In case you hadn’t noticed I tend to use humor to cope with the dumpster fire that can be life with multiple chronic illnesses. Becoming disabled around age 22 isn’t something you anticipate and well frankly after a shit load of other trauma prior to this mess, I find humor comforting because as I often say in these sort of unbelievable but somehow totally real moments I can either laugh or cry so I’m going to laugh. Since I do often turn to humor, ridiculous metaphor, and general sarcasm around my illness my medical providers have a fun time decoding it all in additional to my already complicated AF medical history.
This brings us to one of my favorite people over the course of the last year, my physical therapist. Now as a teen athlete with multiple surgeries, and then a chronic illness patient with multiple surgeries I really kind of fucking hated PT. It reminded me of everything I couldn’t do, everything I used to be able to do, and the fact the only time I was busting out my sporty spice outfits was to quite literally practice moving my neck a matter of inches under extreme supervision. I jumped practices a lot after being improperly treated, relapsing, you name it. Finally my rheumatologist suggested seeing a PT at their clinic for my joint hyper-mobility and neck cervical bullshit (thats an official diagnosis look it up). A little over a year ago when I started I was in rough shape, nothing but chin-tucks and gentle stretching here. Today, I completed a 20 minute “normal person” full body work-out with minimal modifications. I felt a little bit like a before and after infomercial and a LOT of that has to do with the words that come out of my annoyingly persistent but also wonderful therapist’s mouth every appointment which are, “Give yourself some credit.”
So if you’ve never been in physical therapy before there is often a lot of time for small talk, which of course depends on your therapists demeanor but it’s usually the case they try to be friendly. As you can imagine I can be chatty when provoked. My PT and I have been seeing each other twice a week for months and months so it’s safe to say we chat A LOT. So of course he knows all about my medical history as well as my general inability to keep my shit together. Some exchanges sound like this: “Hey Alex you find your fit bit yet that HR monitor would be really helpful.”….”Oh so you have the fitbit but not the charger?”…”Sure we can switch to a virtual appointment, definitely understand that you overslept since you set your alarm to 6:00PM.” He is a VERY patient man and also finds me hilarious so it’s a win/win.
Anyway, back to the point of this. I often joke about my various incapacities, and perhaps it was his lack of ever working with someone like me (ie sick & sarcastic AF), but he would almost get offended and basically never let me talk shit without also making me recognize to give myself some fucking credit. It was both the most annoying and most thoughtful thing because we often don’t have care providers who create space for both. Yes, you can 100% be frustrated with your body and your illness, but that doesn’t negate all the other great shit you’re doing even when it feels like you’re not. Every time I was there I was doing hard things, I was and am still pushing myself. We deserve to give ourselves some credit. Is my autonomic nervous system still TRASH? Yes. But I, Alexandra need to give credit where credit is due, that I’m making this disabled body work.
July is disability pride month and as an individual who is relatively newly disabled only in the last 5 years I don’t know that I have that much to say. Disability is term we should certainly own and take pride in, and that’s something I’m trying to do. Yet, as a fan of language I just can’t get past that prefix “dis,” it’s like rude or something. It emphasizes the “have not” of it all. So I’m trying really hard to focus on giving credit where it’s due. I’m so so so certain that at least like one of the 5 people that read this needs to give themself credit for something, so allow yourself to do it.
Just give yourselves some frickin credit.