I Want To Walk Again - Life After Physical Trauma
Written by Julie Taylor
The other day I received an email from a very unhappy professional athlete who had recently been badly injured. He'd been involved in a motorbike accident and couldn't walk, although his spinal cord wasn't severed. He had no sense of balance and sat up in the chair he was put in every morning, until the care-aid came and put him to bed at night. He was angry. And afraid. One day he was a fit young man. And the next...
This is my reply to him:
I feel so sad, for you and for all the young, beautiful, talented people that these kinds of things happen to. Most of my clients are young... I love them. I do 'get it'. Because I was only 28 and a young, healthy, fit, successful and beautiful woman myself when I was injured. My prognosis was that I would never walk again. And I can, (because my spinal cord was intact) and it took a lot of effort and time. It was very hard for me for a long time. Know that I do, really, understand the massive life changes and challenges that are facing you.... Very serious. But I am optimistic about all our prognoses and I am willing to email with you and reply to your emails.
There is a good book I think you might enjoy... ‘Reframe Your Life: Transforming Your Pain into Purpose’ by Stephen Arterburn. ReBuildingYou depends on your support to grow - BUY HERE - click on the picture or the words in blue. The prices are exactly the same and you’ll be supporting RBY at the same time. Thank you!
The first thing to do - if there's someone 'safe' for you to do it with - is to cry Stay with the sheer cruelty and sadness of it all. For as long as it takes. Don't just sit quietly everyday and feel you have to suck it up... Cry and scream and shout and bellow... Punch a punchbag if you can... Is there someone you can do that with? You really need to arrange for that expression of all the feelings inside you - and you may have no idea that they're even there. I didn't cry for about 8 years. If I had, I could have progressed faster.
About physically, walking... Can you tell me what happens when you try? Can you describe it? Describe you getting out of bed alone. If no-one was there and you absolutely had to... Yes, it would help if I knew. But way more importantly, if you try and write it all down and then read it you will 'get it' and understand way better how to help yourself. When you see it written down, it's almost like being a 3rd party and you can get a clearer and more distant viewpoint.
Can you perhaps do what I did when I first started to walk, I wonder? My head and limbs all felt very heavy and I didn't really get where they were in space. I had to really concentrate on them hard to get them to move. That effort helps to form new pathways. I knew the theory of walking - because I'd walked before. So I hung on to things to help me pull myself around - it wasn't cute... But now and again, when I could forget what went before in my life and I could forget my hopes and dreams just for a minute, I was able to 'make myself'. Are you able to do that? Keep telling yourself that it's OK not to get it. You're not stupid, just injured. You know the room's not really spinning, though it might feel that way. Even though standing at 90 degrees may feel odd and like you're at 40 degrees... Have a guide - like the edge of the walls and doors... And just try it...
Can you get someone to make you some parallel bars to practice walking?
When you fall, just carry on. Imagine a toddler - just carrying on and picking himself up... He even seems to enjoy the drunken feeling... Laugh and make it all into a game, if you can. Crawl to the washroom... Pull yourself up. Gradually, the hope is that your body itself will re-learn to move. And new pathways will be forged in your brain.
It's really hard to make a game of it and do those things when you're an adult - let alone when you were someone who was so well coordinated... But I think it's why children do get there in the end... And why they tend to do better. Because children have few preconceived ideas about how they 'should' or even could perform...
I thought it was something to do with the age of the body or something but apparently there is no real reason like that. Technically the brains of elderly stroke victims are just as capable to forging new pathways - and I've seen the results. Children are just willing to play... Turn it all into a game. And that alone makes the learning faster.
Life After Trauma: A Workbook for Healing by Dena Rosenbloom, Mary Beth Williams PhD and Barbara E. Watkins is another really good book. "What makes an event traumatic?..." ReBuildingYou depends on your support to grow - BUY HERE - click on the picture or the blue words. The prices are exactly the same, Amazon is a completely safe and trustworthy website and you’ll be supporting RBY at the same time. Thank you!
I keep asking you to laugh but none of this is in the slightest bit funny, I know. Losing your coordination and strength - and even your whole image of who you are as a man - is anything but funny. But the fact is, that suck as it may... As unfair as it is... This is today's reality. And it could change in a day or a week or a month or a couple of years... I'm not suggesting that you accept anything 'future'. Just today (I love this song - I am in the chorus).
Some days you just won't be able to tolerate it all. And that's fine. However it is, it just is. Neither good nor bad. But on some days, would you willing to try? Would you be willing to try to be as you imagine a child would be?
I want to walk again... I will walk again.
There is evidence that the act of trying - even if the reality is that you don't move an inch but just lie there trying really hard, focusing and willing movement - just the act of trying causes new pathways to be formed in the brain. And that's what you want... New pathways to connect all the bits of the brain you need to make certain movements happen. And don't worry about certain parts of the brain being damaged or broken. Different parts of the brain can take over when another part is broken... Even if it's not 'their job'. Be prepared to be amazed!
If you get up between parallel bars and go through the motions of stepping, the body and the muscles take over and will do it better next time. Make new muscle memories. Do it anyway, even it's not as you want. Don't accept that 'you can't walk'. Maybe accept that you can't walk today... But who is to say whether you will ever walk again? Only you...
Try and find a pilates teacher. Move... Even spastically. MOVE... Pillates was developed by a man named Joseph Pilates to help rehabilitate World War I veterans who had been badly injured. It's easily the most effective exercise program I've found and the results are quite amazing, even if you do a very modified form of the exercises. Pilates is the best exercise in my opinion for rehabilitation.
Pilates For Older Adults is a DVD - only $12.99 - are exercises that are more do-able for those rehabilitating from physical trauma. You may not be able to do everything but this will get you ready for classes! Plus, when you do go to classes, seniors are accepting and welcoming - which I know I needed so badly when I started. ReBuildingYou depends on your support to grow - BUY HERE - the prices are exactly the same, Amazon is a completely safe and trustworthy website and you’ll be supporting RBY at the same time. Thank you!
It couldn't be harder - except perhaps if you were well and had to watch your child struggle? That would be worse for me. But even though it's so hard, do it... Above all, 'try' and 'play'...
The more I learn and can pass on to others, the better. Your story will help others - and other people's stories will help you. For now though, we just have to take today, and run with it. Learn from our experiences...
Hang in there. It seems like impossible hell. Eventually it will start to make a little bit more sense. And I believe - as you've said that you do - that you will walk again. You're young and strong and you were at the peak of fitness.
Just remember, like my daddy used to tell me, there's no such word as 'can't'...