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