Bioness without moving it out of place or unstrapping the side straps, so Jane helped me. Then, I forgot my earphones, which were in the bedroom in the back of the house (I was in the kitchen). Then, I needed to get my water bottle in the garage fridge and put it in my water carrier. Then, find a ballcap to wear. Now, where were my sunglasses today?!


I was so frustrated by the time I got ready to walk, I whined to Jane (close to tears) about “how hard everything was now! The simplest things! Things used to be so easy for me! I get so tired of all this!!!” Pity Party? I don’t know, but I really didn’t care! I had to vent! So, to say the least, it’s been “one of those days” and actually it’s extended throughout this entire week!


Do you have these days/weeks/months?!


If so, we have to give ourselves a break for these occurrences, and then search deeply to do what works for each of us to resurrect our better selves. By doing so, we’re happier, less frustrated, and more focused on the big picture.


SOLUTIONS

So, the key here is to allow these days to occur sometimes, but not on a daily basis. Otherwise, we’ll be “stuck” in a funk throughout this lifelong recovery, resulting in the prohibition of any gains whatsoever.


Now, how do we bring ourselves out of these funks?


A TOOLKIT!

We all need to develop a toolkit that works for each one of us individually.

What’s a toolkit? As my psychotherapist, Kathleen, says, “You need a toolkit of healthy coping mechanisms that work specifically for you when the tough times arrive.” My toolkit includes a variety of things:

  • Writing this blog and collaborating with Rachel, my graphic designer/social media/blog writing expert; as well other bloggers; as well as stroke research directors at ASU and NAU!

  • Music. As I mentioned in my recent blog post, Returning to Normalcy, music always elevates my mood!

  • Last night, we attended a concert called Irish Christmas at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix. It was great, and spurred us on to revisit Ireland sometime in the future! My ancestors are from there (my great-grandmother was from County Limerick!); so I felt like I was “home” when we first visited there years ago, pre-stroke! Time to return! So, check out your local newspapers for events that interest you, as they’re very uplifting!

  • Daily meditations. There are many versions out there, as meditating is becoming mainstream, thank goodness! Stay tuned for an article on that in 2020!

  • Socializing with supportive friends like we’re doing tonight with Sara and Robin, who have been there for us and with us throughout this entire saga; and yesterday, we had lunch with another dear friend, Cheryl, all three of whom have been with us since the beginning, have great senses of humor, and always brighten my spirits!

  • I’m much more of a home-body than Jane is, so I’d always prefer to stay home vs going out, but I do realize it does me good to visit with supportive friends. So, we all need to find those ways to bolster our spirits, whether we feel like it at the time, or not. Trust me, you’ll feel better if you do so!

  • Laughter is the best medicine, as many experts say! It is, as I’ve explained above. I know myself well enough by now that when I start losing my sense of humor, I’m in trouble; so, that’s when I reach for my toolkit!

  • Comic Movies/CD’s. Not to be redundant, but in addition to friends, comics are another source of humor. In my opinion, Hal Roach, the Irish comic, was the funniest man alive! I’m so grateful to have a DVD of one of his performances in Dublin, as well as his CD. His DVD is now on streaming through Amazon Music, click here to listen. You can also find his CD is for sale on Amazon, click here - this guy cracks me up! Jerry Seinfeld is another favorite of mine! Ellen DeGeneres is another favorite, she has a Netflix special as well as a lot of YouTube videos! Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Kate McKinnon, and James Corden are a few more of my favorites!

  • Support Groups. I attend Mark Ritter’s monthly support group when we’re up north for the summer. These groups are extremely helpful and informative! I highly recommend support groups or this one if you're in the area!

  • Attitude of Gratitude. It’s amazing how this works! The more you express your gratitude for what you have vs. what you don’t have, the more you receive! So, give that a shot and watch how it benefits you! Find a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day to list the things you are grateful for - it is transforming!

  • Exercise, when I can get my act together! :-)

  • Chair Yoga. I’ve decided to resurrect my practice, which I haven’t done since my stroke. My favorite is any one of the (Deepak) Chopra series, which are all now on You Tube; so no expense for DVDs anymore! We also have an article coming soon on this by an experienced yoga teacher!

  • In-Clinic Hand Therapy. I love my sessions with Mark Ritter at Entire Care, Sedona! He always motivates me to perform better; he challenges me to ‘reach higher’ (literally, with my left arm & figuratively !)- and he always makes it fun!

  • Quiet Time - reading, thinking, enjoying a hot cup of coffee or tea. Constructive solitude is very important.

SELF CONFIDENCE

To summarize, once you’ve mastered “the early days” of recovery, your confidence will soar, as my did! If you haven’t mastered those yet, you will! Then, each time you conquer challenges, your confidence improves, over and over again.


The same goes for emotional issues you conquer. Sometimes, others are needed to help with these, which is just fine.


Finally, one of my initial therapists gave me some wise advice: "Don’t let yourself get too high or too low regarding your successes, failures and plateaus. Be patient with yourself, and just keep moving". Keep moving friends! Remember we are always here to help - send us a message! Have a beautiful day and week before the holidays begin!

Maureen🎄

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