I fell apart today

I hear a lot of people telling me that I’m strong and so focused and so determined. Maybe. But it comes at a high cost. Today I fell apart in therapy, grateful that for some reason it was the only day ever that my therapist and I were the only ones in the rehab room.

I’ve been pretty seriously depressed for months, and in denial of the toll it was taking on me to be strong and focused and determined. I didn’t feel that I had a choice. No one is here to do things for or with me, things like self-care and home-tending and figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B. Oh, I had help from home health and out patient therapy, and I hired someone to help me early on with showers and laundry, etc. But when roadblocks popped up, I found I could do more than I thought I could do. And it’s important to me to be as independent as possible for as long and for as much as I can do.

But the reality is that I’m in a wheelchair with feet that don’t work right. My right ankle hasn’t improved in ten months and may never get better. I can walk 300 feet or so but that’s not all that much – though it’s certainly better than Day One when I was unable to stand up. Yes, there’s been improvement. But it still sucks.

When I’m depressed, I eat, and over the past 10 months have managed to regain all the weight that I worked so hard to lose to get me qualified to have spine surgery. At first I wasn’t sure if my physical discomfort was just because I was in a chair and not moving as much as I had before. That’s certainly part of it. But I’m eating too much of the wrong things. I know how to do this. I’ve done it over and over and over in the past. Let’s face it – I’m not feeling joy in a whole lot of things right now, and food brings comfort even when it causes discomfort.

And I’m lonely and terribly isolated. I love my apartment and have NO regrets about moving here, but I’im one of the younger residents and I really miss being with people my own age. I had some friends over last week for a lunch and visit, and I loved seeing them so much that it really drove home that those visits were few and far between in the last months.

At my request, my doctor put me on an anti-depressant about a month ago and I’ve asked the therapy people for recommendations of people I could talk to about the huge life changes I’m dealing with. Of course, getting to them won’t be easy but not much is these days.

I know, whine whine whine, poor me, you can do it. Yes, I can. I can deal with all of this. But not today. Today I want to cuddle a kitty and eat cookies and cry a little. I’m allowed. Because tomorrow I have to get up and keep going.

Discharged from OT

I was discharged today from Occupational Therapy, ordered by my primary care doctor to treat my sore shoulders which were suffering from overuse. They basically hurt all the time. First we treated them with ultrasound and diathermy, which uses electro-magnetic currents, and with resting from walking or NuStep. Putting on my AFO’s strains the shoulders from hauling and manipulating the legs into proper position, and walking strains the shoulders with pressure while using the walker (because it’s hard not to hang on for dear life). And of course, I use my arms to roll around in my wheelchair Phoebe.

After that, I did a bunch of things: stretching on the mat using a roller or little circle things. Weight bars to do curls, extensions, swings, and other exercises. Using the pulley weights. The arm bike with increasing tension. Best of all was a quick massage with BioFreeze to finish the session.

The arm muscles are better but the right shoulder still aches at the end of the day and sometimes at night, interfering with sleep. I’ve been using a muscle relaxant and a heating pad at the end of the day, which help. But if I wake up and it still hurts, I’ve learned to just relax and rest it for a day. That means no walking. So far one day of that seems to do the trick.

In any case, this round of OT is over. I invested in a set of weight bars to use at home to replicate my therapy exercises. You can do more with them than with a set of hand weights and I have them in the living room where they’re easy to grab. I’ll continue to use the heating pad and rest when needed. And if things flare up again and I need more help, I know I can go back with just a call to my doctor.

House warming 9 months late

I had a house warming party yesterday, over 9 months after my actual move in August 2021. But what with rehab and covid, it wasn’t realistic to have it earlier. Meadow Lake made it easy, though, and provided a private lunch followed by photos and a visit to my apartment, which most of my friends hadn’t seen. It was hard figuring out who to invite since I know so many people and we picked a date that fell on a Monday when the club was closed to minimize conflicts. It was so much fun to see these dear friends and to have the chance to share some of my life with them. I hope those who weren’t able to make the open house are able to come at a better time for them for lunch and a visit.

Housekeeping came Monday morning and did a great job making things tidy. I spun around on the weekend and put away papers, threw out random stuff, and dusted everything – which isn’t particularly easy to do in a wheelchair. My neighbor came over and swept off the porch so there weren’t rolling balls of cat fur or dead bugs. The weather was perfect for having the door open, letting in fresh air, but the cats showed no interest in being safe on the porch when they could be running around under foot, in the closet, or under furniture. They didn’t escape and were happy to have the house to themselves again after everyone left.

Meet Phoebe

My custom wheelchair finally arrived this week. It’s beautiful and best of all, the brakes work. I’ve named her “Phoebe” for a character in a series of books that I love. She is elegant and classy and she’s allllll mine.

Phoebe is full of all sorts of special things that I don’t remember, but I do know that she’s ultra-lightweight in a sweet teal color that looks feminine. The wheels pop off (tho not when I’m sitting in the chair!) to make it easier to transport. The arms don’t close me in and come far enough to the front to make getting up easy. The footrests have a very different attachment mechanism, and the whole thing has me sitting much taller than I’m used to doing.

But the reality is that the other chairs I’ve had since August were not properly fitted, they were just assigned. I was measured every which way for this chair, making sure that my legs were aligned correctly to eliminate extra stress on my hip and lower back while seated, but still letting me paddle around with my feet without the footrests while in the apartment.

Best of all, the brakes work really well. It’s sad that I have to be excited about that instead of expecting and getting good brakes. It’s the most important thing, though, because it keeps me safe.

Mobility Then and Now

When I moved into my apartment, I had full use of my legs. My right leg had foot drop problems, but I used a cane to remind me to just lift the foot higher when I walked. Things were unboxed and hung or stored in the apartment the way any of you would do it – some high, some low. I could bend down or stand on tiptoe if needed to get something.

I came home from rehab in a wheelchair and everything was wrong. Things got moved around so they could be more easily reached from a chair. Example: nothing on the top shelves of the fridge. Lots of clothes were stuffed in the dresser so I could avoid navigating the closet in the chair. Glasses and cups were left on the counter so I could reach them instead of putting them away in upper cabinets.

This weekend I discovered what it was like to navigate the apartment using a walker, and it was hard. I couldn’t bend down to get things I could easily reach from the chair, and things that I could reach made me feel unbalanced when I let go of the walker to reach for them, even with one hand. Feeding the cats and cleaning out the litterbox aren’t possible using the walker; I just can’t get low enough to be safe.

I can’t bend and keep my balance, which is precarious. I’ve been afraid for the last three days that I would fall as I used the walker even though using it is a step in what should be the right direction. I’m much more comfortable with a wheelchair now after using it for 9 months, though I still despise the temporary one that I will be able to ditch today when my new one comes. I have questions for therapy that I didn’t know to have about how to navigate this new normal of using a walker for primary mobility while still feeling and being safe.

So naturally I had a hair appointment and dyed my hair purple. “Lusty Lavender” is the color, but it’s really, really purple. To be honest, it’s more than I expected or wanted, but it’s what I got so I’m going to embrace it – and wash my hair sooner and more often than really you should when you get color if you want it to stay vivid, which I don’t. We’ll see how it goes.