(Editor’s note: Writer, BEST guest blog contributor, and advocate, Isaac Peterson, pays tribute to a special doctor that encouraged his self-care strategies and wellness. Together, they made a great team. KT)
I was impressed enough with Dr. Enkema that I used him as an example of what to look for in a doctor in an essay I wrote for this blog a while back. He is a medical professional who took a personal interest in me and actively encouraged me to ask questions. He went to the trouble to learn about me, not just my condition and my medical charts, and he allowed me to actively participate in decisions about my health and treatment.
And while he encouraged me to ask questions, and he also always made sure I understood the answers.
When I first moved to Tacoma after the stroke I had experienced, I had the extremely good fortune to be assigned to his care. I’d never actually had a regular doctor and for him to be my first doctor was a sign that things would work out just fine for me.
However, I soon discovered that he wasn’t just my doctor; he was my friend.
And he was also a welcome change from the previous doctors I’d had in my post-stroke recovery.
While Dr. Enkema actively encouraged and supported my empowerment, I sadly can’t say the same for the doctors ahead of him.
From the moment I first woke up in the hospital and learned I’d experienced a major stroke, I knew without a doubt I would get better. My brain was scrambled, and reality came in and out; but underneath it all I knew I was still me.
I still had all the qualities that had made me who I was, and knew it (though I didn’t know much else at the time). I just knew the real me was in there somehow, and I felt I knew how to wake him up and coax him out.
I wasn’t what you would call a good patient though.
I resisted almost everything they told me I had to do because I felt I knew what was best for me.
I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy.
I remember asking several times why I needed to go through all the therapy, since I knew that with some hard work and dedication, I would get it all back. The reply was invariably, because everybody that’s had a stroke needs to go through it.
About speech therapy, for one example, my rebellious self would say, I already speak better than anyone on this floor and probably in this whole hospital.
I’ve always been contrary like that, and always extremely confident in my ability.
It all felt like a huge waste of time, since I knew I would get it back, left to my own devices. I had a very strong feeling my recovery was up to me, and I felt I knew best what I’d need to do.
A friend had brought me books—I’ve always been an enthusiastic and voracious reader. None of it was light reading, and I was anxious to dig in, especially since there was only the television otherwise.
But hospital staff had other ideas.
When I tried to read, someone on the staff usually came in, horrified, and tell me not to do it. I asked why not, and was advised that I might overstimulate my brain.
Well, I felt my brain needed stimulation, and said so.
Similarly, I refused to lie in bed all day and night. I would get up and wander—around the whole hospital. Hospital staff would chase me down and swoop in like a SWAT team. Apparently I was considered a high fall risk, but I never let that get in my way. They would say, you can’t DO that!
And I would say, sure I can do it—watch.
But I’d still end up being carted off to my room.
After a bit they put a wrist band on me that I couldn’t remove, and that would trigger an alarm when I went past a certain point. Fall risk or not, I never fell and still have not fallen to this day. I just won’t allow it.
I hope none of you never had or never have these kinds of things happen to you, too.
Finally, after a solid month of confinement, I was discharged. The prognosis they gave my family was that I would need round the clock care, that I would be feeble-minded, would need help with even the simplest tasks, and all of that. They made me take a walker with me, but I have never used it and didn’t need it in the first place. I never bore the slightest resemblance to their prognosis.
I never accepted it.
Within about three months I was a contributing writer to this blog, and all indications are that it’s gone pretty well.
I understand the hospital staff were covering all their bases and trying hard to avoid liability issues, but apart from that, I never understood how they could give me that prognosis that was so far off the mark from the real me they had observed every day. I knew there were people who fit that prognosis, but I knew it didn’t describe me, or what I could and couldn’t do.
I felt at every turn they were trying to condition me to feel and accept that I was helpless rather than encouraging me to recover and be independent. They knew everything about my vital signs, but they didn’t know one thing about the man I am. They could measure my blood pressure, but they could never measure one of what I feel is one of my biggest strengths—my willpower.
But they probably figured I had no willpower because, after all, I was coming off a massive stroke. Besides, they had done every possible thing they could do to limit my will and convince me I was helpless. And it apparently meant nothing that I was able to function so rapidly, and at such a high level, so soon after a stroke.
Even though I wasn’t at my pre-stroke best, I still had defied some pretty overwhelming odds, just surviving the experience. Their textbooks could tell them all the medical stuff they needed to know about strokes, but those texts did not account for the reality of me.
I had begun my own self-care while still hospitalized, right under their noses, but everything they did seemed to be intended to convince myself that I was helpless and powerless. And that is something I will never accept.
