It took weeks for the proper paperwork between insurance and referrals to coordinate so I could begin physical therapy that, as the doctor had put it, will help me “get use to it” referring to the damage the antibiotic Gentamicin did to my vestibular system. In the meantime I wobbled, bounced, banged and crashed through everything I did. Finally, after waiting 6 weeks I was allowed 6 weeks of therapy.
It began with finding a baseline of my abilities, or lack thereof, in a specialized booth called “The Balance Master”.
Why this contraption is called a Balance Master is beyond my comprehension. Without a sense of balance, I’m at a loss for how anyone could “master” anything!
“I’m scared Linde…” I’m in the booth much like a larger and more modern version of the old telephone booths, only there isn’t a door to close you in. I’m fit into and bound up in a harness much like that of a parachute. The straps of the harness were attached to poles above my head designed to hold me up and save me from crashing to the ground, which thankfully, it did. Making sure I was properly secure, the “mastering” began; the walls of the booth moved, the floor tilted, and my body completely disconnects from any sense of up, down or even sideways. I was left dangling and suspended as if my parachute had captured me in a tree. Terrorized tears flowed from my eyes, I have never felt so lost, out of control and the absence of any sense of my surroundings.
“Get me out of here!” My complete being shook and I was devastated that I was not able to do something as simple as just standing. The physical therapist removed the harness and helped me to a chair where I sat and sobbed. I was completely overwhelmed with fear and for the first time the true sense of loss hit my soul. It really was true; I really was experiencing this nightmare, live and in color.
“You can do it Cheryl. Just take a rest and try again.” My best friend Linde, and now therapy coach, tried her best to encourage and comfort me towards trying again. But as I sat there shaking uncontrollably I just could not find a reason to step back into the newly realized nightmare that I was living. I thought to myself, “isn’t what just happened baseline enough?” Nope, I wasn’t going to get out it that easy. It took some time before the kind and supportive words from my friend and the physical therapist showed me that I had enough strength and will to get back up and start again, and again, and again, and again… For years I went through a series of trying again and again… Little did I know that I was facing a lifetime of agains…
I was in that Balance Master contraption for over an hour trying again and again. Results? I had no sense of balance. No kidding…. I suppose this is a pretty good example of my snarkiness rearing up indicating a show of the stage of anger…. Yes, there are stages to trauma and they love to show up without order or invitation – Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, and then – (horns blowing) – Acceptance!
I do have to say that I think it’s one thing to conduct tests and trials on individuals, it’s another to be open and honest and informative of why they are being performed, what the technicians and doctors are looking for and how it all relates to what’s going on. For me, not truly being informed or understanding what all those PT exercises and “mastering” were all about twirled this experience in a way that set me onto a stage of rehabilitation fear. What was to come next, throwing me on a bicycle and see if I could ride down the middle of University Avenue? Really, let’s get honest, okay?
Regardless, I was a faithful participant in my therapy sitting on large bouncy exercise balls (try that without knowing where the hell you are in space), sitting and getting up without holding on to anything (that was fun…), walking along a straight line or through a maze, (ah, so that’s how a sobriety test is failed!). After a while I just couldn’t see any connection between what I was doing in PT and with the real deal world outside the PT room walls. I expressed my desire to do work outside but to no avail. I was told I wasn’t ready. I replied, how do you think I got here????
I faithfully completed my 6 weeks of physical therapy appointments. It was determined, and apparent, that I required additional therapy so once again I waited weeks for an additional referral to be finalized to begin another 6 weeks of try, try, try again. Although I portrayed a funny, optimistic and determined attitude, deep down was this continuous and ridiculously loud internal dialogue going on between two very different and parallel worlds.