Training My Brain to Use a Cane
I started using a cane about 18 months ago to help me keep my balance when I'm out and about. I refer to my cane as Stick, because the word cane brings up the image of the evil queen from Snow White after she changes into the old woman. That's not me, so I use Stick to help keep me from falling on my face.
Using Stick turned out to be more difficult than I thought. It's always in the way. It limits me to using only one hand. There's never anywhere to put it when I'm sitting down. I stub my toe on it frequently. It took some getting used to.
I use Stick a little differently than most people use a cane. Canes are often used to offer additional support, like a crutch. I use Stick to help catch myself when I start to tilt. Instead of leaning on the cane each step I take, I carry it just above the ground until I start to lose my balance; then I put Stick down to create a tripod with my legs to make it easier to regain my balance. I probably look more like I'm blind and drunk than like the old woman from Snow White, tap-tap-tapping Stick every few moments.
When I was learning this new task, I was much more unsteady than I am now. I held Stick in my dominant hand (I'm right-handed) while I was learning how to use it. This turned out to be a BIG mistake. I didn't notice it at first, while I was at home most of the time. Once I started venturing out, however, I realized that I needed my dominant hand for things like opening doors, signing my name, shaking hands, and on and on. Switching Stick to my other hand when I needed to do these things was awkward and didn't always go without incident. I have a whole new respect for Lefties. If you open a door with your left hand, then you are in the way when it opens?!? The entire world is designed to be operated with your right hand, it seems.
Now I'm retraining myself to use Stick with my left hand. It's almost like starting over. Habits are hard to break! I keep reaching for Stick with my right hand, then catch myself and start over. I'll get it eventually. No one has ever died from a stubbed toe. (If someone has, don't tell me about it.)
For my astrophotography fans, I've got some images I've been working on but haven't finished that I'm excited about. Hang in there and I'll get them up soon.
It's been a while since I've posted an update on my "vertigo" situation, mainly because there hasn't been anything new to report. I've been continuing the physical therapy exercises, but I've hit a plateau and I still have some really bad days/weeks. So, I went back to the neurologist to report on my limited progress. He broke the news bluntly. "You're going to have to accept that this is permanent. This is how you are now and I don't think you're going to get better, even with the exercises." BAM!
I had an idea that he was going to say something like that (it has been over two years now), but it's another thing entirely to have the doctor say it to my face. Permanent. Permanent. Permanent. That word just keeps running through my mind. The culprit, the docs have decided, is nerve damage somewhere in my vestibular system. Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? There's no way to know for sure and we'll probably never know and we can't do anything about it so get used to it.
Well, ok then.
The doctor and I also talked about how amazing the brain is. It's impossible to know how my condition will improve or deteriorate in the future. I've encountered many so-called permanent situations that turned out to be not so permanent after all. I'm not sure I believe in permanence.
I'm determined to keep getting better, even if my progress can only be measured by my state of mind. I have a lot of patience and determination. Ask any of my former students. Or my husband. I'm also realistic. I can use my energy to adjust my life to accommodate this balance challenge instead of hanging on to false hope that we'll find some magic solution that will make me like I was. I'll never be like I was, so I'll just have to be a different and better version of myself.
I tell myself that, but the reality is that this really sucks. I'll find a way to deal with it. I have no other choice. It still sucks.