All those times I was told I couldn’t do something, while I was in the middle of doing that very thing, I rebelled against. Don’t, can’t, and no are all just words when you’re recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Even during the first dark hours and days, I was thinking I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a stroke keep me down or hold me back. Against all that, what chance did the hospital staff stand?
I told Dr. Enkema about all that, and he assured me I had done the right thing and that my attitude should be one held by more patients and professionals alike. He told me once he thought I have an uncommonly strong will—I just think I’m uncommonly stubborn. Not like I’m something special, but I’ve always believed we have more say about our circumstances than we allow ourselves to believe or accept, and Dr. Enkema fully agreed. If only he had been one of my doctors in the hospital.
I’m sure going to miss him.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the March 2019 Brain Injury Awareness Month has come to a close, our theme for the month, Super Self-Care has not. Self-care is an important part of our recoveries, journey forward and day-to-day lives.
Let’s keep it up, shall we?
Here’s to your health, self-care process, and empowerment!
(Editor’s note: Is cleaning a chore or is it a practice of self-care? BEST gives a warm welcome to BEST guest blogger Marysa Rogozynski, who has some important and compelling points on cleaning and will make you see cleaning in a brand new way! Thanks, Marysa! KT).
If someone would have told me that cleaning is therapeutic, I would have thought they were crazy.
Why on earth would someone want to clean for fun, or willingly for that matter?
Cleaning is called a chore for a reason, right?
Well, that’s what I thought….
If cleaning was a chore, it would be a project.
If cleaning was a choice, it would be a practice.
If we practice, then it can become a habit. If it becomes a habit, then hopefully it is helping benefit our life.
BOOM! Mind is blown!
Okay… so maybe it is not that extreme or simple, but I did a little investigating and cleaning can actually become a healthy habit; it just takes a little practice.
Don’t believe me? Well, here is some interesting information on the benefits of cleaning.
1. You begin to feel healthier.
2. With a clean space, you may feel more comfortable inviting friends over.
3. Quick burst of energy, and a little bit of physical exercise.
4. Increased productivity and be a distraction for the thoughts and emotions inside your head.
5. It can give you a sense of accomplishment.
6. Increase in a positive mood. It can also help calm anxiety and decrease feelings of depression.
7. A feeling of having more control in your life. Hey, this one can help with anxiety and depression, too!
See, it’s not so bad, right? Well, if you are like me and lack the motivation to do things, or doing too much work at once is very strenuous, I have a few tips for you!
1. Don’t tackle everything at once.
When we trying to clean everything at once it can take its toll on us. We start losing some energy, our brains might feel tired, and it can feel boring and tedious.
2. Pick one room or task to start with.
You know what is most important to you. If when you first walk into your house or apartment and there is a mess everywhere, which gives you anxiety or you lose things, start there.
If you have mail laying around and you need to file it, start there. Whatever the task may be, you decide what is most important in this current moment and time.
3. Once you have picked a task or room to clean, write it down.
By writing down the task at hand it can serve two purposes. The first is to help with memory.This allows you to keep track of what you are doing, in case you get distracted or forget what you are doing.
The second is it gives us something to check off later! It is a nice way to show that you have accomplished something that you set out to do.
4. Set a time limit. Take a break, and then continue again.
It is okay if you do not complete everything in one sitting. Cognitive psychology shows that the average attention span is 20 minutes, but keep in mind that can vary per person.
Pick a time limit to start off with. If you realize you can go longer or need a shorter time period, make an adjustment.
Don’t forget to set a timer! Once the timer goes off, take a break and then start the timer again.
5. Check it off.
After you have finished that task, go back to where you wrote it down and check it off! This allows for an increased sense of accomplishment, and it is a reward for completing your goal.
This can also help encourage you to do it again, creating habits over time.
6. Pick an Option A or B.
At this point, you have two choices.
Option A: Repeat these steps with a new task!
Option B: Stop with the task you completed, and work on forming a habit of the one task.
Then when you are ready, choose Option B!
7. If these steps don’t work quite right for you, that’s okay make some adjustments.
This process doesn’t seem right to me! I have tried it a few times and it isn’t working. That is okay! Figure out what works for you and make adjustments.
What works for one person may not work for another, but it can help give us an idea of where to start. You know your body and brain better than anyone else, listen to what it has to say.
These are some of the ways that I tackling cleaning. It helps me to feel less overwhelmed, and have a sense of accomplishment. I haven’t reached the point of a habit, but it is beginning to feel less like a chore.
So, I am curious. What tips do you have for cleaning? What works? What doesn’t? How does cleaning make you feel? What are you going to clean first?
Information and Resources:
Marysa Rogozynski grew up in Ontario, Canada until her family moved to the United States. After the move, she completed high school in Montana, going on to earn her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology at the University of Jamestown, where she also sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury playing collegiate sports. Currently, she is finishing her Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology at Eastern Washington University. She enjoys traveling, going to the movies, baking, and playing with her cats.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.
