A little over two years ago, in 2018, I suffered a stroke. I was at Elizabeth Bruyère Rehabilitation Hospital in Ottawa for a few months for rehabilitation. I acknowledge the amazing team of doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists who contributed to my quick recovery.
A few weeks into my recovery, a nurse came to my room with the wheelchair. I was really excited to be able to roam around the stroke unit independently. One day, she came to my room and said, “I have good news and bad news, which do you want first?”
Being the eternal optimist, I said “the good news, please.” She started: “the physiotherapist says I need to return your wheelchair.”
“What!” I said, “no, I want to keep it.” And she added “there are others who need it more, and the good news is you don't need it anymore.”
I reluctantly said goodbye to my wheelchair, at the same time I was pleased to be moving on in my rehab, I went from my wheelchair, to a walker, and then finally to walking with a cane. It took a number of weeks before I was walking without any aids. And it felt great when I could!
Unfortunately, during the winter of 2019 I twisted my knee slipping on ice and pulled my meniscus. I had to use a walker again. It was a setback for sure because a ligament takes quite a while to heal. It was then I realized I needed to make friends with my walker. I found this minor change in my mindset really helpful. I changed my attitude to it and begun calling it my “assistant.” After all an assistant is there to help, right? This one helped me feel secure. It carried my purse, and with the aid of a handicapped pass it allowed me premium parking spaces at stores. Eventually I was able to not rely on it, first in my home, and slowly when I was out in public.
Not only is winter coming, and not to get all Game of Thrones on you with a global pandemic continuing, we could be heading for some uncertain dark months ahead with rising caseloads and increasing restrictions on our lifestyle. In the coming months we may well experience significant doses of sadness, anxiety, and depression.
Well I am thinking ahead, and I will for safety reasons be turning to my old friend when I go out again, as my safety net. What will you adapt as your safety net?
My journey since 2018 has been to shift my perspective and to see things from a more positive viewpoint. I believe it has helped me recover faster, and I might add there is certainly no shame in accepting help. I view my “assistant” as a privilege.
Science shows us that establishing and maintaining routines can be a form of antidepressant, and perhaps introducing to your routine meditation, if you haven't already, it will help you navigate through the coming months. As a long time meditator, I can attest to these benefits of improved mental health, more energy, better sleep and steady mood. Not to mention happiness.