Do you remember that children’s story? “I think I can, I think I can…” That describes me, almost on a daily basis. Too often, I see a task before me, and I mumble that I just cannot do it. That denial, in turn, gives way to frustration and sadness. However, I’m discovering that many of the “I can’ts” are just in my head. (I won’t say brain here because there are too many pot holes there that really could result in the “I can’t.”)
My head sends out signals – good and bad. When I got overly hot last week, my head immediately sent out the message that I couldn’t do anything -- hence, my difficulty with the stairs. Being in the shower has its own negativity. Fear makes me believe that I can’t get in or out, can’t make turns, and can’t use my hands. Then, I give up and ask for help. My husband is always nearby to help me if I need it, but I hate having to do it. My mind will also announce to my body that I can’t get into the car, or I can’t climb into bed, or I can’t do the stairs, or I can’t get out of my chair. In actuality, I really can do all those things, but I allow myself to believe I can’t, and then it’s impossible for me to do anything. Of course, they are many things I can no longer do, and no amount of positive thinking will change that. I’m referring to the tasks and activities that are within my circle of ability if I just believe I can do it. Here are examples:
1. I mentioned the stairs, and how I needed help. However, after those first two nights, I set my mind in a better frame, and darned if I didn’t go up the stairs just fine. My husband stayed at the bottom of the stairs, just in case I struggled. But, holding the railing and moving slowly, I made my way up all fourteen steps on my own. I’ve been doing it ever since, despite the fact that the outside heat continued. I thought I could, and I did it.
2. Getting into bed also poses problems. I start to worry when I first walk into my bedroom. That bed, while already high, becomes Everest-like in my mind’s eye.I fret and stew, and my legs seemed glued to the floor. Eventually, I allow my husband to help me. However, if I set my mind, and focus hard on something else, I get in with no problems. I thought I could, and I did it.
3. When I get into the car, I need to hold onto the door and the roof as I slip my good leg into the car. Again, my mind panics, and I end up sitting with my feet on the ground, and my husband lifts them in. I’m never comfortable after that because I’m in the wrong position. When I don’t think about it, I just do it. I thought I could, and I did it.
4. This morning really proved my mettle. My husband went to the store and physical therapy before I came downstairs. When I reached the bottom step, I realized that he had forgotten to leave my walker by the staircase. At first, I wondered how I’d make it into the den. Then, I just convinced myself it was no big deal, and I wall walked to the big bookcase, grabbed the shelves to shimmy to the file cabinets, then pivot to reach my desk, and slide my feet to the chair. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it was a big accomplishment for me. I thought I could, and I did it.
So, now I just have to keep reminding myself that I can will things to end positively, and I think they will. It will be interesting to see how far this little train can go!