aging gracefully, Blog

Vertigo – What I Learned in Physical Therapy

Image by Felix Hu from Pixabay

I am approaching the end of my time in physical therapy. I pushed my doctor for a referral after fighting vertigo for three years. I have been through steroids, antihistamines, Dramamine and home baked exercises none of which worked for me for very long.

My diagnosis is BPPV, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, caused by a calcified otolith (often referred to as crystals) loose in the inner ear. After diagnosis by the therapist, the Epley maneuver is performed (which requires about ten minutes) and may be repeated up to three times.

This maneuver can trigger vertigo, which makes it feel like the entire room is spinning at a very fast speed. Some people may experience extreme nausea and may actually throw up. I liken it to being caught on an out-of-control tilt-a-whirl that does not stop.

Untreated, vertigo may recur over and over again, brought on by certain movements of the head. Treated, the symptoms disappear although they can recur in 30% of patients.

My symptoms disappeared after the second treatment, thankfully. I know it is possible they can come back, but at least I know now there is a way to treat it.

What happens after suffering with something like this is that it changes our physiological responses. For me, I slept in only one position which caused damage to my neck and shoulder. Our brain cautions us about past experiences that brought on vertigo and our body in turn, alters it normal response. As a result, there is much retraining that must take place.

Retraining consists of increasing muscle strength, improving posture, stretches, coordinated head and eye movements, and balance exercises. As a result of this retraining, my neck pain is almost gone, my shoulder pain is almost completely gone, my range of motion in my neck and shoulder has improved and my balance is getting better. I was shocked when I was asked to put my feet together, raise one knee, cross my arms across my chest and then close my eyes. As soon as I closed my eyes I could not stand. Without my other senses, my balance could not be maintained. I am doing this exercise every day (always in a corner so I can ‘catch’ myself if necessary) and often standing on a surface like a pillow which challenges our balance even more. I am improving every day. My therapist has even recommended I brush my teeth standing on one foot only.

As we grow older, we stop challenging our bodies in ways we do not even realize. We stop riding amusement park rides, no more summersaults, and no more cartwheels. In our society we don’t even walk much anymore (walking is very good for the vestibular  system).

If you suffer with vertigo or dizziness of any kind, I highly recommend seeing a physical therapist. They can determine the cause of your condition and if it is BPPV, there is an easy and effective treatment to resolve it.

Of course, I wish it could not happen again, but if it does, I know I can get treatment and get back to the business of living normally. Treat your body well. It is the only one you have.

aging gracefully, Blog

The Transition of Monday

Mondays are very different for me as a retiree. When I was working full-time, it was a day of dread. If not careful, it was easy to sacrifice part of the weekend by thinking about what Monday would entail.

We now choose to run our errands during the week so as to avoid the weekend shopping crowd. Today, for example, I will go to Costco. I never go on the weekend if I can avoid it. Monday always seems to be the target day to ‘start’ something.

Today we started our morning walks again. It was wet from some early morning showers. The number of leaves on the ground seem to equal the number remaining on the trees, but there is still some fall color here in the foothills.

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Today is also the day I start clearing the counters and the mantle for holiday decorations. I will put out some fall and Thanksgiving decorations even though we are not cooking this year. It is still nice to enjoy the festive nature of the season.

This week I will start unpacking our Dept. 56 New England village. In this house, they go above the kitchen cabinets for some lovely lighting ambiance and will stay up until after the new year. Since they are not Christmas themed, it is nice to get them out in advance of the other decorations.

Weekdays are a perfect time to meet friends and family for lunch. I hope to meet my niece this week to catch up with her. Restaurants can still be a little crowded for lunch, but the traffic is definitely much lighter.

I will continue to work on my NaNoWriMo novel. I am around 28,000 words now so I am on track. Last night I decided it was time to kill off one of my characters so today I am working on how best to do that.

