Sitting in my room, on my chair, my hospital table placed just above my knees with a white towel placed across it, I was practising pouring water from one cup to another using my left hand. This resulted in a very wet towel, and a very sad, empty cup. After around the 5th trial, I kicked the table away with my right leg, and breathed a heavy sigh of frustration as I dropped with a slump in to the back of my chair. Noticing my dismay, the occupational therapist decided to move me on to another exercise. She placed a square board in front of me, where stuck on it were the tops of around 20 bottles with their lids screwed on, and the aim of the game was, I had to practise screwing each bottle lid on and off the bottle top. As it was explained to me, a simple exercise like this was good for practising my fine finger movement and also my wrist mobility.
Grasping my first bottle lid, my fingers fumbled as they tried with all their might to twist and release. It was harder than anticipated. It made me sad. Before this had happened I didn't even have to think about opening a bottle. Everything that came so naturally before just didn't now. Everything I did now needed so much more effort, I couldn't do anything without thinking about it, and everything was so, so slow!
I was now used to being told that I was doing well, and that I should be proud of myself, but there was no one who truly knew what I was going through, what I was feeling. The physio's and OT's might have learnt about it, and know the things to do to help me get better, but they hadn't personally been through it. I couldn't speak to the other patients on the ward about it because they were so much older than me. They were lovely to say hello to and share small talk with, but I just couldn't relate to them in any other sense than having a stroke. I felt very alone. There was so much going on in my head, so many questions, and although I was constantly surrounded by friends and loved ones, I felt distant in a sense that there was no one else around me going through what I was going through, and I was scared,
I was scared that two weeks previous, I had been able to drive a car, make a cup of tea, walk unassisted, and I was scared how quickly all that had changed. I went to sleep OK. I woke up trapped in a body that was no longer familiar, and that no longer honoured the demands I gave it.
I couldn't help slipping in and out of these bouts of sadness and despair. I had to work so hard to pull myself out of these moods and concentrate on the moment I was in and the tasks I faced. I wanted to be positive all the time, I wanted the smiles on my face to have truth behind them, but my life had been flipped on to it's head, and I was just 21 years old. I had so many feelings trapped inside my head that it felt like they were overflowing and spilling in to my veins, travelling around my body, converting the mental pain I was feeling in to physical. My body literally ached when I thought about what had happened to me. I felt at times as though I was going to explode, but I just couldn't let myself show my true feelings. I couldn't let my family and the hospital staff see that I felt like I was free falling from an incredible height in to the terrifying unknown... I had to make out I was fine, so that they would be fine.
While my feeble fingers were working their way around the board of bottle tops, my physio's entered the room, and suggested that we take a walk out of the ward and to the cafe down the corridor. The Occupational Therapist nodded her head in agreeance to this suggestion and explained that she thought it would be good for me to glimpse some new scenery. She walked with Mum, the two physio's and I to the entrance to the ward, and waved us off in to the corridor.
I literally breathed in the new view and grasping the physio we, at my pace, made our way along the corridor with the cafe in sight. Hospital staff and visitors were hurrying along the corridor, all with their own destinations and goals in sight, each one of them not having to think about the actions and movements that were taking place in their body as they bustled along the bright and airy passageway. I watched in envy as the people I saw took advantage of their brains and bodies working together in harmony, many of them giving me a sympathetic smile as they passed me on their commutes.
With jealousy threatening to rear it's ugly head with full throttle, I made the wise decision to blur out my surroundings and concentrate on my very own personal goals. Counting the steps I took. Breathing with every second foot fall. Until finally, we made it!
Entering the cafe I realised that I had just walked the furthest I had ever walked since being in hospital, and all I focused on was finding the nearest chair. After sitting for 5 minutes and idly chatting with Mum and the physio's, we decided to make out way back to the ward, and I was very ready for a nap. I stood up, and attempted to psych myself up for the walk back to the ward and then all of a sudden my balance had been disturbed and I was toppling to the floor.
Someone had bumped in to me in a hurry to get on with their day, and my body didn't know how to cope with the impact. Luckily the student physio had quick reactions, and caught me on my way to the floor. The person who bumped in to me made a quick and insincere apology, hardly turning round and making eye contact and carried on her way. I was embarrassed. There were a few onlookers sat having their lunch, staring, probably to see if I was OK. But I just wanted to get back to the safety of my ward. There were too many people around, I felt uncomfortable, like a fish out of water. I clung to the physio and focused on the door to the ward, as I made my unsteady return journey.
Trying to focus on the achievement I had just made I smiled at how proud my family and physio's were of me, but I did not enjoy that experience in the cafe. I wanted to get home so much, but my anxiety levels had now crept to a new height, the thought of too many people in one place at one time now made me nervous...Was my life ever going to be the same? Would I ever feel like a normal, young person ever again?