Friday, August 31, 2012

OOTD: casual Friday (on Thursday)

Self-portrait headshot of the author.  Dark auburn hair that hits the shoulders, green rectangle glasses, fair skin, smiling, with medium pink lip gloss. Wearing light purple shirt with darker purple cardigan
I'm wearing lipgloss!
I'm posting on my laptop, so I don't have my horde of Paralympics links to share with you today.  So I'm going to just post two pictures that I took yesterday.  One showing off my hair & makeup, the other a full body shot of my outfit (I'm wearing jeans...I'm not completely converted to skirts, but I can't resist wearing jeans to work when I have the opportunity).

The first photo is a self-portrait headshot of my haircut & color that I got at my local Aveda salon.  This is part of my self-care regime that I've been doing for a while (it started with my inability to dye my own hair and became something that contributed to my mental well-being).  Last time I got my hair done, my stylist put some lip gloss on me that resulted in a lot of comments from coworkers and friends.   So I decided to pick it up at the appointment.  I don't think I got a good photograph of it, but I like it.  I'm feeling somewhat motivated to learn some techniques for other makeup.
Author dressed in medium blue jeans, light purple t-shirt, darker purple cardigan, using a black cane
Work bathroom self-photo!

As for the outfit, it's pretty darn casual.  The jeans are an older style of Right Fit jeans from Lane Bryant (oh how I wish they hadn't redesigned them!), the jersey cardigan from Old Navy, the t-shirt also from Old Navy (their t-shirts have become part of my usual uniform as they are comfy, fit comfortably, and work for both work & casual), shoes are from Shoe Carnival, and the cane is from Folding Sticks (the only place I've found with a folding cane shorter than 32").  The watch is my red Polar heart rate monitor that I used to use for spin classes & triathlon training.

I'll probably have more actual content in the next couple days, but my Labor Day weekend is currently taken up with a little bit of birthday celebration, research, and schoolwork.  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Author wearing a baseball cap saying "Iron Girl," black long-sleeved shirt with "Challenged Athletes Foundation," racing number 3104, blue workout pants, sitting in blue-framed wheelchair, flexing one arm.  Pic taken before my first wheeled 5k race
Not a Paralympian, but definitely a parathlete!
With the opening of the Paralympics tomorrow, I'm going to give you lovely readers some reading about how to watch, what to watch, and some other interesting things about what many folks consider the pinnacle of disability sport.

For US fans, most of our options to watch the Paralympics are online.  But for more news bits (including tips on how to get the most of your Paralympics watching...
Knowing me, there will be more Paralympics posts as I find information and as I try to find time to watch (trying find time to watch tv while being a doctoral student is an interesting feat).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: Chair Aerobics for Everyone: Chair Bellydance

The cover of the Chair Aerobics for Everyone: Chair Bellydance dvd.  Has a long, curly haired woman sitting down on the cover with a coin scarf tied over her sports bra, coin scarf on hips, black pants, arms overhead. Text reads "restore energy, dance without impact, lose pounds and inches, tone back and arm muscles"
The cover of the Chair Bellydance dvd
I was given a copy of this video for review on my blog.  I've been looking around for commercially available seated dance videos, and this came up in a discussion I had with my friend Tracy over at A Foundation for Change.  I decided to ask the makers of the Chair Aerobics for Everyone series for a copy to review on this blog, so here we are!

The introduction states that this is a full body workout that requires a chair, a shawl or veil, and a cane or broomstick.  The instructor Ronit Amaya demonstrates a few quick movements, both upper & lower body.  She says that this video is good for a variety of folks wanting a workout, from people who cannot stand for a length of time to others that just want a different kind of challenge.

You're given the chance to select either a full workout or quick workout.  The full workout warmup shows the instructor perched on the edge of her seat and doing marches & step-touch movements with her legs (making this video potentially not as useful for folks who are paralyzed or need to be really careful with hip movements, like me).  She demonstrates pre-workout stretches as part of the warmup, which can be problematic for many folks.  With the body not fully warmed up, some people may be prone to injury.  If you're new to exercise, the warmup given may be sufficient if you are really gentle with the stretches.

