Don’t be so hard on yourself

Life is hard.  Like, really, really hard.  Work, bills, loss, stress…it all adds up.  Life is also beautiful.  Friends, family, kind deeds, thoughtful words, the beauty of a sunset.  It can all be beautiful.  It’s not one or the other.  It’s not so black and white.  But sometimes, it’s hard to see that.  When you’re on a high it’s hard to remember that life can have it’s downs.  And when you’re down, it’s hard to think you’ll ever get back to a happy, or even normal, place.

I try to be a positive person.  I am good at finding silver linings and positive twists on things.  And I try to share that positivity, both on this blog and with people I know.  But it’s also really easy for me to go to a negative place.  You know, the place that’s filled with “I can’ts” and “I miss” and all the other things that one should try to keep at bay.  But, why should you keep those negative thoughts away?  If you ignore the negative I think they creep back up and overwhelm you.  And it’s easier to swim in the shallow end of a pool than in a tsunami.  (I don’t know if that exactly made sense, but I think you’re getting what I’m saying.)

Loss of mobility is hard to deal with.  Yes, I can adapt (and have) pretty well.  But it’s still tough.  There are things I can’t do anymore.  That’s something I have accepted.  I do my best to find a positive side to things I can’t do (i.e. I can’t walk, but at least I don’t fall and scrape my knees up like I used to) when I can.  But there are still times when the sadness creeps up and I get emotional.  And then I look at everything I can do and recover from the sadness.

Recently I wrote an article for a magazine and I tried to cover this very topic in it.  I talked about how the first time my son went in a pool, I wasn’t able to be in it with him.  We were at my aunt’s house for a family party and there is no lift at her house.  My husband and mom took my son in the pool and baby boy had a blast!  But it was really, really hard for me to not be a part of that.  Sure, I could have gotten in the pool (you know, gravity) but it would have been hard to get out (again, gravity).  And then it would have been about me and my safety which would have taken away from the Little Mister’s first pool experience.  In the article I wrote about how sometimes you just have to accept that there are some things you can’t do and find ways to turn them into a positive.  In the pool example, I mentioned that I took one million photos of the Little Mister in the pool to commemorate his first swim.  If I had been in the pool we would have missed out on those photos.  See, positive outlook!  I was still super sad, but at least there was some positivity that allowed me to move on and not be overwhelmed.

The editor told me that I was being negative and said something along the lines of “where is your can-do attitude?! There are public pools with lifts that you can use.” That wasn’t the point.  I do use public pools with lifts.  I love swimming.  I’m part mermaid.  And I appreciate that the editor wants to portray a positive image.  But the point is that I was in a place that didn’t have a lift and I missed out and I was sad.  But I dealt with it and moved on.

And I guess the point of this blog is that if all people do is portray positivity it makes the people going through hard times feel alone.  Or misunderstood.  Or unrelateable.  We all have down days.  We all have things that hit us the wrong way and make us sad.  It’s human nature.  And when you have a disability there are things that will come up that you can’t do that will make you sad.  And yes, there are ways to adapt.  But sometimes that isn’t an option.  And to ignore this publicly is to make others feel that they are all alone.  I’m here to say that you are not alone.  We all struggle at times.  We all get down at times.  And, even when you’re in the thick of it and feel that life is going to overwhelm you, it will get better.

And acknowledging that isn’t negative. It’s real.

Work anniversary

I’m in love with a new feature on Facebook- the memories feature.  Each day, it brings up my activity from years past.  It hilarious to read through to see what I was doing or thinking in years past.  Sometimes, I have no clue what things mean, but I’m sure I thought they were hilarious (poignant, important, meaningful, memorable, etc.) at the time.  It’s also fun to see pictures or posts that people put on my page.  It’s kind of like A Christmas Carol and I’m Scrooge looking to see what Facebook post ghosts will visit me.  Will I remember something fondly?  Will I wonder what the heck I was thinking? Will it inspire me for things to come?

This morning, as I sat in court waiting for the hustle and bustle to begin, I clicked to see what memories from years past Facebook would bring to me.  And this is the post that came up:

FB memory

Two years ago today was my first day back in court after becoming paralyzed!  Less than two months after becoming paralyzed, I was right back to the grind.  I remember the immense sense of relief that I had going back to the courtroom.  That moment gave me a brief sense of normalcy.  I remember being so nervous about what people would say, or about how I would be able to function.  I was worried about what my clients might think.  But as I went back, I realized that nothing had changed but my legs.  I was still me.  And actually, working was what helped me keep my sanity and get back.  Helping my clients gave me something to focus on so I wouldn’t be down on life.  It gave me a sense of purpose.