The ability to manage my time is one of the best things about retirement. And I look forward to Monday’s now much more than when I was working.

aging gracefully, Blog

Vertigo and My Antihistamine Fog

Day 302

I woke this morning with a slight case of vertigo. I took Dramamine and now I am in an antihistamine fog. Most over-the-counter medicines make me really sleepy and today is no exception.

I had my first vertigo attack about 16 months ago. It happened in the middle of the night and it was so violent I thought I was having a stroke. I truly thought it was the end of the road.

I did the exercises and took medication that made me sleep around the clock. Not a fun way to live. No driving. Heck, even riding was a challenge.

Vertigo means trying not to bend over. No quick movements. No looking up or down or side to side. It means making sure you have someone in the next room when you shower. It means counting steps so there is no need to look down. It means maybe I will not be able to attend my class this week.

It means doing the exercises which makes the room spin at top speed. It means feeling worse before you feel better. It may mean nausea so bad you throw up.

It means taking hours to type a blog on your phone so you can have the screen completely and directly in front of your face.

I hope you never experience it. But with all that, there is so much worse I could be dealing with. I have a lot of people in my family dealing with much more far-reaching medical issues.

Now I am going to go nap and hope this passes. On a positive note I have learned to sleep sitting straight up in a chair.

aging gracefully, Blog, parents

Performing Without a Net

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Day 282

Ever heard someone say “you’re more like your mother/father every day” or something similar? Do you ever sit back and wonder if you are like your parents? Does that make you happy or does it create anxiety?

There is much about us that is passed down through our DNA — some scientists even think trauma alters our DNA and can be passed through generations. If science proves such a theory, it is hard to fathom what that may mean for countless innocent children.

I do think there is a part of us that develops through experience and exposure — both good and bad. Maybe through such experience, we form our own internal voice, our gut, that alarms us when things head in a bad direction. I think it is also the part of us that separates us or binds us, to our parents.

After my first child was born, my father lovingly told me I looked just like my mom after their first child was born. I could see it was a warm and beautiful memory for him. I took it as a compliment. I always thought my mom was beautiful and loving and kind.

As I have aged, however, I realize how far apart I am from my parents’ thinking. As much as I loved and respected them, there are areas in which we differ tremendously. I am able to easily reject ideas they had about certain things that do not fit with my way of thinking. I am sure changes in social mores also have a lot to do with altering the way we perceive things. I sometimes wonder what my mother would think about the woman I have become.

Yesterday, my daughter called me. I answered and she responded by telling me how much just the sound of my voice soothed her. That made me smile. I always want to be a comfort to my children. I stopped for a moment to see if I could recall the sound of my mother’s voice in my mind. It is harder now than it once was, but it is still there.

All the years we spend in this life are practice for becoming… And becoming is always unfurling. I am content with my life and I realize that throughout all the good and the bad, I have been practicing for the day I could perform without a net.

No parents to catch me when I fall now, but hopefully, all the years of practice have made me steadier on my feet. A little braver and a little more confident.

I am my parent’s daughter. I have inherited traits that are undeniable. But I have also become a different person, separate from them. And as much as I love my parents and all they taught me, I am happy to be this transformed little girl that they brought into this world. I believe they would be proud of me.

I hope my children will develop beyond me, too. I have always been proud to be their safety net. Now I want to sit back and watch them fly.

“My parents blessed me with directives to think,
to be aware of my choices and their repercussions.
They were always trying to teach me how to think,
rather than what to think.”
Cathy Burnham Martin

aging gracefully, Blog, Love, Marriage, memories

Seasons of Love

 

Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

Day 273

Maybe it was the post about The Lettermen yesterday or the trigger from a tv show that had me crying yesterday, but for some reason, I am thinking about love in all its splendid glory today.

Entering the autumn of my life I realize my definition of love has changed. Maybe life gives you perspective and it is easier to separate things like love, desire, passion, and longing.