After the warmup stretch, the next section focuses on the lower body.  She uses hip lifts, kicks out to the front, and leg circles in front of the chair.  Like I mentioned in the warmup, this section will probably need to be skipped if you have paralysis or lower body impairment.  For me personally, I could probably get by skipping the hip bumps and doing the rest of it.

The upper body section included some pretty arm patterns (the instructor didn't name them and I don't have a good name for them from my own dance experience), head circles, shoulder bumps (she calls them shimmies, but they're a slowed down 3/4 pattern), snake arms (she doesn't name them), torso circles, and an upper body undulation that she calls the snake (known more commonly as a camel in some dance communities).  For someone without dance experience, it may be difficult to pick up some of these movements as they aren't broken down for the viewer.  However, as a workout video, the purpose is to keep moving versus having precision.

The next section utilizes a cane.  She uses a medical cane for the instruction versus a dance cane (probably because the target demographic might have one easily accessible), but demonstrates several movements that are covered in the earlier upper body section.  These are movements that are many times seen in raks assaya (cane dance...the video is a friend of mine Xavier Shadowdancer performing a cane dance), so it's a nice addition to the video. 

A veil or scarf section is next.  Ronit uses a pretty small scarf for this section, presumably to show a prop that someone might have easily at hand (versus a full size veil).  She uses the same shoulder bumps from earlier, then combines some more traditional veil moves.  During most of these three sections (upper body, cane, & veil), the instructor is moving both her upper and lower body which as a dancer was a bit frustrating because she wasn't isolating her movements (great for keeping the "full body workout" theme going though).

The last section was a cool-down section that was very similar to the warmup.  I really was hoping for more stretching and less cardio work as this section really didn't do much to transition to a "not working out" state (although that may be more of a function of my pretty decent fitness level).  I was glad that she didn't advocate for any really deep stretches, something that can be potentially dangerous when done incorrectly (that's how I broke my vertebra actually).

Overall, this video would be best for folks that are new to fitness and have use of their lower extremities.  The video uses bellydance moves as a means to move one's body in a fun way, but really doesn't teach bellydance technique (something that bothered me as improper dance posture can contribute to injuries).  Thankfully the instructor didn't mention fat burning or weight loss often in the video, which was a nice change to traditional exercise dvds (although I wish it wasn't there at all).  There were some audio issues that made the music louder than the instructor at times, but since her verbal instructions weren't about specific technique it was still pretty easy to follow her by watching.

I don't think this video is going to be part of my personal dance/fitness repertoire, but I can see it being good for someone with a bit of dance experience that wants to get their body moving.  That being said, I would like to take a look at some of the company's other exercise dvds like Chair Salsa (which might have similar issues for my spine-related disability), Chair Tai Chi, and Chair Boxing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

OOTD (the other day at least).

The author wearing a black 3/4 sleeve hooded shirt with white drawstring & buttons, with a purple flowy skirt that covers her knees.  Black running shoes.  Holding on to the wall for balance
Yes, I'm grabbing the wall...
In a moment of vanity, I decided to take a couple self-photos because of my decision to wean myself off pants.  I'm only wearing the pants that fit me well, and I have a bin of pants that need to go to the local consignment store (or find a fat fashion clothing swap).  I've also figured out that 1) I have to wear pants working out because running skirts don't work well on my body, and 2) workout pants need to have a drawstring so they stay where I want them to stay without pinching or binding.

So the first picture is a jersey high-low hem skirt from Target and a 3/4 sleeve jersey top from Old Navy (lightweight so I don't roast in the North Carolina heat but not sheer so my tattoos are still covered).  The shirt is probably a size too big, but the sizing at Old Navy is pretty hit or miss, so I opted for baggy.  I'm wearing running shoes as my plan was to go to the gym right after work (plus no one gives me hell at work for my comfy/unprofessional footwear...gimp privilege!).  Since my cane hand has the camera, I'm holding on to the bathroom wall for balance.  Even holding on, this picture is a little blurry.

