Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Responsibility and self esteem

Pushing the Limits, bronze sculpture by Gregory Reade
As I've slowly begun to strengthen, as a result of physical therapy, I've noticed my mood increase considerably. But it's not from the physical therapy, itself, per se. It's because I'm able to do the little things again. You might be amazed by these little things that make me so head-spinningly proud; they're very mundane. But they're things I can do that allow me to be more responsible towards myself. THAT is what's helping my mood. I'm able to do simple things that are a little more responsible, and each time I'm able to add a "good deed", my self-esteem grows.

I have enough energy to fix a meal and put the dishes away afterwards! I can also do a little spot cleaning, so that you'd never know something was cooked there. I can make meals from (relative) scratch. But for years I had to rely on microwave food because it hurt to stand that long. The bottom of my feet would catch on fire withing minutes. I even kept a chair by the microwave so I could rest. Now I can stand long enough to brown meat, make my sauce, finish the pasta and combine it all together. I don't have to rely on frozen food. That's HUGE, and probably a lot better for me nutritionally.

My car is clean. Before now, it was too much to ask me to bring the mail in with me when I left the car. It was too much to ask after being out and about. Whenever I was getting home, I was always near exhaustion or in pain. Maintaining a clean car doesn't fall high on the priority list. Open mail and magazines piled in the passenger and back seats. About a month ago, when it first started getting nice, I was able to clean out snow-drifts of paper. These days when I get home, I don't have all that pain. It's no problem to grab a few extra things on my way inside and maintain the cleanliness of my car. My hands aren't on fire or aching from the micro-vibrations in holding a steering wheel. Beauty!

Best of all, I'm pacing myself well enough that I haven't reaped enormous costs on the other side! Talk about being responsible! You mean I may actually have a handle on this bag o' bones? You mean maybe I've learned how to read these wacko, random symptoms well enough? Have I really learned how to recognize when I need to rest and when I can push it, so that I can make improvements to body? Wow. Wouldn't that be awesome? Sure, I could push my limits before, but there was always hell to pay on the other side. When we're in the grips of chronic illness, anything we do is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and Paul takes his interest in pain. But now, it seems that grip is loosening on me. Now I push a little, ease off when I notice the fatigue creeping in, I'm able to keep myself uninjured. It's sad that my body is such a dangerous place, but when was the world safe? Perhaps I'm learning to manage anyway, and these exercises will give we more wiggle room moving forward!

I do hope this trend continues. I hope it's not a fluke of the incredibly dry weather we've been having. I hope I'm actually getting better at these things. Because each time I'm able to do one of these little responsible things, a little voice chimes in my head, "Oh, look at what a good girl you're being! You're making a meal like a really-real adult!" or "Wow, look at that, girlfriend! You've kept your car clean for a month now! Fierce!" or as I got to tweet earlier: "#PhysicalTherapy went well today! I got to #levelup & I'm now doing more difficult exercises. Woot! #IamMighty Need a nap low. Lol" You know I'll be prancing like a peacock when I can actually hang my clothes up, rather than just moving them from the clean basket to the dirty basket!

And you may have noticed it, but I didn't talk about this improvement for a month. I didn't want to jinx it. There are so many failures---of drugs, of therapies, of professionals, of ourselves---that we encounter as the chronically ill, that it can be really difficult to believe in something. However, I must admit that my life has improved, maybe not dramatically, but certainly fundamentally. I've been able to do so many of the little things I usually just ignore, guiltily. Now that I can do them again, it's like a weight has lifted. I'm being responsible, things look better, order has been restored where there was once chaos.

Let there be more of this, please!


  1. Well that is a wonderful report! I am so happy for you! I completely understand the discouragement you experience and so I can totally see how encouraged you must be. I know that when I am able to be out and about without being depressed I too say stuff to myself like 'look at me, I am doing stuff, like regular folk'. Of course the truth is that even 'regular folk' suffer from something. This old suffering seems to be part of the human condition, however, I am so glad you have seen such wonderful progress and I am rejoicing with you and praying it will continue! Thanks for sharing both the good and the bad of your journey.

  2. You're welcome!

    Everyone suffers from something. It's just that my area of suffering is so alien to 'normal' people, it becomes difficult to relate.

    And my ability to judge myself is difficult because this is such an alien experience... How do I know if I'm doing well or poorly? However, regaining something I've lost... well, that's a definite sign!