Sunday, July 30, 2017

Step and pivot... Wait... This sounds like dance moves?

Step and pivot... Wait... This sounds like dance moves? Dancing has never been my strong suit (Right, Lisa Benecke?) but my walking currently isn't even much worse! I'm overdue for another blog post, so I thought I'd put together another update before I go to bed.

I want to be full of sunshine and rainbows and tell you with excitement how great I'm doing. PT on Friday was rough. The conversation when she got here went something like this...

PT- Today we will be working on walking again.
Me- Walking to the bathroom?
PT- Ehhh... just walking further.
Me- Walking to the bathroom? (Seriously, people. You have no idea how badly I want the ability to use the bathroom. It's a huge step towards gaining independence and dignity.)
PT- Ok. Here's the deal. If you can go from sitting to the wheelchair, stand up, walk six feet, pivot to turn around 180 degrees, and sit down in a controlled manner... and do it twice, we will attempt the bathroom. Because that is what you will have to do to use the bathroom here.

Hell. Yeah. Let's do this. She will tell you that while I abhor my PT sessions and there is sometimes a flurry of bad words, I will work. Hard. I'm cooperative, and I'll push myself. I don't need convincing to working to get myself out of this situation. I'm all in.

Let me tell you... Walking is hard. It's not so much walking either. I think that puts the wrong idea in your head. I can put no weight on my right foot. Walking is a sort of scooch/hop on the left foot. It's incredibly painful (but getting easier and I can now get through it without tears) and the "steps" are slow and small.

I started in my wheelchair. I am now able to stand up with very minimal assistance from my therapist with my walker. It's tough because there's a point in the standing process that puts my weight on it just right and it really hurts but as soon as I can get past that it's more manageable. I have to be reminded to breathe because I tend to hold my breath a lot. (Who does that? How do you forget to breathe?!) I got up, moved the six feet, again with pretty minimal assistance from my therapist and then stopped to pivot.

That, my friends, is a whole new ballgame. Turning stretches muscles and ligaments and changes the parts of your foot and ankle that bare the pressure. I almost immediately knew that this wasn't working, but I was determined to finish what I started. My therapist is incredible. She pushes me when I need it, she pulls me back when I'm stubborn and pushing to do things that aren't safe or trying to do too much, and she gives me time to breathe for a minute when I need it so I can do something again. At this point, rather than making me stop and moving my chair to behind me, she talked me through how to turn more effectively. It's not easy. It hurts. But I finished that turn and sat down.

I wanted so badly to tell her that I could do it again because this is MY goal. I want this. But I know that the reality is, at this point, I can't do this. I couldn't do this a second time. I need more practice just working on pivoting safely, so I'm lifting more with my upper body and getting my foot off the ground so I'm not turning my ankle so sharply. I can't drag it at all when I turn. It's not a pain that should be worked through. It's a pain that is telling me that I'm damaging things by doing it incorrectly.

So... not today. No sunshine and rainbows. Until I see my therapist again on Tuesday, I'm working on safe pivots. I'm trying not to feel defeated. I'm trying to look at my progress. (I pushed hard after that and managed to walk with my walker and with minimal assistance for 18 feet.) I'm trying not to think about missing all of the activities my kids are doing with my Dad on the Staycation we've been planning since Christmas. I'm ignoring the hospital and insurance issues with the help of the ever fantastic Ernesto Medina. I'm trying not to be nervous about the upcoming appointment with the ortho doctor who is the one who decides on my weight bearing status on the left foot... getting clearance to use that some will help a lot with PT. My friend and guide through this whole mess, the incredible Dr. Chris Bingcang is coming along for this appointment to help me ask the questions on the medical side of this that I may not think of or understand. I'm trying not to think about the classes that have started that I should be in... or the jobs as a wife, mom, and friend that I no longer do.

I'm talking to my therapist about how I need to adjust my expectations in life in all of these areas for now. I need to redefine those roles for a while so I can still feel purpose in my life. It's hard to feel purpose though in part because I am so tired. Healing and PT suck a lot of energy out of me. I'm not off of pain meds but I've drastically cut back, and that is an important improvement. I sleep more than I want to because of complete exhaustion. My therapist really wants me to spend this week thinking about how I can use this time to learn to rest and recover so when I am healed, I am more capable of forgiving myself for the things I cannot to. I can get through this, and more than that, I can be better off for it. I am supposed to set new standards for what it means to give 100% in the areas of my life that give me purpose. Giving my kids 100% now will look different than what 100% was two months ago and if I can't redefine that I will fail and my depression will continue to spiral downward. I'm working on it. I left my therapy session with him feeling like I had things to consider rather than wanting to silently flip him off as he turned the corner. That's a pretty big win for therapists and me.

