Anxiety aside, it wasn’t that bad
All things considered, it was a pretty good trip. We decided to go cheap and stay a night in Brownsville and visit the zoo; then, do something local when we came home. Houston is farther, more expensive, and JJ is too young to really enjoy Houston so hopefully it’s an option next year.
The Motel and Pool
We only stayed overnight so the boys could experience a night in a motel and a pool. I had a lot of anxiety about this because of my disability. Accommodations
can always be made but I prefer not to feel like a burden with numerous special requests. I worried about everything from the floor covering of the room to the tub design and even adjusted my hair washing schedule (I have a sensitive scalp) to limit standing risks in the shower. The first thing I noticed was the slippery floor of the room followed by the weirdly tiny soaps. I worked and stayed in many forms of overnight locations and have never seen soap this small. It looked they decided to make motel soaps in the shape of already used soap bars. This was supposed to work for 4 people? And why only 3 towels? Good thing we came prepared.
Three stories that I could not look at. Our room was on the first floor near the stairs which was good because I could barely lift my eyes enough to see the second floor, never mind looking up to the third! I felt frozen from my lower back to the base of my skull; like, if I tried to raise my chin so my eyes could see above me, I’d break every bone after falling over or, my knees would buckle and I’d crumble into a whimpering puddle of tears and broken dreams. It’s impossible to move with this unbalanced fear so I kept my eyes down when outside.
I didn’t go in the pool or the spa. The first night I didn’t mind because there was a family of about 10 in the pool. My left body locked up just thinking about going near the water in front of them. What if I was too afraid and cried? What if I made it in but was too afraid to climb out? I just couldn’t do it in front of them. My anxiety got me and I let it but it gave Kasper the time he needed to get JJ used to being in a pool for the first time.
The next morning I took a super quick shower with my travel sized body wash that smelt pretty gross for a Dove product and my mini shower puff. Kasper helped me in and out of the tub pretty easily and I was able to stand the whole time without calling for assistance. Afterwards, we hit the pool for the boys to get real splash time and I started to feel a bit of my anxiety develop into an unfortunate realization. I always say that I’m amazed at how easily I forget the extent of my stroke’s destruction, this day further proved to me that “winging it” isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Skas begged me to dip a toe in the water just to feel how cold it was. It had already been a while and I was sweating profusely. I figured if I could get close to the pool, maybe Kasper could help me sit on the edge and participate in their pool time this way. I was fine away from the pool. Aside from my noticeable limp and slightly stiff arm, I was fine walking around; but, the second I broke the 5 foot clearance of the pool, my sweat became thick with fear and I felt as though I grew an alarming two feet taller in seconds. I had little balance as my vision entered a blurred tunnel and the sun reflecting off the water attempted to blind me. My foot turned onto its outer edge, my big toe tried to curl under itself and I couldn’t move. Skas stared up at me with disappointment as I told him I couldn’t do it.
I somehow made my way to the pillar supporting the cover over the spa and did my best to catch my breath. I realized, as I shoved down tears and held my chin out, that I am far from recovered. There are so many areas in which I am still limited both physically and mentally. It’s emotionally straining but I managed to find my lounge chair without leaking a single drop of my burden onto my cheek.
I love the heat but this was borderline torture and I almost broke, telling the Sun anything and everything it wanted to know. It was brutal. But it was nice. I’m not a huge supporter of zoos. There’s a lot I don’t understand and don’t know about all that is involved with zoos but I do feel shame when I pay to view wild animals captured and caged just for my entertainment. That said, it was a nice family trip to the zoo, showing my kids animals they’re not likely to see besides in another zoo, and teaching and learning together. My boys were startlingly well-behaved (for being kids out-of-town, in public, at a zoo) and listened maybe 75-80% of the time (seriously impressive for them).
Kasper wanted me to take my cane but I think he forgets how much of a burden that thing cane be. It gives me shoulder pain when not on smooth surfaces for long periods of time, it’s cumbersome as it occupies my one working hand, and often falls when I lean or prop it for any reason. Not to mention it actually slows me down now. I can keep pace holding Kasper’s hand or arm, or by using a railing if one’s available; which, in this case, there was.
The two biggest problems were the heat and the slopes. There were a few steep areas on the zoo’s pathway but even though it slowed me down with mild anxiety, it actually felt good on my ankle going up and down those slopes. 2/3 of the way through, the boys started looking terrible. Sweat soaked their hair and their faces were red despite the constant stops for water at every opportunity. Near the end of the tour it started to turn white around their mouths and eyes. I was worried but luckily that last stretch had no exhibits we were interested in so we hurried out, exiting through the gift shop where I got a new elephant for the collection I haven’t added to in over a decade.
On the Road and the Results
I had a few worries about going on my first “long” road trip with my disability. It’s roughly 5 or 6 hours both ways but in between I would be using up a good portion of my energy as well as my hip’s strength. Sitting for two hours is a strain on my hip in itself, how will I handle the long drive and all of the hip use? I had no idea but was up to that challenge. I think what happened was actually by accident. A few months ago, before I knew Kasper had a set date for this trip, I had started working out again due to shame and misery among other things. Every day for an hour I focus on stretching my arm, hip, and knee; and, I do strength training for my hip and leg. I think that really helped minimize the stress this trip could have caused for/on my hip and helped me build endurance for great walking distance.
I think working out helped with my ability to hover over the many frightfully nasty public restrooms I had to use, too. I had on my “road trip appetite” to limit bathroom use but you still need fluids… It was difficult but I learned it was best to gather all of my toilet paper before assuming hover pose in order to maintain decent balance throughout. It was an exciting discovery.
About a year ago I began practicing standing in the shower but only when I wash my hair. It was meant to get used to standing in the tub, such a small space, without getting vertigo. It really helped with this trip even though I didn’t wash my hair and my shower lasted all of ten minutes at most. I was relieved to learn I won’t need to lug shower chairs around with me.
Our first family trip as 4 wasn’t anything grand but I learned a lot about my abilities with my disability because of it. I went out of my way to bury my anxiety, shove aside my worries, and put on a mask that hid the fear that bubbled just beneath my skin. I want my family to be somewhat normal, to have memories, to have something to laugh over many years down the road. No one saw me near tears as I hobbled away from the pool and I did not regret telling the man at the zoo’s gate that I didn’t need the wheelchair he repeatedly tried to get me in. I did not become crippled by pain and I didn’t bombard anyone with numerous requests. I remained mostly independent, in control, and motivated to enjoy this time with my family.
In my next post, I describe the toll the burying, shoving, pushing and hiding my true mental and emotional state took.