Author with hair pulled back in ponytail with navy headband, blue fitted tshirt, with navy blue trackpants with white stripes on the side
Pre-workout gear!
The second picture is from later that day after I changed to go to the gym.  I don't like bringing a lot of things into the locker room, so I usually opt to change clothes at work and just leave my work clothes in my car.  I'm wearing a plain tshirt from Old Navy (I prefer to work out in tech fabrics that wick sweat away & retain less heat, but I have several tshirts that I've stained and are now official workout-or-pajama shirts).  The pants are a pair of off-brand workout pants that I picked up at a thrift store a while back that have a drawstring and pockets.  You can't see it in the picture, but I also have a headband plus a ponytail to keep my hair out of my face (I let my stylist convince me to have long bangs...I like them, but they frustrate me in the gym).  I usually wear one of these wide headbands from Cover Your Hair, but I'm thinking about trying the headbands that Leslie from xoJane mentions in her article FATshion: Work That Fat Ass Out Edition (it's the HALO headband).

This fashion chatter was brought to you by me while taking a break from schoolwork :-)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On being an academic with disabilities

A sign on an elevator on my campus. It reads "Please restrict class change use to handicapped and equipment transfer"
A sign on one of the elevators on campus
Since the fall semester just started, I've been reflecting on how my life might change going from working on my masters degree to working on my PhD.  I recently read an article from Academe Online entitled "Chronic Illness and the Academic Career" which has made me really think about the consequences of being pretty frank about my spine mess along with the rest of my interesting physiological issues.  I'm pretty frank about the fact that I will be taking six credits a semester (baseline full-time for grad school) because of pain & related issues.  Life for me runs on what some folks have dubbed "crip time."

Running on crip time can impact my academic life in a number of ways, but for me is most apparent in my writing. Just like Sharon from After Gadget, writing takes extra time because of the dark miasma that is chronic illness...particularly writing that is coherent.  Like her, I usually have several blog posts percolating, making sure that my pain or pain-med addled brain (the usual dichotomy of my existence lately) has made something that makes sense to the general populace, doesn't ramble or derail too badly, and I'm willing to post to everyone that might see it.

Scholarly work is like these blog posts in this respect...they need a lot of TLC because sometimes a sentence or a paragraph will make sense to me when I write it, but make absolutely no sense later.  Most of my papers are proofread by friends (as one friend so lovingly stated, "I can see where you went from 'I know Science!' to 'yay pain meds'").  I cherish my scholarly community for our collective proofreading, and have traded drafts of papers with folks across the planet

I'm also very open about the fact that the job market is pretty dismal for tenure-track professor positions, and with my medical needs (both spine-related and birth defect-related) I absolutely cannot live without health insurance...which means being open to working as an administrator within the university setting.  This means I cannot take adjunct positions until a tenure-track position comes available as adjuncting is much like being an independent contractor.  If I were healthy and not disabled, paying for health insurance out-of-pocket wouldn't be a big deal....but that's not how my life is.

Honestly, I wonder how much of this openness comes from an internalized need (due to internalized ableism) to justify my use of adaptive aids like my cane,  wheelchair, use of the elevator, or my parking placard.  I wonder how much of it is related to the current "war on obesity" and how that impacts the myth that all fat people become disabled by their fat (for an awesome post on this, check out this post entitled "Fat People on Scooters" from Ragen Chastain's Dances With Fat).  Essentially, bodies are not equipment (which is why the photo I posted bothers me so much.  This is posted on an elevator on campus) although sometimes my body needs equipment to live life to its full potential.

This post was pretty rambly as I tried to wrap it up before my first day helping out as a TA for an undergraduate course my advisor is teaching.  So I'll leave you with this YouTube video entitled "Shit academics say about access:"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back from Gen Con!

Author cosplaying Oracle, using blue wheelchair, wearing black Batman logo shirt with brown cargo pants & headset, posed with Jennie Breeden wearing red plaid kilt, green shirt, & funky boots
Me cosplaying as Oracle posing with Jennie Breeden of the Devil's Panties
I just got back from Gen Con (aka the "best four days of gaming") and I'm exhausted.  I thankfully had some pretty uneventful flights with Delta Airlines (so I probably won't be posting a "Flying with Wheels" post about them like I did for US Airways & United...and I'm pretty happy about it).

