Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sensory inventory III




The skin is collectively considered the largest organ of the human body. Human skin reaches the extremes of sensitivity at locations such as the fingertips, and sensitivity to certain hairs of the skin can be exquisitely fine, unto detecting the most delicate whisper of breath passing over.

One of the early effects of first stroke that I did not recognize was a loss of feeling in certain areas where I was formerly accustomed to some sensory input. Particularly in my lower legs.

At the time we were cutting heavy pieces of firewood, I was dropping the occasional piece and barking my shins and lower legs. It didn't hurt at all, so I ignored the incidents. Gradually, my legs became a mass of bloody abrasions and blackened bruises that even I could no longer shrug off.

On reflection, I realize now that I felt no pain because my nerves are no longer signalling properly to my brain. I used to hear the saying, "No brain, no pain". Now I get a first-hand lesson every day.

Or perhaps should I say, first leg?

8 comments:

pgk said...

Wood-chopping--this was after the first stroke, wasn't it?

Have you been doing yourself injury consistently, or only upon occasion?

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

Most of the injuries of this type I incurred in September or October. We finished gathering firewood two months ago, and the wood is now being consumed every day in the stove, keeping the house warm. I have grown ever so much more cautious about so many things. Always now there is a nagging doubt -- can I reall do this safely? Perhaps the most dramatic attitude change since July. I need a lot more than physical therapy to rebuild a wounded self-confidence.

pgk said...

Jim,

I forgot to mention how interesting to read this post was. Lovely start, slightly dark-humored, charming ending.

Maybe some things, like lost confidence, can return, but in different form. Maybe you can't return to that same point of confidence or that same kind of confidence. But perhaps there's another kind of confidence you can develop.

I live in a kind of confidence I wouldn't have had prior to navigating my daughter's circumstances. For instance, certain kinds of problems that I'd have found terribly distracting or difficult to resolve prior to Teah's birth seem child's play now. Also, because I have found my way through some really tough times, I feel the kind of confidence survivors sometimes feel: If I can do this, I can do a great many things I wouldn't have thought possible prior to winning these battles.

Sometimes we wish matters would return to how they were, but actually, better options exist.

Physical therapy will help with the self-confidence trouble. But you're right -- it will take more than that to rebuild, or re-imagine and restructure, your self-confidence.

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

I don't expect things to ever return to "normal" for me -- I am confused by all the mixed signals. And not just from my own body.

I'm not sure what I can do any more. Some of the activities I used to engage in routinely would just be futile or even suicidal now. I am defining new limits, even as they change daily. Like trying to hit a moving target.

Discovering the problem with numbness in my legs is one example. I thought all those cuts were just superficial, and that all that blood steaming down my legs was no big deal. Now I understand what it meant, and will have to compensate accordingly when I do work like that.

pgk said...

I'm not sure what I can do any more. Some of the activities I used to engage in routinely would just be futile or even suicidal now. I am defining new limits, even as they change daily. Like trying to hit a moving target.

Sure. More mapping, even while the world is in motion. I understand how difficult it is. The having to compensate never stops.

The life I imagined for myself came to a screeching halt when my daughter was born. Even now, I make daily sacrifices of time and energy that prevent my gaining much ground in my own hopes and desires. I have to find some way to develop greater capacity to work, or I'll never become a writer, I'll never be able to teach (especially here in SJC, where the teaching environment is above-average tough). If I don't find a way to compensate for the energy and intelligence drain and the physical strain of meeting Teah's needs and sorting out her troubles, then caring for her is all I'm ever going to be able to do until I can't do it anymore.

My life is not as others' lives. More often than not, it's too difficult for others to accept that as reality rather than as a host of excuses we make for not behaving as others think we ought. The simple truth is that if we do behave as everyone thinks we ought to, our family will suffer greatly. If I'm not careful, someone in my family might actually die. Afterall, it's partly because I was ignorant about the existence of a virus that we're in this situation in the first place.

And yet, because of what happened to our family, I understand things I am not likely to have ever understood had I not had to rise to a sequence of occasions. I've got more guts, I've got more to my soul.

Life isn't how I imagined it, it isn't what I would have chosen, and it damn sure isn't easy. Yet as what has been lost shortened the treasure trove I called life, I've found items of greater value than the ones I lost.

I don't mean to preach at you, Jim. I know you'll take what you find useful and ignore the rest.

I am confused by all the mixed signals. And not just from my own body.

From whence? Doctors? Therapists?

People like me that you talk to about what you're experiencing?

pgk said...

Jim,

Looking back at my last comment, I find it to be a bit cranky.

Bad day. Sorry.

On most days of the year, including many of the uncomfortable ones, my life is a gift that keeps opening.

Bring on the New Year!

Jim Cobabe said...

Patricia,

I am feeling pretty bad too. Not up to intelligent conversation.

Lett's try some later, ok?

pgk said...

Okay. Very much hope you feel better soon.