Thursday, September 22, 2011

Being Human

Let me try to paint a portrait for you of what it is like to walk on two above knee prosthetic legs. Imagine if you can walking on two stilts. I used to describe walking on my prosthetic  legs in that manner, however it is not quite accurate.

Imagine trying to walk on two stilts that both have hinges in them (the knee), that is actually a better description of what walking is like for me.

A couple of weeks ago at physical therapy we tried something different. The exercise was to try to walk without using a walker outside the parallel bars. My therapist, Chris, was in front facing me with my hands on her shoulders. My prosthetist, another Chris, was behind me trying to help me get my hip motion correct, by moving my hips as I attempted to walk.

It was one of the most terrifying things I ever attempted to do. Suffice it to say I was not successful. The reason I am writing this is because I was shocked at how much fear it evoked in me. Rarely, if ever, do I have such feelings of fear with respect to this whole leg loss scenario.

I am almost at a loss of words to describe the feelings of being completely out of control that I felt. A lot of what I do when I walk, stand, sit and reach for things in a standing position involve some degree of loss of control but I have learned to recognize those feelings and over time have developed a degree of control that doesn't involve fear.

Of course the terror I was feeling was evident not only my face but I practically decapitated Chris by grapping her neck to keep my balance. After I calmed down from the incident I tried to explain why I reacted the way I did, which by the way was completely unexpected. Chris, my therapist, said she understood and admitted although she is in a profession where people in my situation are not uncommon, she still cannot accurately feel what I feel.

I guess the question that remains in my mind is where did that feeling of fear come from and why is it there? I suppose anyone could have or would have reactly similarily and yet I was surprised and disappointed  that I did not handle it more successfully and with more dignity. I have looked at You Tube videos of bilateral above knee amputees who walk unaided up and down hills, play golf , etc.and that is still my goal, however the unexpected fear I felt sometimes makes me wonder if I am being unrealistic.

I am trying to understand fear and I already know that a lot of fear is caused by lack of faith.

Another bewildering reaction occured last week that was also surprising  to me. I had been having a really good day. Bill and I had gone to Costco and we were back at my place. I stood in the kitchen and for some reason my left leg became detached, probably because I inadvertantly hit the release button. Be that as it may, although I was slightly irritated I went to the bedroom,  reattached it, and never gave it much thought.

A short time later I heated some black bean soup for lunch. I had already given Bill his portion and had my bowl of soup balanced on my lap as I wheeled into the living room.  It fell off my lap, the bowl broke and the black bean soup flew everywhere.

My intial reaction was anger and irritation quickly followed by an onslaught of tears. I sat there momentarily crying not over spilt milk but over spilt soup. I do not know why I reacted the way I did. Fortunately Bill could see how upset the incident had made me and without speaking a word jumped into action, cleaning up the broken soup bowl and wiping up the spilled soup.

Again I don't know why I reacted the way I did and it bothers me. I talked to Steve about it and he said it was probably pent up frustration that had been building over time. He continued to say he realized to a greater or lesser degree how difficult and frustrating doing everyday tasks must be for me.

Now you may be asking yourself why is he writing about all this?

After having read Eckhart Tolle's book, "The Power of Now" several times, the book advises that we step back in a nonjudgmental way and look at ourselves observing our various reactions in various situations. My observations have made me aware of myself. In an attempt to be nonjudgmental, it has revealed to me that perhaps I could begin to get a better grip on my emotions and reactions and find that inner peace which we all harbor within ourselves.

After I had begun writing  this particular blog entry (yesterday) and before it was completed, I had my usual physical therapy appointment with Chris. I told Chris what I  was writing about and she said we are all human beings and anyone could have reacted in those situations the same as you. She went on to say that most people in my circumstances would have similar or often times worse reactions but that my adverse responses were few and far between.

I remember reading in a book about an exmarine who became a bilateral AK amputee as a result of a land mine. He explained in his book that his anger was so great intially he used throw his prosthetic legs across the room and at the wall.

Observing my reactions and being aware of  what circumstances prevoke negative ones, may help me with future outbursts. If that doesn't work, I have to realize that those feelings of fear,anger, frustration and disappointment are normal and even expected given my situation.

I have to give myself permission to be a human being......we all do.


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