November 28, 2020

Fatigue is a Deal Breaker

The fatigue I felt for the first year after my stroke was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  
I repeatedly felt a crushing fatigue that I could not push through.  When I did not rest, I could barely hold my head up after dinner.  Using a timer to force myself to rest was annoying because it would go off at the worst time.  Watching TV turned me into a zombie who could not stop clicking the remote because nothing good was on at the moment.  I tried reading and going on the Internet, but I got so absorbed in these activities that sitting for long periods made me tired.  I found two strategies that work for me. 

(1) Brief rests before the fatigue overwhelms me.  Lying on top of the bedspread with a towel under my shoes does not feel like I am going back to bed.  I lie down for fifteen minutes without having to get undressed.  (2)  Energy conservation.  For example, I divided doing dishes into 3 steps.  
Step 1: Empty dishwasher - rest 5 minutes.  Step 2: Take clean dishes to the appropriate cabinet with a cart.  I did not have to repeatedlty carry heavy stacks of dishes from the dishwasher to each cabinet - rest 5 minutes.  Step 3: Load dishwasher.  I have a double sink so I use one sink as a staging area to hold dirty dishes until I need to wash them.    

GOOD NEWS: My crushing fatigue faded after the first year!

November 21, 2020

I'm Not Feelin' the Joy

Being an OT taught me to identify the skills a task requires and help clients regain those skills.  However, covid-19 has been an intense, unrelenting challenge so I was not happy when my
16 year old phone stopped working.  It repeatedly cut off the sound of my voice even though I could hear the person on the other end.  Covid-19 has stolen the joy of learning.  Thank God OT also taught me to divide a task into tiny steps because setting up my new phone fried my brain.

Day 1.  Get the 9 pieces out of the tightly packed box.
Day 2.  Put the pieces in the photo together.  Thank God for my 
            Carson Triview magnifier because details in diagrams in 
            the instructions were too small for me to see.  Finish by 
            plugging in the handset to charge the batteries.
Day 3.  Manual: Stick tabs on sections for the base unit and 
             handset so I can skip info about bluetooth.  Find the
             unmarked button on the base unit that opens Menu 😠
Day 4.  Plug in and program the base unit.  Record a new
             answering machine message.
Day 5.   Enter names and numbers of my contacts.

My new phone is so complicated that I need a cheat sheet on an index card to help me remember how to do common procedures and where to find the buttons that performs these procedures.  Some button labels are self-evident like "Speed Dial".  Other buttons do double duty like using a button labeled "volume" to select an option that has nothing to do with volume.  To make matters worse, some buttons on the base unit are in a different location than the hand set. 😖
It was hard to find a new phone with a jack for an earbud.  An earbud frees my sound hand to take notes when I am talking on the phone.  The earbud also keeps my sound arm from getting tired if I hold the phone to my ear when I talk for an hour with family and life-long friends who live hundreds of miles away.

November 19, 2020

Being Stared at Does Not Diminish My Success

Noticing the techniques an artist uses to create an effect is distracting.  When I saw Andy Warhol's giant photos of soup cans, all I thought about was how many filters he tried before he got the colors he liked.  When I see a model walk down the runway with an exaggerated hip sway by crossing her legs in front of her body as she takes each step, I am not looking at the dress.  I am amazed that her suberb balance keeps her from falling.  I do not enjoy close-ups of a ballerina's face because I can see her drop out of character and start counting to make sure she does the 8 pirouettes the music requires.  The way I do tasks after my stroke also draws peoples' attention.  Able-bodied people have stared at me while I zip my coat, tie my shoes, cut my meat, and get in the tight back seat of a car.   

In the first year after my stroke I was working too hard to worry about what other people thought.  Later I became self-conscious.  Then I chose to think of task modification as an opportunity to teach and use what I know about performance.  As a child I danced in The Nutcracker ballet with the New York City ballet.  It was not enough to memorize the steps.  I had to convince the people in the upper tiers that I was fighting the mouse king.  So when I see people staring at me I try to project an air of confidence.  They will forget the steps they saw, but I hope they remember that stroke survivors can retain their dignity.

November 3, 2020

My Covid-19 Haircut

I am the least fashion conscious person I know, but I was horrified to see how bad my short hair looked after 3 months without a haircut.  I did not have to turn around to look in a mirror to see the hair on the back of my neck.  From the front I could see a curly bunch of hair sticking straight out to the side.  I am highly motivated to get a haircut.

1.  I get the 1st appointment of the day so multiple customers have not been breathing the air in the chair I sit in.  Indoor ventilation can blow covid around.  

2.  I tip my hairdresser with cash because credit card companies take 2% of every transaction.  Yet if you have worked in retail, you know money is filthy.  I set bills on a window sill to let sunshine disinfect them.  Then I put cash in an envelope.  I reach for the envelope sticking out of my purse instead of digging through my wallet.  I put a mask and a glove for my sound hand in my purse.  

3.  While my hairdresser washes my hair, I put my gloved hand in front of my mask to keep it dry.  When my haircut is finished I do not let my hairdresser blow dry and style my hair.  Nobody needs gusts of wind blowing covid around.  My hairdresser has cut my hair for years so she knows what kind of cut I need.  I never schedule an activity after my haircut so I can go straight home.

4.  I pay for the haircut with a credit card which I keep by itself in a tiny purse (see arrow) that hangs from the strap of my over-the-body purse.  That means I do not have to dig through my purse to find it.  I bring my own pen to sign the credit card receipt.

5.  When I get to my car door I use the little finger of my sound hand to pull the mask loop off my left ear.  My teeth are then free to pull the glove off my sound hand.  My sound hand places the inside-out glove between the middle and index finger of my affected hand.  Making a fist squeezes the glove so I do not drop it.  I get out my car key which is sitting by itself in the unzipped pocket on the front of my purse.  After I open the car door, I put the used glove in a cup that sits in a well in the driver's door.