The Unexpected Journey
Chapter 9

A Good Day/A Bad Day

There is a constant struggle for me as I produce this writing.  It is my desire to make what I write as real as possible.  I have little to no trouble in the challenges of sharing personal information. I do not have a particular picture I wish to paint of myself.  (I have moments of struggle and moments of what I regard as success.)  The overall objective of my writing is to produce something that is helpful or encouraging to others, to provide some type of useful context for others who face unexpected ordeals.

Ranting and raving is a negative, not a plus.  So is screaming “Unfair!”  or feeling sorry for yourself, or living in the past, or being overcome with anxiety about the future, or thinking up and dwelling on scenarios of “what if this happens.”  Any or all of that easily can happen, but none of those change the primary condition a person faces.  In fact, all of those rather common reactions complicate the consequences of the primary problem.

How do those reactions produce complicating consequences?  Each is a drain on the person’s energies.  Any effort expended on those reactions is energy the person no longer has to devote to the one critical issue.  The one critical issue is this: “Who do I wish to be as I endure the struggle of my situation?”

I find there is a distinct difference between what I know intellectually and what I feel emotionally.  Intellectually I know I cannot and will not defeat my struggle with spinal cerebellum atrophy # 8.  Not only do I know intellectually that I cannot beat it, but I can rationally discuss that reality, factually analyze what I experience, and matter-of-factly explain what that means to my future.

At the same time, there are definitely moments when my responses are quite emotional.  My emotions say, “You will beat this!  You will win!” as my intellect says, “You are fooling yourself!  There is no way you will or can win!” 

For example, my emotions relentlessly force me to the gym about 6:20 a.m. five days a week because “this will help you beat your problem!”  My intellect is confined to a small voice in a dark corner of my brain.  It agrees, “This is good.  However, going to the gym affects only the timetable, not the outcome.”

When I had to stop walking on the track to avoid serious problems produced by a decline in balance, my reaction was more an emotional response than an intellectual response.  Why? Walking on the track was evidence that I was winning (so my emotions thought)—suddenly I was not improving my situation.   

When, in the gym, it is necessary to reduce a resistance weight because a muscle cannot cooperate any longer, my reaction is more emotional than intellectual.  Why?  I am not beating my problem! 

When, in the gym, I must stop using a machine because the machine puts a stress on my body it can no longer endure, my reaction is emotional instead of intellectual.  Why?  The problem is winning! 

“How can you react that way when you ‘intellectually’ know you cannot win?”  Why?  My emotions never stop saying (yet), “You will win!”  My intellect knows and accepts that I cannot win, but—so far—my emotions are louder than my intellect. 

Will that change?  Yes!  When?  I have no idea—yet, I know it will happen.  How will I react when that moment comes?  That is a truly interesting question!  That is why I must never forget who I wish to be!


A Bad Day

In less than two weeks, three unrelated things happened—my left ear stopped working, my hips made it difficult to walk, and my right shoulder made it painful to lift anything.

One afternoon about 3 p.m., as I sat at my computer writing, my left ear stopped working.  It happened very suddenly—instantly without any warning.  It closed as if a wax plug had shut it down.  Internal pressure dramatically escalated, and the ear ringing more than doubled.  (Since my late 20s, both my ears ring 24 hours a day every day.)  This ringing in my left ear seemed as if it was bouncing off the inside of my skull and vibrating more and more as it bounced.  I could hear almost nothing because the internal sound was so loud.

Hoping against hope, I went home and treated my ear as though it was a wax build-up problem (yes, I had earwax problems previously).  The pressure “equalized” before any treatment.  The treatment yielded no indication of earwax.  Later, the ear popped.  Gradually my hearing returned.  The ringing reduced, but it has not even now returned to the “before the problem” level.

A few days later, I could hardly walk.  Suddenly, both hips were quite sore.  I am thrilled I have a private office, and no one observed me standing.  Standing was a slow upward unfolding.  It was a long process to go from being seated to standing erect. 

