Regaining Motor Skills Through Therapy: Out of Balance
Because I was uninsured and waiting to be accepted by CRS (Comprehensive Rehabilitative Services), we had to weigh the therapies that I couldn’t afford to loose ground in and pay out of pocket to continue my rehabilitation. After I began Vision Therapy, the next move in my triage of care was Aquatic Physical Therapy at Lakeway Aquatics in Texas. I began trying to regain a bit of my balance. One exercise was in the 3ft section of the pool where I would get a ring with a one foot diameter around my right foot and lift it if to my hand. This forced me to stand on my uncoordinated and weak left leg for a second. This was impossible for me on land, and almost impossible in the pool. I used a float for support at first. It was definitely safer in the pool because if and when I fell, I would be in a pool so I wouldn’t hurt myself. I also only had to balance on a third or so of my weight in the pool which made it more of a possibility.
I also attempted to jog for the first time. I did this in the pool not only for safety reasons, but because of my lack of strength. You can watch the video and see how difficult it was to coordinate my legs even in the pool.
“Muscle memory” refers to the coordination of motors kills which occurs in the cerebellum, which is the part of my brain that is most severely affected by my brain injury. It felt as if I was relearning from infancy except when you’re an infant and you fall, you can only fall the few feet that you are in height and your bones are much softer and resilient. I was a full grown man learning to walk and run again and I COULD NOT afford to fall and set myself back. Aquatic Therapy was a perfect way to protect myself while relearning how to do the things that all healthy adults can do. I still have a long way to go, and I may never recover fully, but it could be WAY worse.
The other issue was my lack of lung capacity which became very apparent in the pool. I couldn’t swim or even wade in the water, because of how uncoordinated I was coupled with how winded I would get after a few seconds of attempting. I needed training wheels or a crutch if you will. My “crutch” was a floating noodle because it made an activity that I couldn’t do easier to do, but it still wasn’t even close to easy.
I also started yoga. I always found it fitting that the studio I went to is called Balance Yoga, and balance was exactly what it helped me recover. I had to be near a wall and modify a lot of the poses, but this was an incredible therapy for me. Yoga is hard! Especially if you have no balance. I had a wall thankfully. In retrospect it was a bit dangerous to be attempting such challenging exercises for my balance when I couldn’t even stand on just my left leg without some sort of support, but I never fell and hurt myself in yoga. I did, however, fall out of positions and catch myself all of the time… It was the most challenging and helpful therapy I participated in and was the least expensive of all of them. I think that yoga is amazing and played a huge part in my recovery.
I think that the variety of different therapies is so important, and I began learning how to incorporate therapy in everyday activities. Putting on my pants, for example required me to sit down, but I decided to force myself to put them on one leg at a time while standing. I began noticing every detail that I never thought about before. For example, do you know which pant leg you put on first? I have no idea what leg I did before, but now it made a huge difference because I am way less prone to fall if I put my right pant leg first and then my left, so that’s what I do. Same thing with socks and shoes. This must be a boring topic, but these are some of many small details that are absolutely mundane, but details that I pay attention to now.
You see, I learned quickly that therapy was all about challenging myself. In fact, the therapists I saw seemed to be disappointed when I was able to do something that they asked me to do. This is because they wanted to challenge me, and if I was not being challenged, they had to come up with a new exercise for me. I’d joke and say “I could do it worse if it makes you feel better.” Anything that is hard for me, I force myself to do. I choose a path that isn’t impossible, but certainly difficult. I still constantly challenge myself.
It was an uphill battle, and the feeling of inability was overwhelming and exhausting. And despite the miles I had traveled from my earlier state that year, I constantly caught myself thinking of what I couldn’t do. It was defeating and depressing and I had to remind myself of my vow: if I never get better it won’t be because I didn’t try. This mantra went through my mind daily. And it needed to. I had to remind myself of how lucky I am and how fortunate it is that I can even think of the possible outcomes of my efforts. It’s not easy, but I don’t have a choice. I had a teacher in high school who used to tell us to make due with what we had. He was referring to having or not having a computer to do the homework, but it is relevant in all affairs. I may not be able to coordinate my body, but I will continue to try to regain myself and make due with what I still have.