Saturday, March 1, 2008

Arthritis, Shopping, Exercise, and More.

My daughter and I went out to breakfast this morning with her 10 month old son. Then we went to the WalMart to do my shopping. I haven't been able to get out much this past month because it was just too cold, and this cold doesn't work well with my knees. So, I enjoyed getting out and about. March definitely is a mild lamb today. The sun has been shining most of the day and the temperature is just right for a winter day. With my knees and heart the way they have been the past year or so, I have needed to have help with shopping to get my purchases into my home. So I rarely go to the store alone anymore. Once in awhile I go just to get out, when I know I am only going to get a few things that I can carry in one trip. On those trips I have to really think ahead about what I will be buying and how they can be bagged for the easiest carrying.
Shopping is just one area of adjustment when you become disabled. Like this job I have working from home. It is amazing that technology has come this far to be able to set something like this up in my living room allowing me the ease and comfort to work in my recliner. I have tried over the years to find work I could do from home so I could suppliment the family income while still being home for the kids as they grew up. I have always believed that raising the children is the most important job there is, along with being a full time wife and homemaker. In many ways I have felt that I was born in the wrong time period because it seems that people have placed very little importance on traditional family roles in the last 45 years. Anyway, before I travel light years away from what I am trying to write about today... With all that trying to find something that would work for me, I never succeeded. So, I was an off and on full time wife, mother, and homemaker while I worked in nursing homes and other places over the years. Now I have this job and I can stay home to work. Fortunately I am not still raising kids because I would still need a babysitter to do this job. Working in a call center requires silence in the room around me.
Another area I have had to adjust to the change is that I sit down to do everything. EVERYTHING...except sleeping of course. I do walk as much as I can in my home, and outside. I have a handicapped parking permit which I use, but I walk into the stores or other places, and back out again most times. This has been quite enlightening because I use the store-provided motorized carts to get around the stores and it is interesting how much is out of reach without assistance, or without having to stand up which isn't easy since I tend to stiffen up sitting in the cart seat. Then it feels good to walk again when I am finished with the shopping. Cooking and cleaning up the kitchen is also done sitting down. I have my own chair in the kitchen with pillows on it to raise my height to a better position for the work I have to do there. Not all the work I want to get done gets done regularly simply because of it being out of reach and getting it done depends on how my legs are feeling that day. Hey, guess what! One of my wishes over the years has come true! I get to hire someone every couple of weeks to come in and do the major cleaning that needs done. Not exactly Alice of the Brady Bunch, but it works for me.
Well, with all the sitting down in my life, I decided months ago that once I started feeling better, I would be adding additional physical exercise to my life, including walking when I can, even if it is only a few feet at a time. Believe me, one trip the length of my home is just about all I can handle at one time. Little by little I began adding small amounts of movement while I sat, even though even the slightest movements could cause me chest pain and shortness of breath. Being a former Activity Director in nursing homes had taught me that it is very possible to keep fit or improve fitness while sitting. Gradually, those small movements grew to where I was first able to do half an hour of regular exercise while I was working daily. That has grown to an hour and sometimes more each day while I am working in the call center. Those are mostly leg exercises because my hands are busy with the computer. I finally got the DVD I ordered online a few weeks ago--Richard Simmons--my favorite exercise guru. I had checked his website to see what he had in exercise tapes, etc., and found he had this exercise DVD for people who cannot stand up to do exercises. I got it yesterday, actually, and opened it and played it this morning while I waited on my daughter to arrive. Even did some of the exercises. It is continual exercise all through the video--aerobic exercise. I will have to keep at it to learn his routines, but already I can tell it is going to be fun exercise. I used to exercise with him every morning when he still had his tv show.
My biggest obstacle right now is reminding myself not to overdo it. I am finding that on those days I overdo it and get too tired or too achy or both, the next morning my heart is out of rhythm, which only adds to my general discomfort and prevents me from doing much of anything. The other day when I had my meeting with my long lost cousin, I was really exhausted when I got home. I had not had that much activity all in one day in a long long time, and the next morning I was sick again with my atrial fibrillation. So, this disability thing is an ongoing educational experience, with each day teaching me something new.
Overall, back in the summer when I was fighting to survive yet another financial struggle while waiting to get disability approved, I decided that I would give myself 2 to 3 years to rebuild my health and strength, including losing weight and exercising. I do not want to spend the rest of my life in a motorized cart or staying home if there is nothing provided for the disabled. As it is, unless I am going to a restaurant, church, family home, or friend's home, I stay home. I have to know before I go somewhere where I will have to park, how far I will have to walk before I can sit and rest (can't just plop myself down in the snow), and whether or not I will have to walk once I get there. So, that has limited me to just shopping WalMart most of the time because they offer several carts while the other 2 main stores in town only offer 1 cart each, and the other store offers nothing. This is March 1st and my goal for this early spring is to get stronger so that this summer I can be out and do more. I am really looking forward to being able to go to the park with my family and grandkids just to watch them play, and not have to stay in the car.
You know, it is true and I have experienced this a lot over the years. You just don't know how sick you were until you start feeling better. June 2006 until Jan, 2008 was a rough period. It has only been since New Year's that I have realized that I am really feeling better. I am not going to go back to feeling that sick again. Anyone want to join me?
Another thing I wanted to say before I close this post is that everything I am learing and going through stays in my memory and becomes something I can use later. I think that is important for everyone to do, because if we are going through rough spots and we learn nothing or take nothing with us as we travel life's journey, what do we have to offer anyone else along the way who may be struggling in the same ways we have been?

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