The process was not over once I was erect!  Once I was standing erect, I did not dare take a step until my body said it was okay to walk.  I quickly learned I better have my walking stick in hand because the first steps were more like stumbling than walking.  If I walked about 10 yards, my walking gait became normal for me.  The hips were still sore, but the walking was okay.  My slowness became even slower.

Then, as suddenly as the problem came, it left.  My hips were not even sore!  It was as if I never had the problem!

Today, the problem has suddenly reappeared—even more severe—in my left hip only.  Thus far today, I cannot “walk it off.”  There (as always) is no pain as I sit, but there is significant pain if I get up and when I walk.

A few days ago, my right shoulder began having severe pain in the joint between the arm and the shoulder.  At first I feared it might be the return of a shoulder problem I had surgically corrected years ago.  However, the pain is different in a different location.  I could use my arm, but movement hurt.  Then the pain moved from my shoulder joint to my bicep.  Then it moved from my bicep to my shoulder blade.  At times it would be in my bicep and my shoulder blade both. 

Though the pain has much improved, it has never completely left.  There is only one forward motion that “catches” now.  The situation is much improved. 

A bad day now is one when some muscle or joint problem suddenly appears.  There is no discernable cause.  There is no recognizable irritating situation.  The condition just comes suddenly, unexpectedly, and without explanation.  There is no reason for the problem—it literally just happens!


A Good Day 

A good day is simply a day when the unexpected does not happen.  All the muscles and joints work as they have worked.  The prior conditions have lifted, the pain has gone, and I can act as if nothing is wrong.  The restrictions are still in place, but within the restrictions all is well.

On a good day, I am not distracted by some unexpected condition.  I cannot (and do not want to) do anything dumb.   I feel okay, and I do not have to seek to mask my feelings to others.  As Joyce says, I do not go around frowning.  To me, okay is wonderful!


My Dilemma

There are certain things in my future that are never far from my conscious awareness.  To me it is a “no brainer” that there are lots of doctor’s visits in my future.  To me it is also a “no brainer” that there is a lot of pain medication in my future.

I like both of my doctors very much.  My visits to each thus far have been an enjoyable experience.  However, I have no desire to spend more time in their offices unless my visit is truly necessary.  Each of them is involved with enough as they minister to others.  They do not need for me to come and complain about a situation they cannot “fix”—especially if it is a condition that will disappear in a few days. 

I do not like pain.  I also dislike the “out of it” feeling that comes with many pain medications.  I put off “over the counter” pain medications as much as possible because I do not wish to desensitize my body to the pain-killing effect of those medications.  For that reason I will endure pain until I cannot endure it any longer.  I am no martyr!  However, I also need to help myself when I can.  For me, there is no “ideal situation.”  I seek to accept and live with that reality.


The Challenge

My situation occurring as it does, how do I determine when I need to go to the doctor or need to take additional medication?  How can I tell if the occurring problem is a new medical situation that needs to be revealed to a doctor promptly for diagnosis and treatment?  How do I know I am not just being stupidly stubborn, condemning myself to unnecessary pain?  The answer to all four questions is the same answer: I do not and cannot know!

That is my present challenge!  I have no desire to neglect a condition that needs diagnosis and treatment.  Equally, I have no desire to report a situation that does not need to be reported. 

At the present, I follow a “wait and see” philosophy.  If some new situation suddenly occurs, I wait a couple of days to see if the condition just as suddenly disappears.  Thus far, the condition has.  I hope that I have the good judgment in the future not to wait too long. 

Thus far, no one can advise me in how to distinguish between a situation that needs attention and a situation that does not.  I personally, at this moment, would find it very discouraging to hear “I understand.  I am sorry, but it is part of the primary problem.  There is nothing anyone can do.”  I am not ready to begin using the electric wheelchair in my office!


Copyright 2010

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