It’s funny now thinking back on that day when I got to go back to work.  Even when it’s frustrating, I still love what I do.  I get to help people when they really need some help.  What’s better than that when trying to not sink into depression or aggravation over things in your own life?  So thank you Facebook for reminding me of that joy I felt 2 years ago!  I’ll try to remember that feeling a bit more when I get angry or frustrated with life and I’ll try to channel that into all things positive.

Fight on!

So, there are a few perks to being in a wheelchair.  I know that may seem weird, but there are.  One can almost always find a silver lining in any given situation if they look.  (I say “almost always” because I don’t want to get into a debate where someone tries to bring me down by proving sad situations.  So, if you disagree with me and you’re in a situation where there is no silver lining then all I can say is that I hope you feel better and I’ll pray for you.  Now, back to my silver lining moment…)

My family is a HUGE USC Trojan fanatic family.  Everyone but me (hello, Rebel!) went to school there.  Mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins.  I did not.  But, that does not take away from my fanatic response to Trojan football!  Well, not necessarily to the team itself.  I like football within reason.  Though, I am more into the pageantry of the home games: the band, the tail gating, Traveler the horse.

My dad is really into USC football.  In my family, we don’t necessarily root for a professional team.  USC is our football.  So, this year and last, my dad got a suite at the Coliseum.  The suites are on the field, which is awesome.  What’s even more awesome (*insert eye roll here*) is that the Coliseum is so old that there is nothing but steps to the field.

Nothing, except for the tunnel that is!!  Yes, I get to go down the tunnel.  The same way the players enter the field.  The same way the band enters the field.  The same way Traveler enters the field.  That’s now the way I enter the field!!

The tunel

That’s my dad walking next to me.  And our guards.  Ok, not really.  The LAPD were not there to protect me from the paparazzi.  But, I did have 2 USC security guards escorting me.  The weekend before I had 4.  And they made a really big deal about getting people out of my way.  Which made me feel like a really big deal.  (Or people thought the chick in the wheelchair was being unruly, causing trouble and getting kicked out.  Either way…)  This time, my mom and the hubs were there too.  The weekend before my brother and his lady were with us.  They missed out this time.

The suite is on the opposite side of the field which means that we had to roll all the way across the field.  It wasn’t so bad this week as we went down early.

On the field

Last week, we ended up coming out with the band (SQUEAL!!) and had to go all the way around the field.  That was awkward cause it meant more people were staring.  I’m way more comfortable in the background than in the forefront.  I am not complaining, I’m just saying I preferred going down when not as many people would be looking.  But if I could always march out with the band and/or Traveler, I would!

So, yes, there are silver linings- being on the field at the infamous Coliseum is one of them!  Fight on!!

One year later

One year ago today was the day that changed my life. Was it the worst day of my life? No. I still consider that to be March 27, 1991. That was the date of my first major back surgery, and the date that my grandpa died. Despite the fact that that surgery saved the ability for my young self to walk and regain a normal lifestyle, that was the worst day of my life. One year ago today, I lost the ability to walk. It sounds weird to phrase it that day, but I think it’s appropriate. It’s not gone completely, it’s just hiding somewhere within my inner being. According to 5 O’Clock Shadow, my nerves are like a congested freeway and we just need the lanes to open up for the traffic to go freely. It may seem weird when people break things down like that, but that’s where my comprehension level is. When it has to do with medical issues and my body, my brain turns into that of a 10 year old. I can wrap my mind around that. Other PTs try telling me in their scholarly fashion “nerves regenerate at 1 millimeter per month and so far you’re showing excellent growth patterns.” My eyes will glaze over. Freeways and traffic I can relate to! I grew up driving in the traffic mecca of the world: Los Angeles. Traffic I get.

I keep thinking back to last year. I wonder if there was a precise moment when my legs went limp. This time last year I was under the knife. Had it already happened? Was it happening around now, as I sit hear one year later, eating left over pasta from last night’s dinner and typing this blog? If the doctors had ended the surgery now, would I have been able to skip out of the hospital? It’s a weird thing to think about.

