Thursday, April 25, 2013

A couple recent small victories

Over the last couple weeks I've started noticing a couple positive changes in how I function physically. The first thing I noticed is that I've suddenly become able to take a leak (standing) without having to hold onto walls and other fixtures to keep from wobbling. The other change is that I've unintentionally begun showering much more frequently than I had been.

It may seem strange for me to share details about my peeing proficiency, but you surely have no idea how difficult it had become for me to do little things that used to be easy, like taking a leak without worrying that weakness or spasticity might suddenly cause my body to shift one way or another, thus causing me to momentarily miss my mark. Sometimes you have to be able to manually aim your tool in both a specific direction and at a specific angle if you want to get the job done right. Which is simply not possible if you're using both of your hands to hold on to walls or towel racks. Until the last couple weeks, I had to worry about these things every time I used the bathroom. (OK, almost every time.)

Regarding my showering habits: I must admit that up until the last couple weeks, it had been a long time since I showered more frequently than about twice a week. Since I rarely have a reason to leave the house, and since there's no one in my life who has a reason to get very close to me, I usually don't feel like it's a big deal. I shower when I feel like I need to.

So why do I feel this is worth mentioning?

Because I really don't know why I started showering every day instead of every 3 days or so, but it feels right. Interestingly, this behavioral change began shortly after I resumed walking on the treadmill. It began a week after I started driving myself to physical therapy instead of relying on my mom to drive me.

I'm just trying to connect the dots, since there seems to be dots worth connecting. And right now the dots are telling me that once you make the effort to do things that require a degree of energy, motivation, and dedication that you don't feel like you possess, you naturally become even more motivated and more able to do even more of these things. It's the snowball effect that I've probably mentioned somewhere during the last few months.

And why am I analyzing this?

Because it may not seem like much to you, but it's pretty big to me. Because I intend to walk normal again someday, or maybe even run, even though the "experts" know I will never be able to do either of those things; even though the "experts" know I'm only gonna get progressively worse until I finally die at least ten years ahead of schedule. And when the day comes that I do walk normal again, without a cane, I'll be able to look back at posts like this and remind myself of how the seemingly insignificant victories were actually huge; that big change only happens as the result of many small changes.

I guess the fact that I've driven myself wherever I need to go since early April is another small victory. Before early April, I don't think I had driven at all since mid/late-January (2-1/2 months). Even though I probably could have driven myself during that period, I had kinda become afraid to drive. Some of that fear was realistic, considering my optic neuritis and the occasional inability of my legs and feet to respond quickly to driving demands, as well as the fact that my car has a standard transmission and I don't have what I consider adequate control of my clutch foot.

But some of the fear was what I'm inclined to think of as unrealistic. When your body stops working, like mine has, it feels like your life stops working along with it. And when you start feeling that way, life starts omitting you from everything, keeping you on the outside looking in; causing friends and family not to be able to relate to you or interact with you like they always had before your body started falling apart; when you were the badass who had just finished walking across a continent. It makes you feel worthless and unable to complete even the easiest tasks. It leaves you functionally friendless and very lonely. That's scary, and if you don't make a real big effort to change it, you just get worse and worse, like I did, and it becomes even harder to claw your way back to a new reality, in which you only need to fear things that are actually worthy of your fear.

Regardless of what kinds of realistic or unrealistic fears I may have faced over the last few months or last couple years, this much is true: Mom has not had to drive me anywhere since I began driving myself, and this is yet another of the little victories that are adding up and helping me become a real person again.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Treadmill & exercise journal: April 2013

After going 6 or 7 weeks without walking on the treadmill, I got my lazy ass up and back on the treadmill today. Hopefully this will be the spark that gets me motivated to keep exercising. I think it will be. I'll update this post after each time I exercise during April.

Tuesday April 9, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 49:00 (2.45 mph).
Actual time (including breaks): 1:27:00.

Now that was some work. It makes me better appreciate the improvement I made during the last couple weeks of February as I walked on the treadmill almost every day. I really didn't know what to expect of today's exercise, regarding how long it might take me to walk the usual 2 miles, considering I feel like I've been walking better for the last week or two than I had for the previous 2-1/2 years, while also considering the fact that I hadn't done any walking as exercise for a while.

In addition to the treadmill exercise, I also tried out the Nordic Track bicycle-like thingy my mom bought recently. I pedaled for 8 minutes, doing a distance of about 1.35 miles (I think). Wow, that really seems to work the hip flexors and glutes, which is something I need to do a lot.

Thursday April 11, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 49:22.
Actual time: 1:19:00.

The 8-minute improvement here is a good sign, particularly because I'm still very sore from exercising Tuesday. Aside from finishing 2 miles in 8 fewer minutes than it took me Tuesday, it felt much easier to walk today. I think I should be able to complete 2 miles with only two breaks next time, rather than three breaks, which should decrease my total walking time by possibly another 10 minutes.

Yesterday at physical therapy, my therapist seemed thrilled to see me in so much pain. (I was really hurting.) That is, I think it made her day to realize one of her patients is not only doing the "homework" she assigns but also doing much more. I'm sure most of her patients only do their exercises during their scheduled time with her.

Friday April 12, 2013
Distance: 1/2 mile.
Walking time: 12:30.
Actual time: 12:30.