This was my first Gen Con, and it was pretty exciting.  Because of my experience with using my cane at CONvergence, I decided to just bring my wheelchair.  I'm really glad I did, even though the carpet in both the hotel & the convention center were hell on my shoulders.  This was the biggest con I've ever attended (at least 5 times bigger than CONvergence) and was spread out over the entire Indiana Convention Center plus all of the neighboring hotels. 

Silver & green scalemail dice bag with black drawstring
I made this scalemail dice bag!
Trying to alternate between wheels & a cane just wasn't going to happen because of distance.  I also wouldn't be able to guarantee when I was going to suddenly run out of spoons, something that could have kept me from attending events that I had prepaid for (like a Shadowrun Missions game, a Pathfinder Society game, a NASCRAG charity game, and a scalemail dice bag crafting workshop).  I also didn't want to be doped up on pain medication because it impacts my cognition & creativity...traits that I need to have fun while gaming.

Bringing the wheelchair also gave me a quick and dirty way to do a little cosplay, something I've wanted to do for a while but hadn't managed to put together a costume that is flying-friendly.  Armed with my wheels, a Batman logo shirt, a headset, and my iPad with Batman logo on the back, I cosplayed Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon.  She's one of the few comic book characters that uses a wheelchair (the only other one that comes to mind is Professor X from the X-Men comics).  Since she's not generally "in the field" much like other heroes, she doesn't have a specific costume, which makes cosplaying her both easy (minimal props/outfit) and a challenge (trying to be recognizable as her instead of just a nerdy wheeler). 

Crosswalk in downtown Indianapolis with blue painted lane with wheelchair user symbol. To the left is a walking lane & a bike lane to the convention center
Crosswalk in downdown Indy with accessible lane
Despite the carpet, the difficulty I had finding elevators in the skyways, and the problems trying to navigate crowded halls full of distracted people, it was a pleasant trip.  There were times where I would find other wheeling folks (particularly other manual wheelchair using folks) and we would just smile at each other in between hard pushes to get down the plush carpeted hallways.  A friend that joined me for the con says that the carpet didn't feel padded from a walking standpoint, but I had to ask her to push me a few times so I wouldn't give myself a rotator cuff injury...and it led to an interesting discussion about universal design.

I also had a chance to meet a few folks that I've only met online through our shared geekery of City of Heroes (an MMORPG).  Meeting up with them was a little difficult just because of the barely accessible skyway, slow-as-molasses elevators, and the normal difficulty of navigating restaurants that have tables and chairs too close to each other for easy wheeling (I've had to learn to speak up and be more assertive to get through these's still hard for this introvert though!).

I'm planning to go back next year, finances and work willing.  I have plans for making some of the stressful things more manageable, better plans for hitting up the exhibition hall in a more relaxed way, and ideas to make the most of my time & energy without feeling trapped in a strict schedule (especially since it's the weekend before the semester starts).


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Re/becoming a dancer

A woman doing a veil performance in a wheelchair. Source unknown
A woman doing a veil piece in a wheelchair
Late last week I received an invitation from one of the owners of Twisted Dance, a local belly dance studio, to join them for a video shoot.  I've been thinking about trying to bellydance in my wheelchair for a while, so I decided to drop an email to the person that sent me the invite.  I wanted to make sure they were cool with me using their event to try dancing this way, and if they were cool with it I needed to make sure the building was accessible.  I got an enthusiastic reply back with instructions on how to get to the elevator (the building is pretty old, so it was retrofitted to be accessible).

I'm not going to lie, I was nervous.  I'm an introvert by nature, and I get nervous in situations where I could be the center of attention or be the oddball in a group.  I prefer to be in control when I know I'm going to be the odd duck (I have a shirt that I bought when I first started using adaptive aids that says "I do my own stunts" because I'd rather diffuse staring with humor).

