Sunday, April 21, 2013

Progress, inspiration, motivation, and smiles

This week has been full of ups and downs.  In amongst those ups and downs, I have made some pretty remarkable steps forward with my shoulder.  I have waited a week to write about it, because, honestly, I've made steps before and within a couple of days they disappear again.  These have stuck for a week, so I'm hoping it is ok to share them now.

Compared to what I used to do, as a gymnast, and compared to how I used to be at my very sickest (virtually house-bound and hardly able to walk), there are many comparisons to be made.  Focusing on the positive differences is great and motivational; focusing on the distance I still have to go always makes me realise what a huge challenge I have still to continue battling - but I do not believe it is insurmountable.  I believe there will still be rollercoaster days (and weeks) and these will continue to test me; but I am beginning to feel like I can win this fight.... even if it takes more time than I ever imagined.

My HUGE achievements this week have been that I manage to do what can only be described as a 'baby girly press up' - a press up on my knees, bending my elbows about 1cm for my press up.  It is still awkward to get into position (involves bouncing about on my left hand before I can place my right hand into position); my weight is not evenly distributed - but I am putting some weight through my right arm/hand -  a major achievement! I can do two sets of 5 'press ups'... dreaming of the days I could do 20 full press-ups with claps in between in about 20 seconds! Oh well... gotta start somewhere.  I can also hold a 'baby girly plank' position, and then I can also do scapular retractions in this position - two sets of 3! - but my physio is especially excited about this as it means my brain has really figured out how to make my 'new' muscles work.  That's a really big deal.

I have also now progressed from the ability to make my arm shake as I try to lift it to actually raising it about an inch off the floor while lying on my stomach. I do five of these.  My physio tells me it is not one set of five, but five sets of one, since I need to rest in between - so the aim is to get it to two twos and then two threes... baby steps, as it has been all along, but the baby steps are working.  Again, this exercise means my 'new' muscles are 'talking' to my brain again, as it isolates them - they are doing ALL the work here.  Another really big deal.

For months, doctors and physios have also been stressing to me how important it is to strengthen my core, and I simply haven't been able to sustain any core strength exercises because of the pain they cause.  I have literally felt my core muscles turning to mush! This week I've managed to do 20 sit ups (well, crunches really.... on a ball) every day - a whole two sets of 10.   Amazingly, this is actually enough for me to begin to feel my muscles toning up again - in fact, there is actually a visible difference in my tummy which was beginning to develop this little wobbly part for the first time in my life..... disaster averted! (Um, yeah, because THAT was my disaster in all this....)

So that's my daily exercise regime now, along with still some basic range-of-motion movements, just to continue with those and continue to teach my brain how the sequence of movements is supposed to work.  I can't believe how exhausted it makes me, and I do still sweat, but the sparkly lights do not appear (as long as I rest in between exercises) and the impending blackness in response to any effort from those muscles seems to have disappeared..... finally!

The pain is still there, and it is still a major factor but I have decided to see if my body is ready to push through it a little and build some strength, which should then support my muscles more, reducing the pain by increasing the strength.  It's the viscous circle I've been caught in all year, and my physio is very much stressing I have to take it VERY slowly (I am not allowed to try any more headstands....pillows, walls, or anything - no exceptions! Physio's orders. To be honest, it hurt a bit too much anyway, but I did elephant-lift my feet off the floor for a couple of seconds..... I'm viewing it as a positive sign ...) and all my (approved!) exercises are with very low reps, small sets and tiny increments.

I've been taking choline and inositol as a supplement for about 6 weeks now - that is supposed to improve nerve healing (kind of, it's complex - all related to acetylcholine production and pain receptors and generally neurobiology that goes a bit beyond my understanding), but I think it could be helping.

I have also now been having Feldenkrais treatments for a few weeks and I have felt a benefit from these too - I am still unable to really explain them (it's a very slow process, I will try to explain at some point, right now the focus is on visualisation to increase body awareness - I'm really not sure how it's doing anything, but my body reacts pretty strongly to it even though I feel like I lie for 30 minutes and concentrate on moving my eyes in different directions with them closed.  It's really rather weird, but I definitely think it is helping somehow).  Feldenkrais is also supposed to promote nerve healing and the sessions make me sleep - unfortunately during the day; this is not good for my nighttime insomnia, but it's still sleep and they say we heal while we sleep...    

