I was at a business meeting once and the speaker pointed out a very, very basic principle that I think a lot of us forget:
Resistance builds strength.
And in the world of rehab, resistance is everywhere, existing physically, mentally, and in others. You’ve got resistance bands (a.k.a. Therabands — trademark?). You’ve got your own doubts, fueled inevitably by the professionals who tell you you can’t get any better, and from your experience trying and trying again to do that one movement. It’s in your relative who, thinking negative enforcement is an effective means of encouragement, tells you you’re too lazy or makes insensitive comments about how you’re a “cripple.”
The trick is to accept it. The resistance is always going to be there, and you know what? No one in the world has ever done anything great without it. Naysayers abound in this universe, and they’ve discouraged Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, Jesus, Albert Einstein, Madonna, President Obama, even Heidi Klum. None of these people backed off because of what people were saying, and neither should you. Take their words in stride and keep on keeping on.
The entire reason why strength training works in anybody is because they’re using an appropriate level of resistance to their advantage. Without it, they would never improve. If and when someone (including yourself) doubts your resolve to heal, use that to drive you even further. It’ll make your gains worth that much more.
You might want to explain to your obnoxious relative that they’re not helping you with their negativity, and gently point out that dubbing you a “cripple” is derogatory. The entire act of calling people names is ridiculous in the way that they cast blame on the group they’re attacking, as though it were a conscious choice to be a certain race or age, or to be disabled. Perhaps your relative doesn’t realize this, so either explain it and hope this encourages him to stop — or disregard it as an irrelevant whisper in the wind, like idle gossip in middle school hallways.
If you are a healthcare professional, I want you to know that it’s a form of malpractice in itself to discourage your patients. Yeah, yeah, you don’t want your patients to have a skewed idea of what they can regain, and you don’t want to disappoint them. You don’t want to be sued for giving “false hope.” How much better is it to tell them you’ve seen empirical advice supporting incomplete recuperation, of which the subjects were probably all told they would only be able to recuperate incompletely, therefore upping their chances of doing the same? I know I wouldn’t want it on my shoulders that I’d limited someone’s healing. A mere, “Your healing depends on what you do, so do more to get more” will suffice, thank you very much.
(And to the patients, I’ve had therapists admit to me that they’ve all had patients to surprise them, so keep that in mind.)
If the resistance comes from within yourself, quieting that sort of self-talk and deep-seated disbelief in yourself is a bit tougher. It’s easy to settle into the seat of the victim, say to the world, “Why me?” and “I’ve got it so hard.” No one’s going to tell you that actually, you know no pain, and to quit being a baby, unless you enlist some sergeant to come into your house and scream at you, bootcamp style.
But at the same time, you are going to need to get over it. Take the time you need to mourn what’s happened to you, and when you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath and own your strength. What you’ve got in front of you is tedious, to be sure, but no one but you is going to do it for you. The world would be a pathetic, depressing place if no one ever rose above their demons or if they insisted on stewing in their own self-pity all their lives. We’re all victims of something sometime, but be better than that. Don’t hide behind the reasons why you should be mopey rather than living your life.
That’s why one of our mottos here is “Live the revolution.” Rising up and taking your own healing by the reigns is something you need to do for yourself, so that you can have a life and pick up the old pieces of yourself and put them back together. Maybe the pieces don’t fit together perfectly like they used to, but at least you’ll be a whole new you again, functional in society and not living in regret for not doing enough.
If it’s your loved one who’s been through an injury, I wanted to pass on a message from both myself and the phenomenal author of My Stroke of Insight, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor — always treat your loved one as though he will heal 100%, that it’s not a question of if, but when. It’s the best way to support him, and to help you cope as well. Always encourage positively, and never criticize as though he isn’t trying hard enough. As long as he is awake and breathing on this earth, he is trying. There is nothing you can say to him about his healing that he doesn’t already know, except perhaps that he will get it all back. And patience is worth its weight in platinum.
I expect I might be met with some resistance to these tips — but I only say it to help you. Do you remember that City High song, “What Would You Do?” It discusses a woman who is poor and desperate to support herself and her illegitimate child, so she becomes a stripper/prostitute. She claims, because of her childhood in which she had to leave home to avoid rape by her own father, that she’s been through too much pain that no one else could possibly relate to. The song is like a discussion between her and the other singer, who is a man who went to junior high with her, who encourages her to not propagate the pain; he tells her to quit making “tired excuses” and to get up on her feet and change her life for the better — after all, his own mother did it so he could live a better life than she did.
In the arena of suffering, there are no comparisons. Significant pain is so multidimensional that there could never possibly be a quantifiable way to order the different types — the only thing we can do is acknowledge that it is there, and that the only way to heal from it is to defy it.
If you’re still making excuses, you’re still not ready. I hope you will be, and soon.
To our healing,