Monday, January 25, 2016

Lessons from two weeks with a walker

So, tomorrow marks two full weeks using a walker to get around following my successful back surgery.  And I have learned a lot.  Of course, the first thought on lessons learned is how much I have taken for granted having a fully able body.  This is so apparent from the first time I put all of my weight onto the handles to hold myself up and make it ten feet to the hospital room bathroom.  In fact, even before that, I realized how good I have had it when I had to use a bedpan twice waiting for my walker to be delivered.  It is amazing how a simple task of making it to the bathroom independently suddenly becomes a privilege I no longer had available to me.

But day after day, the biggest lesson imparted grew into quite the revelation.  It wasn't the constant dependence on my husband and children to be my hands, bringing me every meal, helping me to the shower, and helping out of the shower, making sure I've taken my pain medication in time so that I am not suffering an hour later.  But, what actually happened is my decision-making process radically changed.  You see, if I had to go to the restroom, I had to ask myself several questions.  Is this something that can wait?  If I go now, will I just have to make the difficult trip in another 30 minutes?  Was I in too much pain at the moment for it to be worth the trip?

And when I answered all those questions in the negative, I then had to get the energy to sit up on my bed, push myself up to standing on one foot with my walker, slowly hopping with the assistance of the walker, turn my walker sideways at the door because the doorway was one inch too small..  And even then, it was physically trying to derobe myself, sit down, do my business, pull myself back up, and repeating the trip back to my bed.  It all took so much time, so much effort -- and this was just so I wouldn't pee my pants.  I had to plan so I would not be rushed, because there is no rushing when you have a walker.  And God forbid a towel was left crumpled on the bathroom floor.  Another obstacle making me question if I should even bother getting up.

I still had to eventually choose to move, or I could just sit where I was, make a mess, and refuse to do anything about it.  Because it was too hard.  But by making myself move, I helped my recovery.  After a few days, I was a pro at getting up from my bed, I moved faster, and the decision to get up was easier.  If I just decided not to move,  my recovery would be delayed and life would remain very difficult, messy, and depressing.

So, life slowed down for me.. A LOT.  What used to be a simple decision now became a process of pro's and con's.  A week into my recovery, a friend needed my help.  She was very depressed and needed critical help and she needed it then.  It didn't take me near as long to decide to go with her to the ER to get help as the going to the bathroom did.  Why?  Why was it different?  I would have to work so much harder to ride in a car for an hour, get myself back to her room, sit with her, focusing not on my pain but hers, and get her the help she needed.  And then five days later, when I knew she was having a hard time and needed a visitor two hours away, I knew I had to find a way to go visit her.  It didn't matter what my pain level was, or how long it took me to hobble up to the front desk and check in.  So many people had seen me struggle with getting around my hospital room after surgery or around my house, and suggested I shouldn't go, that I should take care of myself.

So here is the lesson...  We all need to learn to slow down and see if a certain decision is the right one.  Will it have a positive impact on your life and the direction and goals you are working towards? Will it help you grow, get better, heal, and be productive?  If you can find the answers to these questions, you will know whether to even take the first step in that direction.  But don't discount your instincts, your gut reaction.  Sometimes, life throws a curve ball, and you depend on your deepest values and beliefs in those moments.  Don't make excuses in those moments, don't let them pass you by.  These moments may make the biggest impacts of your entire life.

Imagine if it took you ten times as much time and effort to do what you are trying to do.  Would you still do it?  If not, is it worth your time in the first place?  Don't shortchange yourself, because sometimes you need to be able to drop it all for the really important stuff.

I sure hope I can continue to think in this new way in a week when I can finally rid myself of dependence on this metal walker, and re-enter my life outside my bedroom.

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