30. My New Cohort – Rehab Class of 2012+

Georgetown MSB Graduation May 2009

I was dutifully doing my vision exercises at Planet Rehab and I overheard an elderly inpatient practicing her first car transfer.  She was out of breath after a couple of minutes of climbing in and out of the car they managed to park in the hallway, so her Therapist asked if she was okay, and if she needed some water.  “No,” the lady replied, “I need another Percocet.”

At this point I couldn’t contain myself and burst out laughing.  PT37 remarked that at least that lady was honest.  Life in RecoveryLand is often wildly entertaining.  At other times it’s truly harrowing – like when I was learning how to walk without holding on to anything and I was so scared I cried.  I cried when I thought no one could see me, and never in front of PT6.

There are some patients who can’t control when they cry or shout, or have some other kind of outburst.  The Lord spared me the exposure to this extra stimuli during my previous Rehab career, but recently I have found myself in the same session at three different venues as folks who shout, clap or cry out when you least expect it and because they can’t help it.

When I first got home I noticed I was very easily startled.  I couldn’t bear being approached from behind (it’s still difficult), and the sound of a child pitching a fit in the supermarket reduced me to tears.  I think it probably has something to do with my hearing loss and vision changes – they make it a lot easier for someone to sneak up on me inadvertently.  My social worker at The Place told me that it’s not uncommon for patients like me to exhibit reactions like that.

I have spent the past year trying to build up my tolerance for unexpected sound and movement.  I even supplemented these efforts with a prescription that my doctors could not convince me to take to the pharmacy before.  I stopped taking them several months ago, but I carry the lasting legacy of those pills around my waist.  So when I began noticing the cries of the other patients I thought I could handle them.

I was wrong.  During one session in particular my teeth were clenched the whole time, and I occasionally wanted to run and hide in the closet, but I can’t run.  I held it together and refused to tell my therapist or anyone else that I was having trouble coping.  I was deeply troubled by my discomfort.  In my old life, I would have simply been very tolerant and made allowances for whatever issues the other patient was dealing with.  Now I tried to be tolerant but I was near tears for the duration of the session.

I’ve thought a lot about those scenes as I’ve walked on the treadmill, taken a ride in the car, or drifted off to sleep.  It occurred to me that but for the grace of God, that could be me crying out etc., but my bleed was in a part of the brain that compromised my physical abilities more than anything else.  At the same time, though, I stopped beating myself up about my discomfort since I realized that my cognitive faculties were spared, but I do have a significant brain trauma thing going on, so differences in my reaction are likely driven by that fact.

In essence, I’ve decided to cut myself some slack.  The feelings of compassion are still there, it’s just the gut reaction to unanticipated sound/movement that changed.  I also considered that I’m a patient, too – we’re all sharing the same session or gym space.  We’re all there for different reasons, and I had better get used to using the word, “we.”

In B-School we spent our first year divided into 4 “Cohorts.”  Basically, you take all your classes together and get used to who’s going to talk and learn to anticipate the flavor of what they’re going to say.  I visited a school when I was in the application process and the Professor made the class sing the Cohort’s self-written Song for the benefit of me and the other visitor.  So now this is my new Cohort.  We’re not aiming to get some letters to put after our names, we’re just trying to live life in the normal world.