Chronicles of Rehab: Part Four “How Did You Not Gain Weight When You Were Stuck on the Couch?!”

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

“How did you not gain weight when you were stuck on the couch?!” I got asked this question over and over and over and the truth is it was pretty easy not to.  Just because you might not be able to exercise or work for that matter does not mean you need to throw all good principles aside. For myself I tried to keep close to my normal schedule. I went to bed around 11pm and woke up around 7am.  I ate breakfast when I woke up and it didn’t consist of cold pizza and Coco Puffs! Lunch came about 4-5 hours later, afternoon snack 4-5 hours after that and the dinner followed predictably in due course. This approach seems like a no-brainer to me.  The regular input of  balanced nutrient-rich foods spurred what some may call a miraculous, speedy and complete recovery.  I would argue that my recovery was “optimal” not miraculous.  That means that everyone’s body would respond in like fashion when you nourish it!

Additionally, from a mental health perspective being a prisoner of your couch can be depressing!  I was not without repeated bouts of tears of frustration.  But then I thought, “I am getting better every day.  I am in my own house from which I have a lovely, peaceful view.  I am able to eat foods that I love and are prepared with care and I have the support of my friends and family.  Some people are stuck in a hospital bed and are not getting out anytime soon.”  So after my epiphany and self pep-talk and realization of all the things I had to be grateful for, I got on with the healing process.  Great food choices chemically assist in the battle of the mood swings in your brain.  Again, keeping to a great diet, that was balanced in terms of portion sizes and nutrients helped my mental state to stay optimistic and thus, boosted my healing.

Perhaps the one thing I did do that might not seem so obvious was I did NOT leave the T.V. on all day long.  In fact, it was turned off most of the time as I chose instead to work on the computer, read a magazine, renew my certifications, build a website, write a book, etc.  The benefit to this was that I was not constantly bombarded by advertisements about fast food, salty foods, or any kind of food.  We as humans are very stimulated by visual mediums, so when you see food in front of you constantly, guess what happens…you want to eat…constantly. Plus, I think I got smarter from all the reading I did – so my body healed quickly and my brain was stimulated too.

So to recap here’s my suggestions to anyone facing enforced couch time, whether from a physical disability or work layoff or illness:

1) Stay rested and keep your sleep schedule in tact.  Don’t oversleep or under sleep. Try to get 7-8 hours/night and try to maintain your set routine.

2) Keep eating balanced, appropriately portioned, nutrient rich meals.  It promotes health (body and mind) from the inside out.

3) Turn off the TV!  I am certain there are 1000 things you can find to do to pass the time and give your brain some healthy fuel choices too!

4) Don’t decide that because one piece of the puzzle isn’t there that you can’t make out the beautiful view of the rest of the layout.  In other words, just because you can’t exercise doesn’t mean you have to give up every other basic tenant to healthy living!

Chronicles of Rehab: Episode Three “Fun With Physio Tape”

Fun With Physio Tape

One day in rehab – my back was feeling WRETCHED!!! – Coincidentally that day, I also had a checkup scheduled with my orthopedic surgeon and Mike, my most excellent PT was concerned that there were so many systemic issues that didn’t seem to be resolving themselves fast enough for his liking.  So with concern and diligence he worked and worked on my back – finally with utmost and precise care he taped my back.

Now there are several reasons for physio tape – yes, that’s the stuff that you see popping up everywhere in strange colors and patterns and made popular by Olympic athletes – the main one being that it keeps the skin taught thus promoting lymphatic drainage, decreasing inflammation and lending neurological support to the surrounding musculature.

My doctor’s appointment was uneventful, except to say that Dr. Gerhardt thought I was progressing remarkably well.  “I need to remind you and Mike of the magnitude of your injury.  The hematoma was massive!  And you’re not going to bounce back in three months.  I will tell you that as good as your PT’s are, they have probably never seen this particular injury, a complete tear – let alone one of this extent.  Unless they are working with pro-athletes it’s very rare.  So we can’t expect it to heal like an ACL or a basic surgery.  If you have any random symptoms left at the end of the summer come back and see me, but I’d be very surprised because you’re healing great.”