Friday night I dig through some of my belly dance gear.  What do I want to wear, what am I comfortable wearing, can I wear a hipscarf without getting coins or fringe stuck in the spokes, do I need any props for the video shoot (we were doing mock/mini classes for a videographer for promotional purposes)?  I settle on a pair of workout leggings that I used to wear for dance classes, a short skirt over the leggings (in lieu of a hipscarf because of the spoke concern), and a plain shirt.  I find my practice zills (a set of Saroyan zills) and my silk veil, both just in case.

On Saturday, it's raining and raining hard.  I'm really concerned about bringing the chair because I don't have a good way of cleaning the tires to make sure I don't mess up the floor.  I have a towel packed in my bag just in case I need to try to dry off the tires or the frame, and just pray that I don't leave tire tracks on the studio floor.  I decide to walk the chair into the building with my cane because I don't have a folding cane and trying to wheel with a cane plus a bag plus deal with non-hydraulic doors is a pain in the butt.

I get to the elevator without much problem, and it spits me out behind the studio near the bathrooms.  I feel a bit like I'm sneaking into the studio since the main entrance is near the stairs.  I open the back door and park my chair to let it dry from the rain, and hobble with my cane to the front lobby of the studio to check in.  I chat, get settled, talk to the owners & teachers to give them a heads up, and everything gets started.  Thankfully my chair dried off while I was socializing, so no wet tracks on the floor!

We get warmed up and do various movement drills.  I realize that I probably should attach the wheel locks to I don't roll.  I wince every time my seat cushion makes a weird noise.  I figure out that while I can do some seated hip movements, they still hurt (which is a pretty major "duh" moment because it means the unstable joint is moving...but I'm stubborn).

 I ultimately realize that while taking dance classes might take quite a bit of modification on my part and willingness for an instructor to let me do my own thing during lower body movements, I can still belly dance.  It'll take some figuring out how to modify some movements, especially if I'm learning a choreography with non-wheeled dancers...but it's doable.  I also have to be mindful when I'm choreographing or being choreographed to make sure I have options for my less able days.

The day ended with some awesome chitchat with some of the teachers & owners of the studio, talking about the picture I have above (and a video that's somewhere on YouTube with the same dancer), talking about the logistics of dancing with a wheelchair (like getting a veil stuck), the fact that there is one company that makes wheelchairs specifically for dance, and my promise to the instructors & owners that they would see me more often now that I know that this will work.


My next dance adventure is going to be reviewing a dvd for this blog called "Chair Aerobics for Everyone: Chair Bellydance."  I received a review copy of the dvd, so we'll see how it is.  The weight loss lingo on the box bothers me as someone that comes from a Health At Every Size standpoint, but maybe the instructor will have more of a holistic approach to fitness/movement.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Questioning medical decisions

The other day, a campus employee stopped through on his daily route in a great mood.  He's been having a rough time lately, the details of which I didn't know...until he came in with a "life is good" expression on his face.  My supervisor asked him what was going on, and he jovially replied that he was going to have lumbar spinal fusion surgery on Monday.  The state employee health insurance finally approved it (after at least one appeal).

He went on to say that he had chronic back pain for years, but more recently had referred pain down one of his legs.  His doctor told him that this was now an urgent matter and he needed to have his lumbar spine fused.
Diagram of the brain & spinal cord with corresponding body parts of impairment
Spinal nerves & connecting tissues

His comment about the referred pain being an emergency situation put a certain anxiety in my mind.  I've had this broken spine mess diagnosed in 2008.  At first, aside from moderate pain, I didn't have too much trouble.  I was still belly dancing with a troupe, dancing 10-15 hours a week plus other exercise.  When I failed out of conservative treatment options (physical therapy, epidural injections), my orthopedic doc told me that my options were either pain management (medications) or spinal fusion.  He proceeded to tell me that spinal fusion has a low success rate, and even when it does provide relief, it tends to make the neighboring spinal joints unstable making further fusion surgeries necessary.  I was advised to not do the surgery until I started having nerve problems.

