Communication

I just got home from physical therapy and I learned something today. I can't just wince and cry and apologize for being a wimp. I have to communicate and be my own advocate.

When it comes to being someone else's advocate, I'm one of the best. But I don't think I am quite as assertive when it comes to myself.

I went into therapy today very fearful of being hurt. When John greeted me and asked how I was doing, I told him how bad I'd been hurting. I showed him where the pain was and he said that pain was from my neck. He asked about my movement and I told him I hadn't lost any movement, I was just in constant pain and I assumed it was inflammation. I told him - in tears - that I didn't care if he thought I was a wimp or not, I could not take a lot of pain today and asked if he would go a little easier on me. He asked if I thought he had overworked me on Monday and I said yes. He said he was sorry. I told him it was so grueling, I left thinking that he was of the old school mindset that he had to hurt me to get me better. He said, "No. I want to push you. But I do not want to hurt you." And I could tell he meant it.

Today's session was a completely different experience from Monday. He frequently asked me, "Are you doing okay?" And he was very compassionate and gentle. I left feeling better than when I arrived. I do have a pain pill in me (I always take one before therapy), but yesterday I had pain even with pain medicine. And right now I am not in pain. I'm just a little sore. Which is nothing.

Because of my therapist's dry sense of humor and not knowing how to take him, I was inhibited and did not communicate effectively Monday. A lot of that stems from my fear of being thought of as a baby. I don't know why I care so much if anybody thinks I'm a wimp. So what if I am? And I went in today not caring what he thought of my toughness so much as making him understand what I could and could not take. But once I did that, I realized I could have done that Monday. It is my responsibility as the patient to communicate what I cannot tolerate.

It also dawned on me that Daniel (my first therapist) had the benefit of working with me exclusively since I began therapy in early November. We got to know each other. He didn't have my complete trust the first day and probably not on the second day either. But over time I became comfortable and relaxed in his care. And today I felt a lot more comfortable with John.

My friend Kathy (who is an experienced RN, a loyal friend, and a very compassionate person) was ready to string him up Monday night because of what I wrote about my sensitivity to the jokes. But I really didn't believe he meant any harm, and today I'm sure of that.

We all have different personalities, different communication styles, different senses of humor. We are all imperfect people. None of us can meet the needs of every single person we encounter. We have to cut each other slack as human beings. And, most importantly, we have to communicate effectively and not assume something is obvious. I thought my tears were communicating how much pain I was in. But why would they? I cry easily. So far, I've never been able to impress anybody with stoicism. And I've had a few tears in my eyes even on the days I felt like I was enduring the pain well.

I think I made some progress today in caring less how I am perceived. This stupid inner struggle I have with the fear of being called a baby is just that; stupid. Who cares? If I'm a baby when it comes to pain, then I'm a baby. Doesn't make me a bad person. Just makes me a baby.

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