I want to tell you that I am happy and that I'm in a better place mentally. I don't really think that would be completely honest though. I can say that I am determined. That I'm putting all of my efforts into healing my body and my mind. I'm cooperating with PT when it's hard. I'm cooperating with my therapist even though I don't want to go. Know that if you aren't getting responses to calls and messages, that I'm ok. I'm just tired and overwhelmed sometimes. Simple things feel like a lot of effort sometimes, and I'm just trying to take the therapist's suggestion of learning to heal, recover and relax; even though a lot of times it kind of feels like an excuse or that I'm just lazy or rude. (Everything is an ordeal when one foot can't touch the floor at all, and the other one can only take pressure applied correctly. Seriously... try scooting from one side of the bed to the other or putting pants on. You'd never guess just how stupidly hard it is!)

This update is longer than I expected and I really should get to sleep while my pain meds are working and I'm comfortable. Thanks again to everyone for the help, support, love, messages, prayers, and happy thoughts. I am aware that there are few people who have the extensive support system that I have. I look forward to the day that I am healed and able to be on the other side of this kindness and can pay it forward when others need it. I am renewed in my ability to see the good in humanity. It is all around me. Know that it will not end with me and that I will proudly pass it on to the next person who needs a hand. Or a meal. Or a lawn mowed. Or a kid picked up from school. Or a visit... or... or... or... the list goes on.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Another Suicide and Realizing I Need to Put the Book of Fairytales Down.


Last week, I met with a counselor for the first time in years. I know that for many, therapists are very helpful. (Dexter responds wonderfully to his when we need extra help.) I think counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, or any type of therapist can be a fantastic choice for getting help! I, however, don't feel comfortable talking to a stranger about my problems. I feel like they are paid to care, like they have an agenda already planned out, and like I'm just another person who fits into all of the things they've already seen, so they are already an expert on me. I also have distinct memories of talking to counselors when I was little, and my parents divorced. At that time it wasn't common for the father to have custody and I'll never forget being asked if I felt safe with my Dad or if he touched me in inappropriate places. That was pretty much the end of my desire to ever want to take that road again. 

Right now, though, I find myself in a position where my options are somewhat limited. I know that my feelings right now are moving towards depressive episodes because my life is lacking any purpose (other than healing.) I also know that anxiety will start to pick up because as I wean off of pain meds, I struggle with my lack of control and the feeling of being trapped both physically and emotionally. The struggle I face is that although these problems are only temporary, they are a longer term temporary than I think I can handle with no help. I'm almost a month in and I'm still looking at a few more weeks... months... I don't know... of not being able to walk, drive, or function like I'm used to. Yes. It will get better. I will recover. But depression doesn't care that later there is a light at the end of the tunnel and anxiety isn't willing to just hold off or be reasoned with. Meds all take time to work. Weeks. And finding the right meds and doses is hard. I've finally been in a balanced place with mine. Adjusting things could take even longer than healing. I do talk to friends. I'm open. I blog. But I need help. 

So, here I am. Giving this a shot after decades of vowing never to do this again. I found myself sitting in a tiny room at my doctor's office last week staring across the room at a man with a laptop who typed furiously as I answered his questions. Mental health history, physical history, family life, childhood, medications. Why am I here? What are my goals? The last two questions caught me off guard though. 

Why am I here? I don't know. Because I'm desperate? I really don't think you can pep talk me through this. I'm already aware that it's temporary. I know other people have it worse. I can't be talked into feeling better. If I could reason with myself, I'd have done it. What are my goals? That one felt like a more useful question. My goal is to safely and productively manage my mental health while my physical health recovers. I know both will get better, but I need to find ways to get through this, so I'm not coming out a mess on the other side. I don't want to drag myself through each day and not care about being awake or asleep. I don't want to be down so low that when I can physically walk that I don't have the emotional willpower to do it.

This is how serious I am about fighting the stigma. I'm getting help. I'm living it out loud. And I'm doing something that anyone who knows me well knows I've said I would never do. Mental health struggles are no joke. Today, another musician lost his battle with his demons. Chester Bennington is another example of how serious this struggle is; how critical it is that we cultivate a culture of support for mental health struggles. I can only be a small part of that by being open, but one drop in the bucket is still a drop. I'll take it.

Physically, I'm making progress. S.L.O.W.L.Y. I still can't stand unassisted, but I pulled myself up to the kitchen sink in PT the other day. It's harder than using my walker because it's more pulling than just pushing up, so more pressure is on my ankles and feet than on my arms. I'm proud of that accomplishment. But it's frustrating. I feel like since it's been a month, I should be doing better. I thought I'd be on crutches and out and about by now. PT is excited with how far I've come. We aren't on the same page, and the book I'm reading from is a fairytale. I'm working on getting a better grip on reality.