I feel most of my pain is more specific now.  It's still pretty severe at times; my attempts to do anything and go anywhere are still battles to manage mt meds, and fight through the pain, ready to collapse in bed (with my ice machine) as soon as I get home; but even with that, all the crazy parasympathetic pain does feel like it has calmed down a bit more, not entirely, but it's taking a positive step in the right direction.  

In the meantime, I am going to continue to watch this video on Youtube several times a day for pure inspiration, motivation and smiles.  Watch and be amazed!  It's simply mindblowingly amazing!!!

And yes, I'm super jealous.... and probably going to become slightly addicted to this superstar, Damien Walter's YouTube page:

Maybe one day.....

“Dwell in possibility."
  ~ Emily Dickinson

Friday, April 19, 2013

That battle called life

This week has brought extremely sad news from several people in my life; especially two of my very dearest friends. 

It has been accompanied by a reminder that there is evil in people, who seek to terrorise the innocent; destroying lives beyond recognition .

It has been a week that has reminded me that everyone has their own battles and challenges; that we should take a moment - longer - to appreciate what we have, to focus on the positive things in our lives; to truly appreciate the present moment; because life is futile, and precious.  

And everything can change in the blink of an eye.

Among heartbreak and sorrow, amid terror and bombing, it is always uplifting to see that sometimes the worst things bring out the best in humanity: kindness, love, compassion and empathy.  These positives are the things that keep us all going through times of darkness - a glimmer of light to focus on; support from which to draw strength.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle
   ~ Plato

Monday, April 15, 2013

The funny side

Today we went out for a few hours. I felt a bit like I'd slept yet another week away (in between my adventures with hair dye... a story for another day!  It's ok, it has a happy ending!)  We had booked dinner at my favourite restaurant, Seasons 52, which has booths and always accommodates my request for a booth so there is space for my pillow!  (I also signed up for a restaurant points system a while ago; booked today because they had 1000 point tables.  2000 points gets you a $20 dining voucher  - if you don't already know about OpenTable - check it out.  Does anyone know if they have a UK version?)

We wandered around the mall for an hour or so before, and after, dinner, just browsing. Really just a change of scenery, little day out.

  On the way home in the car, my TENS machine wires seemed to have moved, and something was painfully pressing into my shoulder blade.  I didn't have the machine on, but I think the electrode connection bit, which is metal had got trapped between a particularly sensitive part of my scapula and the elastic of my (strapless) bra (no shoulder straps = way more comfortable for a sore shoulder… usually).  

Usually, I put the electrodes on before I get dressed, so trying to get them off my back, in the car, with a seatbelt on and a bra, tank top and sweater on top of them was not easy.  I was beginning to sweat with the pain and get that sparkly-dizzy- almost-panicky feeling that comes with the pain increase - I just needed to get rid of the metal bump and I couldn't find it. 

I asked mum to pull over when there was a space off the road.  It seemed like a much longer road than usual…. By the time she had reached a little car park, my seatbelt was off, I had managed to shimmy the strapless bra down to my ankles, and to remove two electrode pads and stick them to the window… having nowhere else to put them.  After she parked I managed to get the other electrodes off, unplug all the wires from the electrode pads and remove the bra from around my ankles.  All without exposing any skin or getting arrested, so all things considered, I suppose that was a success!   

Just another day... might as well see the funny side!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Look out world...

I think several years ago I would have interpreted this entirely differently - and so would we all; we are all shaped by our own experiences.

But now: I have no idea who I "ought to be" - and I'm ok with that, I think it's back to life being a journey kind-of-thinking.  At one point, in what seems like another lifetime, I would have thought that by the time I was in my thirties there were many things I "ought to be" but now I have learned that different things are the important things.

I'm not "what I want to be" ... or maybe I'm actually ok with this too, honestly, I have no idea what I want to be... Why do I have to be anything?  Why can't I simply be?  Cogito ergo sum? Right?

But I certainly have come a long way from "who I used to be".  I genuinely believe how people handle their problems defines them.  Our problems do not define us unless we let them; we choose how we handle them - and that is what defines us.

And, most importantly, I'm definitely not giving up on "becoming what I know I can be"... Just give me a little bit more time and then look out world, I'll be back!