And then there are the days when your body just says "Fuck you, buddy!" That was today for me. I gave it a try, but it just wasn't happening. I don't get it; that should have happened yesterday, but I did great yesterday. Maybe I'm sick or something.

Sunday April 14, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:03.
Actual time: 1:26:00.

Today's time is not indicative of how I felt while I walked. I really wanted to stop after half a mile just like I did Friday, but I forced myself to keep going, and somehow I managed to finish 2 miles. I was in a lot of pain the whole time. It was not fun, and I hope my decision to keep walking through the pain will pay off next time I get on the treadmill. This difficulty might be a result of slacking on the diet a few times lately, which isn't gonna happen for a while.

Monday April 15, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 52:10 (2.3 mph).
Actual time: 1:19:00.

I felt pretty good for the first three laps today; much better than yesterday. The last five laps were very rough, though. Still not as bad as yesterday, but rough nonetheless. Hopefully I'll feel a little more improvement tomorrow, but these last several days have taught me not to get too hung up on trying to meet goals that just aren't attainable sometimes. Sometimes the best you can do is good enough.

Tuesday April 16, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 51:46.
Actual time: 1:16:00.

This was a little easier than yesterday, but it's still tougher than I would have expected if you'd asked me a week ago. Similar to yesterday, I was able to begin by walking a hair over 3 laps before taking my first break. I felt good through that part, but everything after that was pretty tough. Maybe my breaks are too short to allow me to recover; I don't know. I'm just gonna keep walking on the treadmill almost every day and keep hoping I'll see more improvement than I've seen lately. I've been through this enough to know it will happen if I let it happen. I'll be taking tomorrow off since I have physical therapy.

Saturday April 20, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 51:14.
Actual time: 1:05:00.

Today was amazing. Before today I couldn't walk more than 3 laps (o.75 miles) without taking a break, and then everything after that was really hard. But today I started out by walking 6.4 laps (1.61 miles) before taking a break. That's more than twice as far as I could walk without a break before today. Before today, I would have had to take two breaks and then still walk another lap and a half to equal this distance. And that would be about time for my third break. (Actually, I usually have to take my third break after about 6 laps.)

Including my recent walking, as well as the walking I did in February, this is the first time I've been able to walk 2 miles with only one break. Since resuming my walks this month, excluding today, I've had to take three breaks every time I've walked a full 2 miles. Even in February, when I'd been walking almost every day for two weeks, I was never able to walk more than 3.75 laps before taking a break. So needless to say, I'm blown away.

Additionally, I didn't have to hold on to the treadmill with both hands while I walked today, which I did have to do prior to today. Instead, I held on with my right hand and swung my left arm in a natural walking motion, which takes a lot more work than holding onto the treadmill with both hands, as I had done previously (because I had to).

I actually intended to take it easy today and see if walking a little slower might help me walk farther before having to take a break. But after several minutes I ended up increasing my speed to my usual 2.4 mph or so. This is really amazing to me. Can't wait to see how I do tomorrow and in the coming days.

Since last Sunday (6 days ago), I've cut 21 minutes off my total walk time, even though my actual walking time was nearly 2 minutes longer. In other words, I walked slower today than I walked 6 days ago, yet it still took me 21 fewer minutes to finish 2 miles. That's entirely because I only had to take one break, rather than three breaks.

Also, it occurred to me later that I didn't notice any foot-slap while I walked today, which is something that has been going on for longer than I remember.

Sunday April 21, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:58.
Actual time: 1:09:00.

Much tougher than yesterday, even though it only took 4 minutes longer. It felt like a lot more work, too, but it was still a lot easier than everything prior to yesterday. I could only do 4.5 laps to start today, and that was really pushing it. Had to take a second break, too, after about 6 or 6.5 laps. Still pretty sore from yesterday, so this was to be expected.

Monday April 22, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 52:12.
Actual time: 1:04:00.

After about a mile today I thought I might be able to do the full 2 miles without a break, until I hit a wall over the next lap. Not a big deal, though. I took a break after 5 laps, then gave myself another very short break after 7 laps. Very good day of walking, but still nowhere near as good as what I did Saturday (even though today's overall time was a minute faster.)

Tuesday April 23, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 51:47.
Actual time: 1:09:00.

Saturday April 27, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 52:12.
Actual time: 1:01:00.

Didn't feel quite as good as last Saturday's walk, but definitely better than every other day so far. I did 6 laps before taking a break, then did the final two laps without another break. Before starting I felt like it was going to be tougher than every day in over the last week. I'm very happy it turned out not to be.

Sunday April 28, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:44.
Actual time: 59:00.

Started with about 5.5 laps, then took a break and finished the 2 miles without another break. Nice to have finally done it in less than an hour, but this walk didn't feel as good as yesterday or last Saturday. After walking, I also pedaled a bit; 2 miles in 11 minutes.

Monday April 29, 2013
Distance: 2 miles.
Walking time: 50:27.
Actual time: 1:02:00.

This was a little tougher than I'd hoped, but it's not a big deal because I worked pretty hard yesterday and I was still a little sore from it. After my standard 2 miles and a nice break, I walked another mile at 2.1 mph, with no breaks. I think I'm going to raise my standard walking distance to 3 miles after tomorrow (Thursday or Friday, probably).