With PT, I give my therapist everything I have. I push until it hurts and I know my body has to stop... not just wants to. I do my exercises every single day without fail. I have people help me work on standing on my days off of PT so I can keep working. I don't quit when my therapist gives me the option to stop or do one more. I'll do one more. My slow progress won't be for lack of effort on my part. As much as I hate exercise and PT, I give it everything I have. That means my mental health deserves just as much of my effort. I hate this. I don't want to talk to him. And I've been honest with him about my apprehensions. He was respectful of that. (And he's kind of snarky. Like me. I appreciate that about him too.) I promise you, my kids, my family, friends and most importantly, myself that I will give this all of the effort I have. I don't want to, and this will be harder than PT. But I'm telling you all this to be accountable. 

All of this was a long introduction to what I'm currently working on. I'm working on doing things that I love and bring me joy. Right now, I just feel empty, and I don't take a lot of joy out of anything that I normally do. But I'm going to push those things. Writing makes me happy, and I'll be trying to motivate myself to do regular entries. I very much enjoy sitting and singing while my friend Chris plays guitar. We laugh. I suck. Badly. But it's calming because no one is around to judge and I enjoy the one on one time with a good friend. I am lucky he's willing to make time for that. I'm hoping that in the next week or two I'll be ready to go back and finish the last few weeks of my last class. I don't think I'll get the A I want but I want to push through and finish that class to the very best of the ability I have at this point in my life. I'm taking the time to clean out my computer, organize my thoughts, figure out how the school year will start, and take some time to actively be in silence. Doing nothing is not the same as taking the time to meditate and clear my head. 

And, I'm focusing on doing more. I've folded some laundry. I can use my grabber to help pick up things around the house. I'm wondering if I can't maneuver my wheelchair in a way that I can do some dishes in the kitchen. My therapist wants me to try to focus on the things I love and find the things I can do. I'm fighting the urge to roll my eyes at him and just crawl back into bed. But if I'm willing to give PT my all, I can do the same for my mental health too. 

Sorry for the lack of wit, cohesion, editing and even basic grammar checking. It's almost 2:00 and I have PT at 10:00 tomorrow morning. I'd better get to bed. Thank you, everyone, for the meals, support, help with the kids, rides to appointments, company, coffee, thoughts and prayers, cleaning, lawn mowing... and all of the other things people have done for my family. If nothing else, this experience has been the most prominent example of being the change and sharing the happy that I've ever witnessed. SO. MANY. People have come together. This is the world I want to live in. There is so much good in this world. Thank you for reminding me of that just when I need it most. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One Step, Broken Bones, and the Dance Between a Fighting and Defeated Spirit

I haven't updated in a while, but I'm sure that everyone is aware of my recent adventure falling down the stair (yes... ONE stair), my ambulance ride to the ER, and my fantastic 2-week stay in the hospital. However, because I'm trying to use this blog as a sort of documentation of my life for my kids to enjoy later and as a public platform to show that an imperfect life is still a beautiful one, I think it deserves an entry. It's taking days to write it because I'm tired, loopy on pain meds, and I have the focus of a goldfish. I'm sure I'll look back at this entry and shudder at the errors and rambling nature. But that's my reality right now, so, I'll just embrace it.

This experience has been filled with ups (Look for the good in even the worst of situations; it's not always easy to find, but it's there.), downs, unexpected problems, and tons of delays. When things are hard, and I am at my worst, it's easy to live in my hurt and self-pity. Why me? What if I had just done this one thing differently... maybe this wouldn't have happened? Why right now? Sitting in a hospital bed for 13 days certainly left me plenty of time to go there.

I would be lying if I said that I haven't had those moments. Each day, when PT pulled back the curtain hiding my door, I got a hollow feeling in my chest and tears started to well up. You can only fight them back for so long...  and when two people are trying to heave me up while I struggle hopelessly to hold my weight on a leg with a small fracture and damaged ligaments... the sharp burning pain and the shame and frustration of failure are just too much. Silent sobbing is no easier to hide than screaming when you are the one with tears and snot dripping to your chest. But somehow it seemed a little more dignified, so I kept the screams on the inside to echo around my brain with those why me thoughts.