I feel this fits with this today too:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I am stronger than this challenge

Applies to every single thing life throws at us:

And perfect for an old favourite, which (in my opinion) can never be over-used....

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger"
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, April 12, 2013

Serious chocoholic

This week I am suffering from a serious chocolate addiction.  This week I discovered The Christmas Tree Shop is selling Lindt chocolate Santas for 49 cents.  It's dangerous.

However, I do keep telling my Doctor as long as the chocolate makes me feel happier than the painkillers it's all ok.... right?!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Optimism vs. Realism

I feel as if I'm in a bit of a slump.  I had ONE really good day about 10 days ago, about the best I've had since my surgery - my cold felt like it had finally lifted, so my head felt a bit clearer, my pain wasn't really much improved but I didn't have any 'surges' of intense pain that day and, even although I was consciously terrified to think it, I did wonder if perhaps I was turning a corner; taking another step up.  Then reality slapped me in the face again and my pain seemed to increase... again... and along with that just comes this sheer exhaustion which I honestly feel seems worse the longer my pain goes on.

I attempted to power through last week - Feldenkrais, physio, a few hours out with my Mum and by Thursday my body pretty much said, no more, I'm done, and I slept for 21 out of 24 hours.  That's a record, even for me.

Sometimes - afterwards - I almost hate those good days. It's like a little hint of what could be... and then it disappears again... honestly, it just feels unfair.  And I do try my very best not to moan and complain because it's not helpful, it doesn't actually achieve anything; there are many people who have far worse things to deal with than I do; plus people who do complain all the time drive me mad.  And I think - for anyone going through anything - a positive attitude is essential, simply for staying sane... but sometimes... well, let's face it, everyone's thought it at some point: life just isn't fair.

BUT every now and then, getting it all out is good for my sanity too....!

I know this is still a long process, and I know I still have a long way to go, and I know nothing is magically going to get better overnight; I'm not simply going to wake up, have a good day and everything is going to magically disappear... I do know all that. But somehow, every good day just brings with it a little whisper of hope, a wish that this really will be the beginning of every day being a better day; and I think that is why the bad day that follows feels even worse.  It's not just a bad day, it's optimism colliding with realism at the speed of light. Crash.

Luckily, optimism is pretty resilient and lives for another (good) day.  Even if it takes a few days to pull itself together again...

So, to give that optimism a little boost, I've decided to challenge myself again to find some inspirational posters (yes, I've been spending a lot of time on Pintrest again...) for some positive reinforcement...


Saturday, April 6, 2013

"It looks like a plastic surgeon did it!"

This time last year we were in Kentucky for my first follow up appointment with the surgeon.  This is when I had to give up my sling... despite being told I would grow sick of it, I had not done so.  It was explained to me that using the sling from that point onwards could cause further problems.  I understand that, but I do wonder if, based on the way my recovery progressed, having the extra support for an extra week or two may have made any difference...

I am just writing a short post tonight, as I can hardly seem to stay awake this week, but I did want to share these photo comparisons of my scar.

I remember being at my very first appointment and Dr K saying he closed all his surgeries with staples. I had a fleeting thought" "oh no, that means a worse scar; I don't actually care... if I do end up with an impressive wound I will consider it my battle wound since it feels like it's been a battle simply to get here..." - all in a split second. Ultimately, I really didn't care because I just wanted - NEEDED! -  the surgery.

However my scar looks incredible.  Many physios and physio assistants... and actually anyone else I have felt it not entirely inappropriate to start stripping off while asking if they want to see my scar (!)... has been really impressed by how good it looks now; I even had some physio students say: "It looks like a plastic surgeon did it!"

I am having a pretty painful, tired week (yes, I managed to sleep 21 out of 24 hours yesterday. I am just disappointed I have not managed to repeat that today!) so looking at these and seeing the effective healing on the outside will hopefully help me get through the bad days and believe that I WILL achieve that effective healing on the inside as well.

                                          March 2012                end of March 2012              April 2013

Even the change in skin colour is remarkable - I didn't really bruise properly (purples and blues and blacks) my scapula area just tinged a bit yellow - but looking at these comparisons, I guess it was more discoloured than I really thought at the time.

OK body, work your healing magic and transfer all this to the inside now.... pretty please....

  ~  Tori Amos