Some words on blips
Toward the end of my disability counselling my counsellor asked me to think about how I was going to keep my new positive attitude going without the weekly lift of a session with her. We ran through a few ideas, but at the back of my mind I was slightly worried about how easy it might be to let my optimism slip back into my angry, victimised way of thinking.
I have approached the rehabilitation of my formerly destructive attitude much like rehabbing an addiction. I knew the way I felt about my disability and how it limited me was hurting me and people around me, but I didn’t know how to halt it. And just like a recovering alcoholic is always a recovering alcoholic, the transformation doesn’t stop when the counselling comes to an end. It’s just the beginning. Putting theories and coping strategies to work outside a cosy consultancy room is the real challenge and you have to make them work every single day.
The ‘left out of the crowd’ feeling that used to cripple me almost weekly really has diminished almost beyond recognition. It’s still there. It never goes away. Every few days it has reason to creep in like sudden waves of sadness and frustration. But I chase it away. I don’t let it sit on my shoulder for as long as I did. I allow myself to take my enjoyment from the fact that my lovely friends are having a wonderful time. I have to squeeze the juice out of it to feel the benefit, but it really works. I don’t want my friends to pretend they’re having a terrible afternoon because I’m not there. That’s selfish and I want them to be happy.
Last Friday I went on a long walk by myself. Well, long for me, anyway.
It was too much and it took two days to recover from it. I got about half way around and realised I could hardly feel the floor. I stood clinging to someone’s front wall while my head wobbled for some 15 minutes before a few supportive text messages encouraged me to very slowly make my way home. I made it, then I sat down and cried for a while because it had been so scary.
I felt stupid. There was no reason to feel stupid because it had been brave to even try the walk when I was already having a dizzy day. You never know where the boundary is until you push past it and with such unreliable and inconsistent symptoms, that boundary changes every day. Still, I felt silly stood in the street gripping a wall while parents sped past me with chunky pushchairs doing the second school run of the day. It was an uncomfortable feeling, but I tried not to let it define my weekend just because it had left me exhausted. It was a blip.
Yesterday I had more of an emotional shake; probably the first big one since ending counselling. I had things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go and people to see. I couldn’t do it all and I found myself pining for the past. I started missing my old body; the one that let me dash to the train station, pop into town, swing by all the places I needed to be and race home again, two Grande Starbucks down. The alternatives, the adjustments and the tasks that fell victim to compromise felt like failure. It sucked!
I sat at my desk trying to decide which of the things on my list were most important and would be most fulfilling. I did this until lunch time. With the day slipping away I knew I’d be even angrier if I wasted the whole day rolling between dilemmas. I chose the option that would let me go and do half of what I needed, in a slightly safer way than the first option. Once I’d done it, it didn’t feel like failure at all. In fact, it’s probably the most independent shopping trip I’ve been on in years. It was hard work and the dizzy spell that kicked in about half way through needed every ounce of composure to not let it leave me on the floor. But I let my VRT training take over. I breathed and talked myself through it.
The tiredness I felt afterwards was ousted by the immense sense of achievement, and the frustration that tried to keep hold of me during the morning had fizzled away. Blips are frightening. The emotional judders are even more unsettling than the physical flare-ups because they remind me of when I felt angry and upset every day. It’s like being attacked from behind. It takes a few minutes before you remember how to break the hold and overthrow it. I only realised yesterday just how powerful a reminder of the past can be and I never want to go back. That’s just not me anymore.