I say ‘I love you’ much easier now than in my youth, but I say it acknowledging there are many different nuances of love. I love my husband, I love my friends and I love my family. When I love you, I have no difficulty saying those three magical words.

Saying ‘I love you’ in our youth carries a weight of response and expectation. I wonder how many books and movie scenes I have witnessed that expose the dangling ‘I love you’ that hangs awaiting a response that never comes.

I remember my first boyfriend. His name was Gordon M. and he was in my first grade class. I still have my class picture and see him and still remember how much I liked him. Of course he had no idea he was my boyfriend — but I knew.

I remember all the loves of my youth. They were each filled with a shy awkwardness and I felt my life would surely disintegrate into nothingness without them. Of course that is the dramatic love of first experiences.

I remember being angry when my parents told me “it’s just puppy love”. It never felt like that to me.

When I was first allowed to date, I remember going to the movies with my boyfriends. These were the times of kissing until my lips hurt and that rush you feel for the very first time. I can still remember some of the movie titles (“Prudence and the Pill” and “Good Neighbor Sam”) but I saw very little of the movies. This was a time of electric excitement.

Then confusion ensues when we start to experience the emotions of love and sex and the ramifications of both. These are the times when real heartbreak makes you feel as if everything you know to be true has been disrupted. Maybe this is when you start to realize that trust is as important as love.

Thinking back to prior marriages, I can see a lot more clearly now than I did then. I understand how longing and love can be confused and I can see clearly that ‘love’, perhaps cannot be enough to sustain a relationship.

Love has gotten easier with age. The goals and desires for companionship are easier, at least from my perspective. I remember well the day hubby and I got married. Before the ceremony, we looked at each other and agreed that if we were not In this for the long haul, then why bother?

There are probably more books, movies, poems, and quotes about love than any other topic. That tells us how powerful it is.

Love does not hurt. It does not cause you pain. Love does not co-exist for very long when anger arrives. Complacency can cause loneliness. Comfortable can have an easiness about it as long as it’s not so comfortable that the feelings dissipate. These things bring an end to marriages. Maybe this is how love dies.

I am a huge fan of Rod McKuen’s poetry. I was sad when he died. He wrote about love in a way that spoke to me. He wrote about the emotions that get confused with love. He wrote about love in the middle and late years of life, which I appreciated so much.

I recently read about Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and how controversial it was when first published. People were so offended they burned the book. Publishers refused to print further editions. There were aspects of love and life not to be discussed in the light of day.

I had no idea where this post would go when I started writing. I just know love seems easier now. Not lacking passion, or without feeling. Experience and time make it easier to discern the difference between love and other emotions.

It is also possible that we love ourselves and our life that we no longer feel the need to share our time and space with another person. It takes work, even when it is easy. When my father passed away, my step-mom said she might go out to dinner with other people but she would never wash another man’s underwear.

And there you have it.

On that note, I will go about my day. I try not to fall this deep in thought too often.

Three, by Rod McKuen

You see how easily we fit together,
as if God’s own hand had cradled only us
and this beach town’s population were but two
and this wide bed but a child’s cradle
with room enough left over for presents.

Tomorrow I’ll buy you presents.
Pomegranates and breadsticks,
tickets round the room and back
and red, red roses like everybody buys everybody.

Everybody’s got a diamond ring

And Sunday shoes.

Neckties and petticoats,
pistols and tennis balls.

What pleases you?
I’d hock my watch to buy you Greece
or sell my car to bring you rickshaws from Rangoon.
All they had down at the corner

were poppies with some lemon leaves.

They’ll have to do
till I can bring home Union Square.
I found a twenty-dollar bill when I was ten.
I bought a cardboard circus and a fountain pen
and a jackknife because I never had one before.
My mother thought I’d stolen the money.
I bought her perfume from the dime store,

She believed me then.

I was rich in those days,
for a week I had everything.
I wish I’d known you then.