I don’t know how to feel today, other than amazed at the fact that it’s already been a year. Am I sad? Indifferent? Optimistic? I don’t know. Is it possible to be all of the above? Obviously I’m bummed. I don’t think anyone hopes that one day they’ll get to have a permanent seat from now on. Though, to be fair, that is a perk: I never have to worry about finding a place to sit in public. But am I that bummed? It’s not like life is over. I’ve still been able to work, although it definitely took some figuring out as far as logistical planning goes. But, I’ve actually had my best year yet at my firm. So that wasn’t impacted. And I just got back from an amazing two week road trip with the hubs (more on that to come in a different blog). So I can still travel. I’m still able to swim. I can drive now. I have a new wheelchair coming any day now, so I’ll be 100% independent. I plan on ordering an attachment for said new wheelchair which will turn my wheelchair into a tricycle, so I can go on walks easier with the hubs and the dogs. Then there’s the weekly pain in the butt sessions with 5 O’Clock Shadow which keep me hopeful for the future. And the therapy I do at home helps me keep fighting to be back on my feet. So, is life really so bad?

This past weekend was my baby niece’s second birthday party. I watched other people running around playing with her, or carrying her and that made me sad. There was a pony ride involved and I couldn’t help her. I can honestly say that not being able to keep up with her or do all the things other people can with her has been the hardest part of this whole thing. But then I look for the positive: at her birthday party, I was like home base. I was seated in my wheelchair in a particular area out of the way of all the playing children, and she knew I was there. She would periodically make her way over to me with a toy or a blanket.

Maybe being non-mobile isn’t a terrible thing. Maybe it’s taught me that it’s ok to sit down for a while. That you don’t always have to be moving about. It’s definitely taught me patience. I know how frustrated clients can be when it seems things are taking forever and they don’t understand why. It’s taught me empathy for that frustration. It’s taught me to be resourceful and how to figure things out. This past year has taught be to get over my stubbornness and to ask for help. That’s it’s ok to need people. It doesn’t make you weak to not be able to do something 100% on your own. It’s definitely taught me to trust and who I can trust. It’s taught me who is truly there for me and who my real friends are. It’s taught me to meet challenges. It’s taught me that gravity can be really fun when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s also taught me that gravity can be really scary when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s taught me that sometimes life just sucks for no apparent reason and you just have to keep rolling.

One year ago today was the day that changed my life forever. And I don’t think it was in a bad way.

Swell-ing

Today’s positive thought.

Another unfortunate side effect of my current situation: swelling in my extremities.  (That’s not the positive thought, obviously)  Apparently when you don’t move, your body gets swollen.  Something to do with circulation and fluid.  All I know is that if I sit in my chair for a few hours, then my feet get super swollen.  They’re so bad that my shoes leave imprints on my feet.  They start hurting.  And for someone with numb feet, that’s saying something.  My physical therapists told me to lay down with my feet elevated every now and then.  That’s all find and dandy if I’m home alone or with the hubs or my folks.  But, I can’t really do that if we have company over.  (“You don’t mind if I lounge on the couch while you’re talking, right?  Oh, and please ignore me if I fall asleep as one is accustomed to doing when lounging on the couch.”)  And I especially can’t do that if I get stuck for a few hours in court.  (“Excuse me your honor, but do you have a sofa in your chambers?  My little piggies are swollen and I need to raise them for a bit.  You don’t mind if I take my shoes off, right?”)  It’s just not the easiest thing to deal with.  It’s not the worst either.  It’s one of those in-betweeners that is just annoyingly sucky.

What I didn’t realize right away was that it’s not just my feet that get swollen.  (No, it’s not my mid-section.  Though, I would love to blame weight gain on swelling.  “I’m not getting fat.  It’s just lack of circulation.  Now pass me the fries!”)  My hands have gotten swollen too!  I only know this because when I came home from the hospital, my rings fit.  After a couple days, I realized that my ring finger was turning purple.  My engagement ring almost didn’t come off.  And I hadn’t been able to wear it since.   Luckily my wedding band had been one size bigger so it fit.  So it sat waiting for me for months.  I tried moving my arms more, massaging my hands, drinking more water, anything to get the swelling down.  I would sit in my chair flailing my arms and air boxing.  Didn’t help.  I finally caved and went to my jeweler to have it re-sized.  I was putting that off as I’m hoping to be mobile in the relatively near future.  But I missed my ring too much to wait any longer.  Even though they charged a ridiculous amount of money, (here comes the positive thought) it was worth it to finally slip my beautiful ring back on my non-beautifully non-manicured finger.

