I hope that you are having a good day!
Today, I am here to talk about the mental game of acknowledging small gains with your PMR recovery.
For those with PMR, hopes of recovery can be disheartening. Day after day, the pain and stiffness go on. Side effects from the steroids sneak to steal your joy, and some days can be downright discouraging.
However, looking for the little improvements over a long period can put your recovery into better perspective.
Expecting big gains or a noticeable improvement quickly will only cause you to lose heart in this fight against PMR.
Did you ever hear of the story of the tortoise and the hare? If not, I am here to tell you that the slow turtle kept chugging along at a snail's pace to win a race against the fast bunny(who goofed around due to his inflated view of easily winning the race).
Many times in my life, I have felt like the tortoise. Slow and steady in almost everything that I do. I worked hard at school, my job, and my family. And I was steadily successful in these areas.
My PMR recovery is no different. I had wanted to be one of the successful PMR folks who quickly overcame the condition with little difficulty or side effects. So I changed my diet, rested as needed, exercised frequently and gently, eliminated stressors in my life, and followed my treatment plan carefully.
However, as I have learned about life, I am not in control, and therefore my PMR took its own course. My recovery has NOT been quick, and I have been riddled with side effects from the steroids (as many of us are).
HOWEVER, I HAVE made some GAINS!
Last weekend, my husband and I went kayaking with our oldest grandson. It was a fun time, and although we did not go for long, I was able to paddle and (almost) get out of the kayak by myself.
This is a considerable improvement from the first time I went out in my little dingy 2 years ago. I had just been diagnosed with PMR and was incredibly stiff and sore. I did not want to admit that I was disabled, so I agreed to go kayaking with friends.
Once I eased myself into the kayak and started paddling, I panicked. My legs and hips were frozen, and I was in extreme pain in the lower half of my body and upper extremities. My first terrifying realization was that I probably could not swim with this condition. How could I keep myself afloat if my arms and legs were not working?
I had to tell my friends that I was in a lot of discomfort. I started paddling for my life toward shore, worried that I might not make it. Once I hit the beach, it took 2 people to manually haul me out of the boat.
This moment was when I realized that I could no longer participate in this favorite summer pastime. It was a sad day.
However, the following summer, I tried again to dust off my little boat and go for a small paddle. I was feeling better on a medium dose of steroids and wanted to see if I could kayak. My legs were less stiff, and I found out that I could still swim.
So my patient husband once again launched me and my boat into the water. This time, I was on bigger water, and the wind was a little stronger. Although we were not out on the water long, I had to paddle hard to get back in. Once again, my husband had to peel me out of the boat manually. But I did!
Unfortunately, for the following 10 days, I had excruciating pain in both of my shoulders. I felt like it was worse than my usual PMR pain and that possibly, I had damaged my shoulders.
Luckily, my shoulders eventually returned to their usual dull ache and stiffness. But that was the end of kayaking for me last summer.
Recently, I tried my favorite water sport once again. This time, I was 2 years into my PMR journey. It was my grandson's maiden voyage on his new little kayak last week. And it was a success! I have some increased discomfort in my shoulders and upper back, but it is worth it.
I was so proud of myself as I (somewhat) gracefully got in and almost out of my kayak by myself and could share the joy of kayaking with my grandson.
I feel like I can go out on the water again this summer and add this activity back into my life! Score one for me against PMR!
I have noted other gains in the past month or two. Could I possibly be going slowly into remission? It is too early to tell, but I take them as a win.
Some simple things that I could not do before with PMR but can do (at least partially) now are:
- Gardening for short periods and with the help of my husband. He is thrilled to have me back outside with him again as we tackle our garden and yard.
- I got in and out of the tub by myself! For those of you with PMR, you know what a problem this simple activity can cause.
- Kneeing. Yep, I can kneel without terrible pain.
- Getting onto the floor into a sitting position and back up again! This translates into being able to do yoga which was a big part of my life in the past. Celebrate!
- Bowling!! Whoot Whoot. I shared a game with my granddaughter, who lost interest, and it was a miniature ball and lanes, but who cares! I did not have to sit on the sidelines, and I could be fun, Nani, who was not disabled!
- My hair seems to be thicker. Granted, I cut it super short because the steroids made it thin and wiry, but now it looks thick and healthy.
- I can bend to get the clothes out of the washer and dryer without using one of those extension grabber things.
- I can stand and cook a whole meal without having to sit down.
Final score: Donna 60 PMR 40
As I look at the whole picture, the gains are small and excruciatingly slow. But they are moving in the right direction, slow and steady.
Like the tortoise in our story, I plan to keep moving that goalpost closer until I finish the race with a win.
Blessings to you all.