March is an important month for sharing, caring, and having important conversations about brain injury and brain injury awareness.
The Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) is excited to announce our theme for 2019’s awareness month: Super Self-Care.
BEST will be exploring different ways that we can practice self-care, such as:
You are also welcome to share your self-care tips and strategies. We’d love to hear from you!
Here’s to self-care and living our BEST lives possible, today and every day!
(Editor’s note: BEST welcomes back writer, blogger and BEST guest blogger, Kirsten Short, who shares a terrific and informative article on some helpful tools and strategies to engage your goals and journey forward in 2019. Thank you Kirsten for your important words and support! KT)
Yup, you heard me correctly; Happy New Year! I have had a very slow start to 2019 and it is about time that I send my best to the BEST community. I haven’t forgotten about you; I’m just running a little — okay, a lot — behind.
How behind? Well, it’s February 18th.
I’m sitting at my computer staring at a blank Word document. That tiny vertical line has been blinking at me for about ten minutes. I feel like with each pulse, it is taunting me to write something. Write something. Write something.
Why does everything feel so difficult these days?
Is it called a cursor because if you stare at it long enough, it will certainly make you curse?
January felt like the longest month in the history of months. In addition to feeling terrible physically, I was so unmotivated. My body, mainly my gut, has been taking it the hardest as I haven’t been sleeping very well and my eating habits have been terrible. And don’t even get me started on February. I feel like I blinked and bam, we are already half-way through, and I have no idea where the time has gone.
I am certain that I have used the word “ughhhhh” like 1,000,000 times over the last six weeks.
Does anyone else feel this way?
Raise your hand if you have already failed at your New Year’s resolution, haven’t even gotten around to making 2019 goals (and you usually do), or if you just feel a bit lost this year and need some direction.
Is your hand in the air? Okay. Now, raise your other hand. Do you feel ridiculous yet? Good. Now, wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze.
I am currently imagining hundreds and thousands of people hugging themselves and it’s very empowering (don’t worry – I am not delusional. I am aware that I am typing this to myself, so no one is really hugging themselves. This is just a minor irrelevant detail that I will sort out later). My point? We are going to get through this together and with a little bit of self-love and self-compassion, and lots of self-hugs.
…Google. (Don’t look surprised — Where else would we start?)
It took some time, but I finally stumbled upon a blogpost by Elizabeth Rider, a Certified Health Coach, titled, Word of the Year. In her article, Rider explains that a Word of the Year is “an intention, a theme per se, for how you want your year to flow.” Just like how a theme in literature is woven into all aspects of a story, our Word of the Year should influence all our actions, interactions, and motivations for the year.
After reading Rider’s blog, I was left with two thoughts:
Apparently, making a yearly theme is not a new concept. I am just late to the party or I never showed up to the party (give me a break here, social gatherings are hard on my brain).
In any case, I was able to find some good resources on the topic, such as a podcast by Lisa Martin, a best-selling author and leadership coach. In her January 1, 2019 episode, Martin breaks down the process and pieces involved in creating a theme. I have summarized the steps below.
Step 1: Answer the following reflection questions:
Step 2: Summarize your answers by finishing these three sentences:
I want more…
I want less…
I will continue to…
Step 3: Based on the three sentences from Step 2, create a one to two-word theme.
Following Martin’s steps, I realized that my decrease in motivation over the last six weeks has been a direct result of my declining health. It has become increasingly difficult for me to stay hopeful that I will get better and regain my independence one day. And just like the old cliché, I didn’t realize how important it is to have hope until I started to lose it. Since my concussion two years ago, hope has been keeping me afloat and consequently, without it, I know now that I would certainly sink.
Sounds like a good plan, right? No more ughhhs for this girl.
Now it’s your turn,
Kirsten Short was born and raised in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration from British Columbia Institute of Technology and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia. From 2010 to early 2017, Kirsten worked in accounting firms where her client base consisted of small and medium-sized owner operated businesses, private companies, co-operatives, not-for-profit organizations and large public entities. Accordingly, she has a wide breadth of tax, advisory and assurance experience.
Unfortunately, Kirsten has been on medical leave since she suffered a concussion in February of 2017. However, she manages to stay positive despite her post-concussion symptoms, chronic migraines and visual snow. When not working on her rehabilitation, Kirsten takes full advantage of her ‘good’ hours by advocating for brain injury survivors and their families; this is a new passion of hers. She also enjoys yoga, reading, writing and taking her Boston Terrier, Charli, on walks. You can read more about her story on her blog: Concussions and Lawn Chairs.