Fast forward a couple of years.  Eventually, I quit dancing as I figured out that the spinal movement required in belly dance aggravated the messed up joint (with an L5 vertebra that wouldn't heal, partially because it wasn't immediately diagnosed).   I kept up with other types of exercise from mixed martial arts (non-contact) to CrossFit, until I started having nerve damage issues related to an unstable joint (that lead to a degenerating disc).

With nerve damage symptoms cropping up, I decided to have a frank discussion with my nurse practitioner about spinal fusion surgery.  I was afraid of the risks of the surgery.  The success rate for folks with normal physiology isn't very stellar, and after some spelunking on PubMed, I found that there were no studies about spinal fusion in folks with my birth defect.  Since my birth defect impacts healing (everything from muscles to ligaments to nerves) and bone reformation, spinal fusion seemed like a really poor idea for me.  My risk of the fusion failing because of my body's inability to heal properly is pretty darn high.  This combined with my pain management nurse practitioner telling me to wait until the nerve damage is severe enough to where I'm having bowel or bladder problems has lead me to say no to the surgery, at least for now.

I still can't help but second-guess my decision to say no to the surgery.  Some days I have trouble feeling my feet.  I usually have to look down at my feet to ascend stairs to make sure that they're going where my brain tells them to go.  I've almost closed my foot in a car door thinking it was in the vehicle.  These are just some of the non-pain issues.  I wonder if I could be the statistical outlier that would be helped and not hurt by the surgery.  I wonder if I doubt my decision just because I'm still uncomfortable with using a wheelchair on the bad days.  I wonder if I'm making my already precariously aging body worse off.

I'm trying to decide about getting a second opinion on my spine, this time with a neurologist.  With my crummy insurance though, I'm afraid that my insurance will decide to not cover the costs of any diagnostics.  MRI scans are expensive, and the last time my orthopedic clinic took an X-Ray, my insurance refused to pay for it, sending me a letter saying that they needed a report on my "new injury."  I'm also afraid that the neurologist won't be any more knowledgeable about my birth defect than my orthopod is, and that I'll be stuck between being a case study (doing the surgery) or refusing (and being an irresponsible patient).

Maybe my background in disability studies is what is keeping me from seeing the nerve damage signals as an urgent matter.  When walking isn't the pinnacle of human locomotion, it's not prioritized in quite the same way (at least for me).  Even though I intellectually know that wheelchair use is not giving up, I'm still acutely aware that a wheelchair is seen as "bad" and cane is "better," even when I've come to see my wheelchair as "fast" or "strong" and my cane as "stubborn" or "self-conscious."

There's still a lot more for me to unpack about my current surgery much more.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Being acutely ill while chronically in pain

Me holding a black & grey cat perched on my shoulder.
Me & a friend's cat Mao
The beginning of this week I had a rough 36 hours of life.  I'm usually someone that doesn't get sick very often (something I'm thankful for because of my congenital health problems), but when I do I'm usually really sick.

I was starting to feel a bit under the weather on Sunday night with some vision issues and a headache that was creeping up.  I managed to get it pushed back for a while with some strong coffee and water at my favorite Irish pub with friends that evening, so I didn't think much of it until I had trouble sleeping that night.  I was also becoming increasingly unable to deal with light & noise, and by 6am I thought I had an alien trying to break out of my skull through my left eye (the eye I have functional vision in).  I'd been laying on the couch with an ice pack on my forehead hoping this bugger would subside, partially because the position my head was tolerating was causing my spine to protest loudly.  I was in a tug-of-war with my own nerves.

By 8am, I was delusional from pain, nausea, and sleep deprivation and thought that I could try to go to work even though I could barely manage to get my teeth brushed.  My SO woke up when my second alarm went off, noticed that I was in agony, and told me that I needed to call in sick to work.  I started crying, partially because I hate calling in, partially because that would leave my boss alone all day, and partially because the necessary movements to make a phone call were all excruciating.  I finally manage to send an email to my boss on my cell phone because the small amount of light hurt less than calling then conversing.

