Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just Breathe

The past week has been incredibly stressful, and I'm not sure why.

Wait, I have an idea why...

You know how there are said to be five stages of dealing with grief or a loss? It's a fluid process, and people move through the stages at different rates, and sometimes in different orders. Well, I think I've been going through sort of a grieving process. It's been four months since I had my broken leg and surgery, and I ended up with a visit to the hospital for blood clotting issues and a mini-stroke, then sat in the neurologist's office while she confirmed my fears of Essential Tremor and/or Parkinson's Disease (by fears I mean that I am smart enough to know what that can do to an active and excited young person).

So, my automatic response to any news like that is to pretend everything is great, and picture the ten thousand things I will do to show the world that I will overcome. If there's one thing you can do to tick me off, it's telling me I can't do something.  Even though people didn't actually SAY I couldn't do things, as a special education teacher, my mind automatically went to all of the things that will happen and how my life will never be the same.

On top of that, my shaking has been pronounced enough to start causing some injuries if I'm not careful. On a completely related note, I am thinking of retiring from mascara...

So, back to the process. After making the list of things I am going to do to show whatever is going on who's boss, I then fall into a funk. Man, I could write a manual on myself by now. I guess I need to give myself credit- a lot of people spend thousands on therapy to figure out what I already have. I have seen myself go through it before, and knew it was coming. I embraced the funk (NEVER thought I'd type that sentence in my life, so there's a first!).

It hit me when I had to resign from my job. Until then, I had been on medical leave, and I could pretend that everything was going to be great. This was just something simple, and I would bounce back in no time. Problem is that I spend 8-10 days a month at a medical facility, I have to put great care into most EVERYTHING that I do, and it's just getting worse. I think that bounceback is going to take a while...

As far as the job is concerned, it wasn't fair to the students for them to keep wondering if I was returning. I got into teaching because of the kids, and I know more than anything that they need consistency. They need it in behavior support, and they need it in teachers and staff. I couldn't lead them on when I honestly didn't know when I would be healthy to return. I also didn't want to return too soon, and risk having a MAJOR setback from stress (heart attack or stroke). I'd sucked up the stress for too long, and I knew it would eventually get to me.  So, I know I'll find something new that might balance everything out, and for right now I am going to focus on getting back to a balance. Find the new me. Some cool new age jargon like that...

So, during this funk, I was sitting in a chair and staring out the window. I had days when I honestly didn't want to move. It wasn't depression- it was just time where I could slow my body down. My body has caused so many symptoms, it's like I am always on high alert to notice things. I needed time to slow my body down so I could really think. It turns out those days were useful. I was able to prioritize some things, and make a plan for moving forward.

Today, I rejoined the yoga world. I had wanted to do it for some time, but I wasn't able to modify a lot of the positions to accommodate my leg. It turns out the knee is a pretty vital piece of the body, and every position change affects it (as I found out right after surgery!). This morning I went to run errands, then returned to stretch out and let my mind wander.

Actually, the video I used focused more on my breathing. I had to laugh at first, because it seems like such a simple task. Don't get me wrong- I love yoga, and I enjoy how relaxed I feel afterward. I have done various routines for many years, but I've never seen a video that spent the first twenty minutes leading me through various breathing exercises. The narrator told me to really feel my breath, and welcome it into every cell in my body.

I believe in traditional medicine, but I also believe a lot of alternative strategies work as well. Together, I think you can make a great treatment plan for a patient. No matter what I was wanting the meds to do, I wasn't focusing on a plan that would help me maintain and build some strength, work on my balance, and promote deep breathing and stress relief.  I think I finally found my missing piece!

After the yoga routine (4o minutes!), I decided to head outside for a walk. I had only walked short jaunts around the neighborhood, so this would be the first time I headed out any longer. I am going to my physiatrist on Friday, and I wanted to be able to give her an idea of what my body could do. I know it seems odd when people think "it's been four months, so why are you still hurting?" Well, the doctor looked at my wound and said the scar isn't even healed all the way, so everything under it is still working. He gave me an injection for all the inflammation in my actual knee, which is keeping healing from happening. Then, there's the broken bone, which does take a while (especially in a weight-bearing bone). He told me he wouldn't clear me for the football field for 9-12 months, and from what he hears, a special education classroom is a similar environment (insert laugh here).

I walked at a moderate pace for about 25 minutes, and took a path outside the neighborhood. I remember getting fairly far down the road and thinking "I sure hope I can walk all the way back!" and "maybe this is why I stay close to home?"  My leg was starting to bug me, and I knew it was going to be an interesting night. I know I have to push myself, but I also have to balance that with not causing more damage. So, I headed home and put it up for a while.

We headed over to my best friend Robin's house, and played with the kids and ate pizza for dinner. I was glad to be able to chat with a good friend, and enjoy some family time. This reminded me of another crucial component of my plan to feel better: I need to schedule more social time. In the past four months, I've had a habit of being a bit of a recluse. All of the medical appts have exhausted me, and that made me not want to get out and actually talk to people. Add to that the fact that I have felt yucky a few of the days, and I am surprised I didn't scream when I saw daylight today. I know I need to get out more, and today starts my plan in that respect.

In these stages that I'm going through, I guess I'd be Acceptance by now. I've made a plan, so I guess that comes after realizing life probably won't go back to the way it used to be.  That's ok; we just have to adjust. 

And breathe.

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