Now, people may think that this isn’t a big deal.  To many people, it might not be a big deal.  To me, it’s huge.  So much of my life has been turned upside down by this surgery.  I haven’t been out on my own in public since the beginning of August.  I can’t take a shower unless someone is home.  A lot of my normal clothes don’t fit because it’s so hard to button your pants while sitting.  (Ok, that and the fries I suppose.)  Strangers have been driving my car while I can’t.  Going to meet friends somewhere?  That’s out.  Riding my bike?  That’s clearly not happening.  We had to take the doors off of the bathrooms for me to get in.  Life is not at all what it used to be.  And it’s definitely not what the hubs signed up for.  So, my being able to finally wear my ring is a sense of normalcy that I can restore.  And for the mind, that’s a huge deal.  It’s swell, if you will.

Plus, it’s really sparkly and sparkly things make me happy.  The end.

Positive thought: 11/19/13

My doctor told me to find one positive thing a day.  This was back when I was on week two and a half or three.  He said I was too hard on myself and that I should focus on one positive thing a day, no matter how big or small.  Gee, Doc.  I don’t know why I’m so negative.  My legs don’t work.  I’m stuck in a hospital where I have to ask permission to go outside for a few minutes a day.  My insides were gutted, or at least it feels that way.  I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that they ripped out my muscles, put them in a blender on puree, poured it back into my back and then sealed me up.  But ok.  One positive thing.

I’ve been trying to do the “one positive thing a day” since then.  It really was good advice.  Today’s positive thing was simple to most people but huge for me: I made it into my closet.  The hubs and I moved into a new house while I was in the hospital.  Ok, he moved us in.  Like a true champ, he handled everything.  When I got home to our new place, I discovered that there were some rooms that I couldn’t get into.  It’s a new house and therefore, I figured, built according to ADA guidelines.  I assumed my wheelchair would fit everywhere.  I was wrong.  For example, the doors to all the bathrooms in the house are too small.  We literally had to take the door off the wall for me to fit through.  Awkward!

Much to my chagrin, the closet is another room I couldn’t fit into.  It was a hard turn that my wheelchair couldn’t make.  Until today.  I I made a 37 point turn to line up directly with the doorway.  I inched my way closer.  My hands didn’t fit on the wheels, so I used the sides of the door to push/squeeze my way through.  But after all that, I made it!  After much thought, planning, effort, I was finally in!

Here’s why this is a monumental achievement:  Have you ever tried to get dressed through another person.  If it’s a routine day where nothing much is going on other than lounging at home, errands or physical therapy, then it’s shorts and a t-shirt.  Nothing much there.  I have a certain number of each and they all seem to go together.  Whatever the hubs grabbed for me was fine.  But, on days where I’m going to work or out somewhere that I need to dress up, it could be a far bigger challenge.

Hubs: What do you want to wear?

Me: Oh, I don’t know.

Hubs: How about this? (showing a shirt)

Me: Ummmm, no.  I don’t like that one.

Hubs: Ok, how about this one? (bringing forth a new shirt)

Me:  No, that one doesn’t fit well.

Hubs: Ok.  How about this one? (voice getting more strained as he brings out a new shirt)

Me:  I don’t like that one.  How about the white one?

You could see how that would be frustrating for him.  Or, here’s another scenario (and yes, these actually happened):

Me:  I’d like to wear my silver sequined sleeveless top.

Hubs:  This one?  (bringing forth a top)

Me:  That’s a blouse, not a sleeveless top.

Hubs: This one?

Me:  That’s not silver.  That’s cream.  The silver one!

Hubs: This one?

Me:  That’s not sequined.  That’s glitter.

Ok, I don’t know if it was glitter.  I don’t know if I own a glitter top.  Quite frankly, that sounds messy.  The point is I could go check to see if I own a glitter top cause I fit in the closet and now I can pick out my own clothes.  And that is my positive thought for the day.