Fast forward to Monday evening and I was finally feeling well enough to talk to my SO.  I find out that I've had a migraine.  It's not my first, but it's the first one that I've recognized as such.  I had a migraine on top of some pretty bad spine pain.  I think the worst part of the whole experience was honestly the nausea as I wasn't able to take any pain medication to either get the migraine or the spine pain knocked down to something more manageable.  I felt completely powerless, completely attacked by my own physiology, and I was completely bed-ridden (well, couch-ridden as the living room is the darkest room in my home).

This was one of those times where pain scales can be completely useless for folks with chronic pain.  I have a friend that has chronic intractable migraines on top of other health concerns.  Another friend has had issues with cluster headaches.  I've had discussions with them and all sort of other people about how pain scales really do not properly represent the global impact that chronic pain has on a person.  The usual doctor's office pain scale is damn near useless with its stupid smiley-to-frowny faces (pro tip: some days the more I'm smiling, the worse I am).  Some scales, like the Kip Scale (thanks to my friend Mir for showing me this scale) do a better job of inserting one's ability to cope at a moment in time.  Even the wordy scales like the Comparative Pain Scale can't capture the whole picture.  If you're going to saddle me with a chart, I may start bringing this chart from Hyperbole and a Half as these seem to be the best "I'm in pain" stick figures I've ever seen.

Pardon the pain-scale rant/tangent.  I'm glad that the nausea passed to I could actually get fluids, food, & medication in my body.  I'm glad that I was able to go back to work (although office lighting the day after a migraine is definitely not happiness).  It was a very scary place to be in though, mainly because of my complete inability to do anything about any of the pain, whether the acute migraine or the chronic spine malarkey.

Thank goodness this happened before the start of the semester, and thank goodness this happened before my vacation to GenCon!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stubbornness...and grieving

Me with my renaissance walking stick, wearing a green shirt, black pants, race number 1673. I'm giving the photographer a piece sign with my fingers
Fall 2011, NC Marathon 5k fun run/walk
Today, the First Lady of the United States was speaking at the university that I work and go to school at.  Fearing for the parking and traffic situation, I asked my SO to drop me off.  I had a meeting with my adviser after work, and figured I could find a ride home after my meeting.  I was having a funky walking day, so I grabbed my cheapo walking poles to become a human quadruped.

Work was pretty uneventful, so I headed to my meeting.  I have to admit, I'm so happy that I'm on this track in my life with these people...they support me, challenge me, I challenge & support them.  Our research focuses are different, but it all coalesces into a fantastic scholastic family.

So I leave the meeting, realizing that while I'm not feeling comfortable with my walk home, I'm not comfortable asking either my adviser or a fellow student for a ride home.  I also don't want to call a friend to get me.  It's only 0.8 miles from campus to my house.  I don't want to be a burden, I don't want to be dependent, and I tell myself that I can go as slowly as I want or need to.  I tell myself that I used to enjoy walking home leisurely from campus, and that I could stop if I wanted or needed to.

I wasn't even off campus when I started to regret my decision, but I'm stubborn.  The pain isn't that bad, my feet aren't that numb, my legs are functioning somewhat, it's no big deal that I have to look down at my feet to make sure that they're doing what my brain tells them to do.  I notice that I'm getting more useful sensory information from my walking poles than my feet, which is a bit disconcerting, but I push forward at my slow shuffle.

It took me a bit over 40 minutes to go eight-tenths of a mile.  I'm trying desperately to not compare this to my former abilities (like when I walked the NC Marathon 5k fun run/walk with a friend last fall), but it's hard.  This walk was a reminder of what I've lost physically from the spine injury, and most poignantly, this year.  I'm desperately trying to not make these comparisons as they are reminders of not only lost function but dreams and aspirations that needed to be rewritten, reimagined, or resigned.

Perhaps my mind is stuck grieving over these bodily loses because my perception is colored by pain, much of it physical from a walk that part of me knew I shouldn't have done.  For right now, I'm trying to get my mind back in a positive head space.  It's not easy, it's a constantly bumpy journey...but I'm learning.

Not only am I learning, but this is making my search for accessible & affordable transportation to campus a more urgent priority.