Well, there will be no hill walking for me this weekend. I’ve been absolutely bushed since our fun trek up and down the Royal Mile. My leg has been stiff and plagued with cramp and my arm is being very annoying – floating around in mid air and refusing to behave – which is what it likes to do when I am very tired. On Monday, I swapped around my summer and winter wardrobes. I generally enjoy this: it is always good to put away the grey things and to see brightly coloured cotton and linen again. The folding and packing, washing and hanging would usually be accomplished in a couple of hours, but on Monday it took me more than nine. I had to first ask Tom to retrieve the giant vacuum-packed packages because I couldn’t climb the ladder or lift the damn things, and I then spent the entire day struggling with, and cursing at the clothes, the wardrobe, the washing machine, and the coat hangers. Because of the vertigo, I am not good at bending down; because my arm is weak, I am not good at hanging things up; because I tire quickly, nothing is easy. I had to keep taking breaks and lying down among mountains of unsorted clothes. (Believe me, I have a lot of clothes. All my own fault . . . ) It was horribly frustrating. By the time Tom came home, I had turned into a sort of frazzled zombie. But I had sorted out the clothes.
Now, I think I am doing a good job of pacing myself – breaking up tasks and exercise with frequent rest, going to bed very early etc – but clearly this isn’t good enough. Today my limbs were so stiff and tired that I couldn’t do my exercises. My physio then told me that I had to do less, and suggested that I keep off the hills for the time being. I agreed, but I can’t tell you how hard this is going to be for me. Having physical goals to focus on and aim for really helps to keep me going, but apparently, at this stage, my goals are just far too ambitious. The real problem is that I was very, very happy to be walking up and down the Royal Mile on Saturday, just as I was overjoyed to walk the four miles to Lytham Windmill. Walking is such a pleasure because it makes me feel like me again. When I am moving about outside, I really feel that being mobile is a goal almost within reach. But I suppose it is no good being incredibly happy for an hour or so if it means that I’m going to be miserable and frustrated for several days afterward. And this is, unfortunately, what happens every time I’m out on my feet for a while: in the Botanical Gardens, on the Royal Mile, in Blackpool. After each walk, I pay for my pleasure with days of crazy fatigue and painful cramp. My physio cautions little and often, and I know that she is right, but I am just eager to get well and it is so incredibly hard to stop oneself from walking when one can.
So today I am feeling annoyed because, at the moment, the stroke is denying me so many things that I love; that make me happy; and that make me me. I can’t walk to and from the allotment, and even if I could, clearing and planting involve bending, kneeling, and moving things around – activities that are difficult and unpleasant for me right now. Tom has no time for gardening because he is too busy performing all the household tasks we used to share. So the allotment is just left to the weeds. I can hardly bear to think about our poor neglected plot, and can’t even bring myself to look in the direction of the allotments when I pass them in a taxi on the way to physio because I know it will upset me. Meanwhile, Spring is ticking by. At this lovely time of year, we would usually be spending our free days in the hills, and our evenings in a tent, but I know there will be no wild camping and walking for a very long time. I can knit or embroider (hurrah!) but only for short periods. It isn’t easy, and my left arm and hand just turn wonky if I make them stick at it for too long. It’s the same with reading, typing, or even taking a few pictures. I tire so damn quickly that I can only do things for slots of time that are frustratingly short. I haven’t even had a single tasty home brewed beer since February. (I was told that booze is bad for brain injuries, and to stop drinking it, which seems sensible ). I am very motivated and happily not depressed: I can potter freely about my own space, and, unlike many of my friends in the Astley Ainslie, am now mobile and capable enough to continue my recovery in my own home. I have a supportive partner, family, and lots of friends and see recovery as a positive process. It also always helps to think and write about it here. But sometimes all there seems to be is my stroke, my rehabilitation , my fatigue and I am finding this frustrating.
So the seven hills will have to wait, and my new project is unfortunately going to have to be the tedious but necessary one of pacing myself. Processing the entries in the correspondence archive is very enjoyable, however, and something I can do during short snatches of time, so I can continue to focus on that project at least.* I can also dash off maudlin, ranty posts like this one and vent my spleen. Three months ago I was entirely paralysed on one side: I know I am recovering well, and that I am just being foolishly impatient when I feel as I do today. But then that is just me. In any case perhaps next time I will try to write about something knitting or textile related to remind myself that I can, and to take my mind off things.
* the fine knitted fellow who illustrates this post is the latest addition to the archive. He was made by my sister and looks how I feel.