Friday, October 30, 2015

Eric the Closer

Two years ago I started working with a therapist I call Eric the Closer because he fine-tunes me. When I asked him to label his brand of therapy, he paused. How do you encapsulate his techniques?

Not really massage – energy redistribution.
Not really strength-training – recoordination.
Not really reeducation – a new level of consciousness. 

“I guess polarity therapy,” he says.

The dictionary definition sounds airy-fairy – “restoring the flow and balance of energy in the body.” I’d be a skeptic if I hadn’t experienced results: My foot has straightened out, my shoulders and hips sit even, my gait and balance have improved, and my fingers have relaxed.

Example of a typical session: Eric gives me a simple exercise. I do maybe three repetitions and my ankle seizes up and my toes curl. Eric takes hold of my foot and commences battle – untwisting the calf muscles, shifting the ankle, coaxing the toes to elongate.

“Feel that,” he exclaims.  “Feel the cold coming out?!” Now I’m aware of it: my ankle is freezing from the inside. He holds my ankle and stamps his foot, dispelling the trapped energy. A flush of warmth. The skin on my foot and lower leg glows pink as blood pours into the nutrient-starved tissues. We are both sweating.

It’s painful, exhausting, exacting work. As Eric manipulates me into shape, my groans and exclamations sound like childbirth. I keep expecting the gym manager to tell us “Get a room.”

To benefit from the therapy, I’ve had to let go of self-consciousness in a way that harkens back to the rehab hospital – nothing is private or sacred. I cry out, push back, tell Eric where I need his healing hands; in them, I have the strong sense that I will go as far as I can in my rehabilitation. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Recovery Beyond Two Years

I am five years post-stroke. Two-and-a-half years ago I started working with a new therapist. I hinted about the work we’re doing in Rehab From Rehab, but I’ve avoided specifics for two reasons:
1. I could not imagine how to write about his techniques.
2. I didn’t want to report on techniques that did not deliver results.

I’m heartened to state now that I have improved and there is good reason to believe I will continue to improve. How much? Will I ever be able to use my hand? No one knows.

I have recently been in touch with a stroke survivor and new reader to my blog who seemed to want assurance that a second round of Botox injections on a spastic forearm would yield a worthwhile result. While I wrote back with encouraging details of my Botox experience, I think my most important point was this: I would have lost heart and gone insane years ago if I’d been focusing on the result.

The information we stroke survivors want to hear is that we’re going to get better and how long it’s going to take. The past few years have taught me to shift my attention to the process and to focus on enjoying my life today.

I understand that it can be demoralizing to invest the time, money, and emotional energy in therapy when there is no immediate evidence of a result. In Stolen Identity, I wrote about the types of motivation that keep us going in an exercise regimen – the most helpful being the “identity motivator.”

Yes, I’ve continued therapy past the two-year mark and it has yielded incremental results. But I’m going to keep doing therapy because I’ve made the decision that’s who I am.

Next post: About my new therapist