Aging & Accepting New Limits…

I am ever amazed at the distance between knowing how much my health has changed and accepting those new limits. In the past seven years I have gone from a healthy 60-year-old to one who needs supplemental oxygen to breath and help with balance and stability while walking. My highest priority now is to not fall again and suffer another head injury. I’ve already had one traumatic brain injury and several serious concussions.

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is.

On my birthday this year I learned in no uncertain terms that I cannot walk more than a few blocks, and that is with balance assistance at all times. I have been an avid walker my whole life. I would love to know how many miles I have walked in my 65+ years. I was inspired by Thoreau’s essay on “The fine art of sauntering.”

Walking was always my best way to contemplate my doubts and troubles. If I was upset I would go for a long walk along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, or around my neighborhood in Fort Collins. There I worked things out in my mind.

This is not an option now. I fell down in my garden a couple years ago and split my upper lip badly. Even short walks are out of the question, even if Mike is there to help. I am depressed and frustrated with this change in my lifestyle, and acceptance has never been my forte. I am one stubborn person!

However, I heard something the other day which stuck with me. It was about how we may decide to focus and go deeper into our spirituality when our physical abilities wane. This has already happened to some extent, because I’m that kind of person and I am stuck inside most of the time.

Luckily I have a phenomenal view from my bed, an 180 degree view of the Sangre de Cristos!

OK, I guess I can live with this.

What does a brain injury feel like?

In my last post I spoke of “enforced introspection.” Because of a few health concerns in the past few years, I have been living in a type of enforced introspection. I was reminded of this situation on Thursday with another accident and rude awakening. I went too long without my oxygen tube and passed out on the floor. This has happened a few times in the past few years.

What happens is not completely known to me, because I don’t remember anything when I regain consciousness. When I gathered my wits about me, I called for Mike, but he had just left for a while. I struggled to my feet eventually and got my oxygen. Wow, what a big bump I had on the back of my head! That’s the best indication I have of how hard I fell.

My health situation is complicated because I know the problem isn’t just an oxygen deficit. The combination of low oxygen and previous brain injuries, especially a traumatic brain injury in 2008 (brain bleed) make my consciousness level less dependable than what most others experience. This is my first life experience with a disability, and I would say I am not adjusting well. My but I can be so stubborn. My brain is not amused.

I have always been my own brand of unique and taken some pride in that, but this is a uniqueness I could do without… I now realize that previous brain injuries (TBI) have made me much more vulnerable to future ones!

The only thing interesting about this brain deficit is observing my varied levels of consciousness. For instance, right now, as I write this, I notice that the spelling part of my brain is not happy. I forget how to spell some of the simplest words, but as I keep trying, they come more easily. It all leaves me in a bit of a dream world, but in a good way. It doesn’t freak me out, because unconsciousness is not scary to me until I wake up and wonder what the hell happened?

I called my brother to tell him about my fall and he said, “What can you do about this?” As far as I can tell there is nothing to do except be sure to stay on oxygen all the time, but my spaced-out nature makes that more challenging than it sounds.

Stop trying? I’ll keep fighting until I can’t fight anymore!

A few things I can never do again…

The interview with Linda Ronstadt on CBS Sunday Morning this week was poignant. She learned that she had Parkinson’s Disease in 2000 and has since lost her ability to sing. She is however making the most of it:

“These days she spends much of her time reading. “I can’t do a lot of things that are active,” she said. “I can’t spend very much time on my feet, or even very much time sitting up. I have to kind of lounge around. But I’m lazy, so it’s a good thing that I lounge! So, I’m glad to have the leisure time. I have a huge stack of books that I need to read.”¬†

 Does she think much about singing now?

“Oh, I can sing in my brain; I sing in my brain all the time. But it’s not quite the same as doing it physically. You know, there’s a physical feeling in singing that’s just like skiing down a hill, except better, ’cause I’m not a very good skier!”

This is how I feel about so many activities I did in my previous life as a long-distance walker and high elevation hiker. Not to mention the many things I loved like yoga before my arm and shoulder began hurting constantly.

Laura and rasta close upThis is one part of aging that is very hard to take, and yet it reminds me how fortunate I was to have at least experienced these things at some point in my life. And for all of you who feel what I call ‘pathologically optimistic’ about my limitations, between a traumatic brain injury, fractured ribs and COPD which barely allows me to live at 7000 feet, these disabilities will not be changing in this lifetime.

What I find particularly difficult to deal with are the doubters and blamers I sometimes run into. They have no compassion for my losses, but instead blame me for my injuries. They judge me instead of supporting my difficulties, perhaps because they have not experienced any serious limitations yet themselves.

I felt quite strong through most of my 50s. I injured my brain and my ribs on a bike ride through Fort Collins in 2008. My 60s have been extremely challenging so far, and it doesn’t help when I feel criticized and judged for my limited ability to be active. Now I must carefully pick and choose which activities I can complete and enjoy. Everything takes more breathe and effort than in the past.

We will all experience disabilities as we age. We will all die. Please don’t blame others for reminding you of that.