The physical pain, without a doubt, is trying. Pain meds keep it reasonably manageable most of the time as long as I'm not doing PT or moving around too much. Elevating it keeps the excessive swelling down most of the time as well. However, the drugs make me loopy, tired, forgetful and unfocused. I fall asleep with visitors, I don't even have the focus to watch a full-length movie, I don't remember who knows what, and apparently, I like to repeat myself. ;)

What all of this means, is that I'm unable to do many of the things I normally do. I can't drive (obviously). I can't walk, cook,  take my kids fun places over summer break. I can't clean, run errands, or enjoy a long hot bath. I can't do homework. I'm working out the details of my incomplete because my professor (the tough grader who I've been busting my ass for) has been incredibly compassionate and supportive. She's really working with me, and I couldn't be more grateful to her for helping me not lose all of the hard work I've put in for the first 4 weeks of this 6-week class. I've also dropped out of the next class. *heart breaks a little more*

So, after 3-4 days of working on this entry, I get to the point of this whole rambling mess. I've always been big on getting help for mental health issues. I've always said there is no shame in it and I've been very open about my past struggles with anxiety and depression. Well, that's easy. That's in my past; something I've overcome. But here I am... that same familiar empty feeling of hopelessness starting to creep in. I'm a mother who cannot take care of her children, a wife who cannot be half of the marriage. I am a (TEMPORARY) college dropout. Again. I am cooped up and relying on the kindness and generosity of others. (And boy, is there a lot of it!!! I am very aware of how loved and blessed I am.)

I am struggling with a serious setback in my independence. I depend on others to make sure that I have food available that I can reach and prepare. I count on others to take care of Nora and my kids. I count on Jenny to make sure I can bathe and even that my commode is emptied because I can't get into a bathroom. Everyone is happy and willing to help, and I'm dying a little inside every time I can't do it alone. Progress is slow, and people are concerned and want to help. And everyday, I'm a little more discouraged and broken because I can't just stand up, drive to the store and get what I need. There are many things I can do for myself, and I am so grateful that although I'm staying with Jenny and Jerry, that they don't just do everything for me. They don't get things for me just because it would be faster or easier. They leave me alone and let me have time to myself or to visit with other people who come by, even though they are their friends too. I am grateful beyond words to be so loved that Jenny takes me in with no question and treats this like a positive because we get time together rather than a burden.

But gratitude doesn't negate the depression that is creeping in. So, I'm practicing what I preach, and I'm being real and honest. Right now, I'm starting to struggle with depression again. It's been well managed for quite a few years now, but I feel that hopelessness settling in. I'm tired of fighting doctors for answers. I'm exhausted by the constant battle with insurance companies for getting coverage (no, really, deny my hospital stay, why not... seems legit...) and getting the help I need to be safe. I'm sick of not being a functional wife, mom, friend, PERSON. I'm tired of the pain, the grogginess, and not being with it. My anxiety is likely only under control because I'm doped up on drugs, but as I'm able to ween off of those, that is going to spiral out of control too. I am a control freak, and right now, I have very little. That triggers panic attacks that are sometimes unmanageable.

I've been here. In the past I let it get so bad that I hated being with people because I couldn't control the panic. I've been in a depression so low that I couldn't leave the house or be a good mother. At first, I was too ashamed to get help. And then I got so hopeless that I just didn't think anything could fix it. I know that's where I'm going.

That's why I'm writing this. I'm starting to sink to dark places. I'm starting to hurt and feel hollow in a way that scares me. Friday, I see my Primary Care Physician. I don't know if I'm ready for a med change yet or not but I'm open to discussing it. I'm being honest about it, and I'm facing this out loud; in the open. Tonight I'm struggling, and others are too. I don't expect anyone else to plaster it on Facebook or on a blog. Just know that if you are struggling tonight too, there's no shame in it. Help is available, and you can seek it privately if you choose to. You have nothing to lose by trying. Call a doctor, a therapist, a pastor or priest, a doula, a hotline number, a friend you trust... no matter your political, medical, moral, or religious views, there are methods out there that fit you. What works for me may not work for you. That's ok.

And a preemptive response to my friends and family, I'm in a rough place. I'm actively working on both my physical and mental health. Love is good. Smothering is bad. I do not have feelings of hurting myself or others. Being public about this is important because I feel strongly about speaking out about the stigma society places on seeking treatment, however, being public while I am dealing with it opens me up to more coddling, ideas on how to fix me, offers of help, and even less independence. Those are not helpful.

Now, another day of working on this... what is that now... 5? I don't even know. And I'm too tired and loopy to proofread this to check. I think it's really long. Sorry. Drugs... I babble. I hope it makes sense. Hopefully, the importance of this post comes across anyway because it's important. Better days are coming... that's what they say. I'm just going to have to trust that they are right because I've struggled through this before and seen that it's true. Hopefully, it will be again.