I found myself unable to trust a tech at therapy today. This has only happened one other time at this facility. I find it disturbing. I’m supposed to trust these people. I’m not in fear of dying while there, that’s ridiculous; but, what I am afraid of is the image my imagination provides me with every time my legs feel unstable. I’m afraid I will fall and my left dead arm will just flop around out there until I land on it, sending bone through skin. I fell on Christmas eve, I don’t know if I blogged about that or not, my memory has been faded lately. I thought I broke my arm and was afraid to even look at it for fear of seeing bone. All is well but I realized just how intense my fear of not feeling something so horrendously gruesome as bone bursting through flesh is.
I have this one exercise which is awkward because I have to get on my hands and knees and rock back and forth then side to side. I have a few issues with this, the obvious ones being that I am a woman and most of the techs are men except maybe 4 or 5 and one is a lesbian (not that I care). Everyone is professional but every now and then there’s a joke or comment thrown out there that instantly makes it awkward. Then there’s my disability, that in itself makes just about every thing I do difficult and getting ‘on all fours’ is definitely not an exception.
The main problem I have with this exercise is that I can’t feel my left side and usually have to rely on the tech to my left to tell me if and when I am putting weight on my left knee. This lack of surety that I should be able to physically provide myself with creates hesitation and extreme distrust in my own body which increases muscle tone throughout my left body, tightening it to the extent that my fingers refuse to be opened. The tech to my left has to be somebody I trust or this issue cannot be resolved. There is only two techs that I find myself safe with like this and one I worked with for the first time yesterday.
It wasn’t until I found myself on my knees with all of my weight on my right hand squeezing Jack’s (my trustworthy and favorite tech who is usually on my left) hand, that I discovered I didn’t trust Big John (tech on my left today). I was startled by Jack’s strength because to be honest, he’s kind of a tiny guy but he’s so confident that I never really doubted being in his hands. I could feel him holding me up while I fought with the reflexes of my left arm which seemed to instinctively want to punch Big John in the face. It was weird, my left pinky was sticking out like I was trying to “put on airs.”
Jack pushed against me, but I refused to lean towards Big John. He’s a big guy, tall and husky, why didn’t I trust him like I trusted Jack so easily?
I reflected on this during the drive home. There’s so much that comes with being disabled but it doubles, possibly triples when you become disabled. I was never a very independent person no matter how I try to spin it. I don’t have my license, never have and probably never will. I have always relied on my feet, the change in my pocket for the bus or family and friends provided me with transportation. I have never lived on my own, always lived with someone paying half, more or all of the bills. When it came to me, however, to taking care of me, to getting things done, I always did them myself. I moved my own furniture, changed my own lightbulbs, climbed the ladder even when I was afraid. I didn’t, and don’t, like to ask for people to do things for me – which is strange because I’m actually a lazy person…I’m just one big oxymoron I guess.
It was so incredibly difficult to learn how to ask people for things, to ask for help when I needed it, to learn that it is not as safe as it once was to try things on my own first. I took my independence, what little I had, for granted and I didn’t pursue a more independent lifestyle like a normal person does but once this stroke happened I realized how valuable that independence is to an individual. I remember being in inpat rehab and breaking down in my wheelchair because I ‘got in trouble’ for not calling a nurse to transfer me from the shower bench to the toilet and then into my wheelchair. I had only kind of learned to walk at this point. My O.T (occupational therapist) yelled at me and told me it was not worth the risk to not call her in. I didn’t want to be a bother and I also didn’t want the assistance. I didn’t want to learn to do these things with assistance, I wanted it on my own and it created this stubbornness in me that was really difficult for the people around me to handle. I just didn’t want to be helped even though I needed it in a near desperate way. I just wanted to be myself and do it myself. It was hard to learn that the people (not all but some) around me were there to help me and be there for me.
I think, after contemplating the difference between Jack and Big John and why I am so willing to accept the help from one over the other even when it doesn’t seem logical, that my problem wasn’t me. For once, I think the problem was him. I get so close to these people that our bubbles cross into each other and I think I sensed his own uncertainty about his hands and strength. I remember one of the first times I worked with Jack I asked him if he could handle me if I fell, it was meant as a joke, and he just laughed it off casually but I knew he wasn’t joking. His confidence is not a cocktail of arrogance and egotism. It is just pure, good old-fashioned confidence; it consumes him and it emanates from him and into me. I’ve never met anyone like this. Big John does not have this and I felt it missing and I could not rely on him to be my other half, I could not trust him to hold me up when I could not do it myself and as a result, I almost fell. It wouldn’t have hurt if I had fallen because there was a thick mat beneath me.
Now that I think back to my session earlier today, with my hand squeezing Jack’s, I realize I had relied heavily on his presence. I accepted his help, expected it, without giving birth to the thoughts. Here I am, near three years after my stroke and I’ve accomplished so much but I’ve had to accept so much assistance to get here. How and when did I learn to absorb the reflections of those around me like I had done with Big John and do with Jack? How on earth did I come to accept assistance from others and how is it that I allow others to not only touch me so personally but to also act as a part of my body? I don’t have advice to give on this issue because apparently it just happens? Patience was needed in those around me, such as Kasper. He learned early on that he needed to wait until I learned things like understanding my lack of independence in some major areas of my life and finding it in new and unexpected areas like a hidden gem buried in the ashes of a past long-lost before he could get me to listen to his offers for assistance.
One thing I did learn today, amongst others, is that when I am in a panic and my adrenaline pumps the fear through me, I really work up a nasty stink. How embarrassing! Poor Jack, he was so close to me, too!