I was grocery shopping with my mother earlier today, and I suddenly had a flashback from seven years ago: She used to encourage me to go out to large warehouse-type stores with the family when I’d just been discharged from the hospital, not so I could get excited about buying six-month supplies of tomato sauce, but so I could get further practice walking. Holding on to the handle of the shopping cart helped to stabilize me much like a cane, and of course meandering around as my parents slowly chose what pieces of meat they wanted to bring home meant a lack of frantic rushing, clearly appropriate for someone like me, fresh out of the hospital bed and just slightly mobile.
That was perhaps a more peaceful time during my personal rehab journey, because it was like being eight months pregnant: There was no need to hide anything. There was no self-consciousness — just pure focus. Focusing on keeping myself up and keeping each foot going forward.
Now, if you are brand new to your rehabilitation, you’re currently learning something that later is easy to forget: how to just focus.
While your brain will wire anything you do on autopilot regardless of how hard you concentrate on whatever activity you’re doing, it definitely helps to tunnel-vision your therapy with the precision of a laser.
Over time (in my case, a few years), the knack for remembering to zero in on the form of therapy exercises fades. Refocus your “brain lenses”! As brain expert Dr. Amen says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.”
You may find yourself pulling faces once you remind yourself to think first of form (don’t let anyone videotape you!) — training those muscle movements in the brain is a tiring effort, it’s exhausting, but it’s an indescribable feeling to bust out of that fuzziness that you develop over time. It may feel foreign if it really has been a while since you last concentrated so hard on what movement you’re trying to make.
So just keep in mind that as you rehabilitate, you’re retraining your body to make myriad movements — whether relearning to hold a pencil or to hold yourself up. Make sure you’re relearning these things correctly, as trying to do so retroactively is even harder than learning to do it properly the first time.
Now, I must go, as I’m melting. It’s HOT now in Chicago! Stay cool and keep it perfect!
To our healing,