The next day I’m getting out of the shower (yes, physiotape is waterproof) and I catch a glimpse of my backside in the mirror and this is what I saw…Now some think it’s an arrow pointing down to my butt crack, others…well, definitely phallic…should I be concerned…when I point it out to Mike, he is MORTIFIED!!!!  Well, if it makes my back feel better, I’m not complaining.  But laughter’s good for healing as well.  Whether it was the tape, Mike’s caring ministrations, the belly chuckles or the thought of sex – my back felt better!

Chronicles of Rehab: Episode 2, Fun Police

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

February 8, 2013: I open my eyes and for the first time see my deep purple marbled leg encased in the mid-thigh to mid-calf, weighted, black brace.  It’s not a surprise. Dr. Gerhardt had given it to me two days before the surgery along with my crutches; he had detailed what would happen during the surgery and what would occur when I woke up and the process of the next four weeks.  And although my brain and rational mind took in all the details the impact of the whole event didn’t sink in through the levels of denial until the unchanging view from the sofa assaulted me through the window and pressed me down into the cushions.

The brace locks my hamstring at a 70 degree angle and it is my constant companion day and night, save for a few daily minutes in the shower.  As my apartment is a comfortable, but modest two bedroom place that I share with Katie, my roommate and as the 5 inch incision under my gluteal fold makes it impossible to sit my choices of perch are limited.  It’s either the sofa or my bed for the next four weeks!  Therapy is not even allowed to start until the brace comes completely off at the end of the month of imprisonment.  As a person who has the energy of a hummingbird and the tenacious spirit of a Jack Russell Terrier, this confinement could be torture.

My surgery was on Friday.  My brother, Geoff had come for the weekend and gone home on Sunday.  Monday I have my first post-op appointment, but the two hour field trip leaves me wrecked.  By the following Friday, I have not been outside of my apartment in five days and not likely to leave until the following week.  It’s President’s Day Weekend and all of my friends are away out of the city having fun.  Katie’s working doubles leaving me with nothing to do but to feel massively sorry for myself!

But then as I tearfully look out my window, I experience an epiphany: I am at least in the comfort of my own home.  Physically, I am in excellent shape, enough to support myself in basic tasks.  My windows look out on the sunny Pacific ocean, where I can see sailboats riding the wind. And most importantly, every single day I am getting better and headed to 100% recovery even if the road is long.  How many people are suffering in hospital rooms and not mending?  What do I have to complain about?  I have had excellent support every step of the way, so much so that the experience has felt blessed…which feels odd to say, but totally true.

I mention my revelation to Christi, my Godmother who calmly replies, “Of course it’s blessed.  You’ve been doing a lot of internal growth throughout the last year and you’ve been asking for your life to change.  So the universe has replied by asking you, for the first time in your life, to sit still, to be silent and to only take care of yourself.  You’ve been much more comfortable taking care of everyone else at cost to your own self.  But now, you have nothing but time to put on your own oxygen mask. If that doesn’t constitute a positive change and opportunity for more growth, I don’t know what does!”

As the weeks continue, Dr. Gerhardt, all of my friends and my new PT, Mike continually impress upon me the severity of this injury.  As Mike seriously says, “How many people do you know that are telling you to ‘take it easy’?” I reply, “A lot.  Don’t worry.”  “How many?”  “Oh, um…you want an actual number? Like there’s my friends and roommate and…”  “You’re missing my point.  I want you to enlist the aid of every single person you know to monitor you and tell you to back off and not push it!”  “Don’t you worry, I have more fun police than I know what to do with.”

For my entire life, I have been a “pusher.” Someone who puts my head down, shoulder into things and doubles my efforts when obstacles arise.  But I reached the point where I physically broke from this way of life.  And now I am discovering as Deepak Chopra says, “The Law of Least Effort.”  If I am more still, gentle and calm with myself I can discover better my true strengths and my own inner voice.  That does not mean that I am not strong.  As an athlete, I look forward to my body being able to be agile and powerful again.  But I don’t have to make up for anything I feel insecure about in this present moment.

So what this has taught me is to find my “victory” today.  If you’ve just worked a 60 hour work week and stayed up late with a sick child, and every minute of your day has been scheduled, why are you taking a kickboxing class?!  Take 1 minute out of each day and really check in with yourself and see HOW AM I?  And make better choices for yourself off of that answer.  Be your own Fun Police and feel blessed in every minute of your day, even in the face of challenge!