Nothing is as motivating as a harsh dose of reality. Or maybe that’s just me. Apparently I need a reality check, in order to change my behaviour. I have to hit a (luckily figurative) wall, before I can admit to myself that something has to change. Really frustrating, but effective.
This isn’t anything new. But what has changed, is that these reality checks nowadays almost always relate to my brain injury. These reality checks, go from getting a migraine all the way to fearing that something is really wrong. The latter ones are the most scary and therefore the most effective in changing my behaviour.
I now think of those moments, when I’m convinced that something is seriously wrong, as an emergency stop of my body. Clearly I’ve reached some kind of limit and need to make a change. Well, first I go to my family doctor to make sure that nothing is actually wrong. After getting that reassurance, I know that it has to do with my brain injury.
Apparently I was doing something harmful, which caused a physical emergency stop. The body part responsible for these emergency stops, seems to rotate yearly. I guess to keep things exciting. So far I can cross of my heart, lungs and brain. Feeling pain, discomfort or fear turns out to be quite a good motivator to make a change. As I now take more breaks, get less worked up and allow myself to have a bad day.
Nevertheless, my body still thought that improvements should be made. It’s almost like clockwork, every November a new body part gets to act up. This year my neck was taking centre stage.
I was reading in bed when I suddenly felt a shooting pain going through my neck and back. I could barely move and every movement seemed to increase the pain. Which triggered a panic attack. I was convinced that I was going to die or would end up being paralysed. It has been awhile since I experienced such a severe panic attack. And it took some time for those feelings of panic and fear to subside.
Thankfully, I could see a physical therapist that same day. Once again the cause was related to my brain injury. As my physical therapist wasn’t impressed with my regular exercise activities and advised me to exercise more. Now I would love to exercise more, but how and where? I thought that I had finished that particular pursuit when I’d started swimming. Even if I could find a quiet and dark gym, I would still need to go there. But where would I find the energy necessary for all of that?
Coincidentally, I attended a support group meeting the following weekend where the subject of exercising came up. There I discovered that some people had purchased a home trainer after their brain injury, in order to exercise. That idea hadn’t even crossed my mind.
It was one of those lightbulb moment. I could get a home trainer too! The internet must be filled with second hand home trainers.
It might be hard to phantom, but I felt liberated by the thought of having a home trainer. To be able to work out in the comforts of my own living room. To build stamina whilst being in control of the sounds and light. Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier?
Now, one week later, I am now the proud owner of a home trainer. I’ve already been on it three times. And I’ve realised that my stamina isn’t as good as I thought. But I can work on that! I never thought that being drenched in sweat from cycling twenty minutes, could make me feel so happy and proud.
I hope that one day I don’t need these emergency stops. That I don’t need a health scare to change my life for the better. Until then, I’ll focus on the positive. I’m one step further in learning the rules of my new normal.
Also it served as a reminder that I can’t do it by myself. I need people to help me think whilst I’m in the midst of a panic attack. People who help me to think in possibilities and solutions. People who share their experiences, so I can learn. Together we are stronger.
Do you also have these health scares, which turn out to be brain injury related? How and where do you exercise?