Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What it's like.
Hello. I'm home from my first hike since my accident. A few of you have emailed me to ask what its like day to day, what it is specifically that I am experiencing, so I'll try to put it into words for you here.
Yesterday, I had back to back therapy appointments which challenged me in a way that I have yet to experience. When I wake up in the morning, if I've gotten a solid 10 hours of sleep or more, I feel almost normal, like my old self. I am off of caffeine almost entirely, because I want to be able to feel my alertness, and to understand where it is coming from. I feel that I want to be able to assess my mental state easily and readily, I don't want it to be masked by drugs. I save my pain meds for the deep aches that I still have in my shoulders, hips and head, but I try not to take them until the afternoon or evening.
When its bad, I have a hard time talking on the phone, I speak slowly, and it feels like I have to fish for, find, assess, and apply each word to the sentence. Writing is MUCH easier, but only if its me writing about my experience. Recalling information that I've read is still very challenging.
If I get interrupted, I loose the thought completely, and don't even remember that I was doing or talking about something else. Scheduling things is exceptionally dificult, my callendar has become a lifeline, but even then, assesing times, travel distance and my ability to accomplish what is needed is one of the hardest challenges I face every day.
For instance, today, in class, someone asked me, "Are you still having the study group at your house on Saturday?" that was easy, because its something that happens every week, the answer was yes. But when someone walked up to me and said, "What are you doing tonight, could I come by?" I was stopped.
It felt as though someone reached into my mind and unplugged everything. There was a big, blank field, and I looked at Cassy. I wasn't sure for a moment if she had been talking to me, what she had asked, and what I had been on my way to do.
I had been walking from my bag, where I was getting a piece of paper, to my massage table to work on my massage partner for the day.
"I'm sorry, what?" I felt totally trainwrecked, there was just blank, no directions. Now that a few seconds had passed, I knew she asked me a question, one that I should be able to get the answer for, but I just couldn't.
"Can I come take the pictures tonight?" she asked.
I realized that this was a scheduling question, and I began to try to think about the answer. Could Cassy come take pictures tonight? I didn't know. To answer that question, I needed to access in my mind what day it was, what was happening after class for me, Tom, Ethan and Bodhi, check if I'd made any prior commitments, recheck what day it was... I got stuck in a loop. I couldn't answer her, because I don't know beyond the now what is happening.
I can't keep in my mind what is expected of me twenty minutes from now, because it takes all my concentration to know that I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing in the now.
My life, right now, is pretty full, I'm in school full time, I'm working part time in massage, writing some technical manuals, trying hard to earn enough money to pay some medical bills and to pay to drive to my bootfitting and training, and now I have abotu nine or ten appointments a week for my rehab. I'm trying to put some sort of hike or physical activity back in my life, get myself out to Norris once for the mineral soak, and reconnect with friends, as well as coach my clients and work on some training ideas for Bridger, which reminds me, I need to email Bonnie and check my other obligations and contacts through email, Facebook, and my phone, which has nine unanswered messages on it.
Writing that last paragraph was the hardest, it took about ten minutes, which is extraordinary for me, (I'm a fast typer!) because I had to write one word at a time, and as I pulled it up, I had to understand what it was, why I was saying it, and check if it was right or not.
I told Cassy, "I'm sorry, I can't talk about scheduling right now, it makes me feel fuzzy and confused." I'm also massively forgetful, and I mean moment to moment. Its hard to remember when I walk into the kitchen why I am there, even if its just to make tea. I have to write down when I take medication, because I can't remember if I've taken it or not.
The one common theme that the doctors are telling me is that I must sleep. I must sleep and rest to heal. Today, I skipped my first two classes, missing my last class in Ethics, a class I love, and missing my Body Mechanics class for the second time in a row. This puts me horribly behind in school, but I know that if I am not balancing, that my mind isn't working, that it feels wrong, that I have to sleep.
After a hugely challenging day yesterday, my worst since the fun and excitement of the first week after the accident (when I forgot how to pour milk to make Bodhi's chocolate milk), I was pleased to find out that giving massage again felt soothing to me. I was partnered with Tiffany, who I feel really energetically connected to, and who needed some loving touch.
I worked on her for I don't know how long, just lost in giving massage, in connecting to her and feeling her and working through her tensions. I felt myself plugging back in, I felt my mind letting go and my body functioning more like me. By the end of her massage, I felt much much better.
I was energized enough to go for my first hike up Kirk Hill. Tonight, as the sun was setting, I hiked up Kirk Hill, a trail I've hiked probably more than a hundred times. I was by myself, as I usually am when I hike, I took a headlamp, although I love to hike in the dark with the light off, especially late at night.
I felt, as I began up the trail, the beginnings of health in my body. For the last two days, I've been knocking stuff over, and I fell over a few times this morning just walking around the house.
While I have pain in my body, which radiates down both arms into my hands, and down my legs into my feet, and I have had a headache since the accident, I feel in my soul that I need to move, I need to connect to the outdoors, I need to breathe the air and feel the fall all around me and see the carpet of leaves under my feet.
So as I hiked, with India Arie in my ears, I felt Kate in there, I felt gratitude that my knee was okay, that my body hadn't forgotten how to hike, that a month of being sedentary hadn't killed me cardiovascularly. I was, obviously, not as stable as I ususally am, but it was good to walk, to start over, once again, up this familiar trail that when I hike it now means, "We are begining again."
I am realizing that this may be what life is, that there are trails that when we get waylaid, we must begin up again first. I felt today not like I was internally regretting and bitching about what was lost, simply, "and now we begin again", that I had come back to the place where I start when I am healthy enough to begin again.
When I got to the top, I was grateful to know that my body can move, that it is time for rehabilitation, that the road back to balance and high performance will be long and hard, but I am ready to begin it, ready to apply myself, ready to give myself some grace when I have a day like yesterday that felt like a huge step backwards.
I took a picture and then turned around, sent it from my phone, and when I looked up, I was lost. I knew which way was down, so I began to walk along the trail in the gathering dark, keeping an eye out for bears, as they are out eating up all they can find at this time of year, especially in the twilight. For a moment, I was afraid. I am lost, it is getting dark.
I took a breath. I knew that this trail that I was on, while I did not recognize it at all, would take me back to my car, because I have hiked it so many times. I breathed in, out, and found the color in the decaying leaves under my feet. I watched my feet walk down the path, and kept letting the little mini terror chills pass through and away from me. It was an odd experience, to mix with the joy of being out, in a beautiful, familiar place, and to be scared, and lost at the same time.
After a while, I decided that if I knew this path would take me home, I could simply follow it, and get to do something I've never done before, hike a familiar trail for the first time all over again.
It was unique to say the least, not to recognize any twist, turn, fence, or tree until I got to the final switchbacks that lead to the bridge. I listened to my heart, and my fears, and my breath and watched my feet walk across the bridge and was grateful to be alive, grateful my body is gaining health, and accepting of where my mind is now.