Friday, October 24, 2014

Fear is the Recovery Killer

For most of the last three years, since I first got brain damage, I have lived with fear. It's a fear that is not likely to go away in a hurry either.

It isn't the fear of having more strokes; I certainly don't want any more, but I am not afraid of more strokes, and they're pretty unlikely.

I'm not often afraid of my vulnerability, either. I am an easy target: I can't run away, and can't defend myself, except to flail with my walking stick, which is as risky for me as anyone else. I have been*, but tend to avoid any situation where I might be again, so it's not a constant issue for me.

Most of the time, I'm afraid of falling. Whenever I get up, walk, climb a stair, step over a leaf, turn around, carry anything or take almost any action, I'm afraid. It's hardly paralyzing, but it is always there. I can avoid it by swimming, or sitting and lying in one place. I do plenty of those things.

The fear is based in rational thought, too: I'm 5'8" and weigh over 180lb**, and if I fall poorly it is going to hurt, even if nothing gets broken. Small children with the same level of coordination as I have enjoy a much lower center of gravity, more padding, and less mass. Gits.

Poor me, right? Sod that. What's worse is that the fear inhibits me. I'm afraid that if I walk up a stair with nothing to hold on to, then I'll fall over, or be at risk of falling, so I hold a rail or touch the wall and don't take the risk.

As I get better, and my motor control improves, though, the danger is that I still take the safer path. That I take the lower risk path with compensatory motion, rather than the more challenging, but ultimately more rewarding, high risk path of recovering function.

I have definitely noticed a tendency to safety that sometimes exceeds my ability. To keep getting better, I have to keep pushing myself in awkward ways. I can't let the fear rule me, because it isn't going away in a hurry, and it shouldn't, but it's not the boss of me.

* I was threatened anonymously. The risk to me that the threat was real, no matter how risible, was too great. I had to remove myself. He won, by threatening violence.

** For now.