All posts by Tiffiny Carlson

Tiffiny Carlson is a writer and quadriplegic from Minneapolis. She has a C6 spinal cord injury from a diving accident when she was 14 years old. Writing and breaking stereotypes is her passion. She's been the SCI Life columnist for New Mobility magazine since 2003 and is the founder of the longtime disability site, BeautyAbility.com. Her work has also been featured in Penthouse, Playgirl and Nerve.com. And when she's not writing, Tiffiny loves to cook and practice adaptive yoga.

Quad OCD-ness: Pant Seams and Hot Water

waterAh the life of a quadriplegic. Thanks to modern medicine, quadriplegics can now survive and almost reach the full life expectancy of an able-bodied individual, but just because we can survive doesn’t mean our bodies and brains happily go along with the whole paralysis package.

I firmly believe the human brain forever struggles with the massive disconnect of the brain to the body when you have a spinal cord injury. It never truly becomes 100% used to it, or adapted. I wish it would, but I’d been at this for over 20 years now and I can tell you my brain and body still don’t like it. Case in point – my bizarre OCD nature.

I don’t care if it’s a crumb on the floor or a crooked towel on the towel rack, if “small” things like that are happening in my home, as silly as it sounds it’s really bothers me. I just seem go can’t get over it, and I know this is a direct side effects of my spinal cord injury.

Since quads can’t control a lot physically and it can drive one bad, trying to recompense what we can no longer control with things we can, even if what we want is completely ridiculous, can feel great. For example, one of the biggest things many quadriplegics like to do is to double and triple check that the seams on their pants, or whenever they’re wearing for the day, are 100% straight.

I’m not sure why so many quadriplegics hate crooked seams, all I know is why I personally don’t like them – since I’m looking down at my lap all day, I see them a lot, and just looking at the crookedness can make me crabby since I can’t fix them. When I have them straightened, I feel this sense of relief.

There’s a lot of things in life I can’t control, but if I can control something like this, boy I feel better every time it is done. And I know is that I drive my caregivers crazy some days with my clothing placement, but (fortunately for them) they can’t understand what it’s like to be me, ie, live in and day out with extreme paralysis. If they did however, maybe they would learn to understand me better.

Another weird OCD tick of many quadriplegics is hot water – in that we absolutely must drink hot water whenever we drink water. Anything cold or even luke-warm can send ridiculous chills throughout our entire body; that’s how much we only like it. It can feel so soothing and make drinking water a lot easier to do, which is something we must do daily because of our bladder situations.

A new PCA gave me the inspiration for this blog post actually. I am her latest client, and the fourth quadriplegic she’s currently working with. She calls all of the people she works for “my quads” and last night while heating up my water, she mentioned, “All my quads do that too (drink called water),” and then proceeded to asked me why.

While I can’t speak for every quadriplegic on this planet, I know most of us who are quadriplegics love hot water because cold water makes us cold. And if it’s one thing we hate the most, it’s being cold. There is nothing sadder in the world than a shivering quadriplegic. I just find it fascinating how so many quadriplegics report the same OCD ticks. A study definitely needs to be done to investigate this further.

I’m ok living with my OCD ticks mind you as long as I’m paralyzed, I just hope more young people avoid such a fate.

Have you developed any weird OCD ticks due to your disability?

10 Awesome DIYs for Adaptive Tools

ballWhen in doubt, broke or if the adapted tool you want hasn’t been made yet, do what a lot of people with disabilities do and turn to DIY. Granted, it takes a handy, creative individual to make things go from just an idea to actually existing, but a lot of people with disabilities have his capacity.

And if they don’t, many have gotten good at asking for help (raises hand). I would’ve been lost without my Dad all these years; the veritable Leave It To Beaver handyman everyone dreams of knowing. He can build ramps, make my shower accessible; he is the one who I’ve always called whenever I’m at a loss.

But sometimes even my Dad can’t help me. Sometimes it takes a highly clever individual to illuminate us to a solution that even our peerless fathers haven’t thought of, like using a pizza box to create a laptop stand (it totally works, just make sure the grease stains are wiped off).

If you ever find yourself in this position, think DIY. There are some exciting DIY solutions for adapted tools out there. Check out my 10 current favorites below.

10. Wire Hanger Reacher

An adapted tool almost anyone can make is a reacher made from a wire hanger. All you need is a wire hanger and a good grip (quads, you’ll likely have to recruit help with this one). All you do is unfurl the wire hanger completely so it’s stick straight, then bend one end into a hook shape, so you can reach things easier and pull them to you.

9. Tube Sock Elbow Protector

If you have skin issues around your elbow area and really don’t want pay for elbow protectors, you can make your own using a tube sock. All you need to do is cut the end off so you can pull it up to your elbow, and voila – instant elbow protector. It may not be pretty, but you can’t get any cheaper or easier than this.

diy8. Grip Shelf Liner-Widened Utensils

For anyone with limited hand function, grabbing and holding utensils can seem like the hardest thing in world and most end up buying expensive utensil holders. You can however make any utensil easier to hold by wrapping the handle in grip shelf liner.This may be one of my favorites tips because it’s so easy and works awesomely.

7. Tennis Ball Jar Opener

Another great DIY for people with limited grip is a jar opener using a tennis ball, and this is a fast one. All you need is a tennis ball and an X-Acto knife. Simply cut along the seam completely so the tennis ball splits in two, and there you have it – two instant jar openers. To use these babies, just stretch one over a jar and twist.

6. Lego Card Holdercard

If you love a good card game but holding your deck is a whole other story, this Lego card holder is the ultimate solution; it’s both awesome and cheap. Yes folks, a crystal clear win-win situation. As you can see, this holder is mainly comprised of longer brick Legos, and they’re stacked to mimic those expensive playing card holders you can buy online.

cell5. Sugru Cell Phone Handle

A putty you can buy that will mold to almost anything you want it to, Sugru is taking the DIY world by storm, and it’s an especially big favorite amongst people with disabilities. For a person with limited hand function who had trouble using their smartphone, they used Sugru, along with some Velcro and a bit of a wire hanger to create this handle for their phone.

4. Ace Bandage Thigh Strap (for dresses)

For the ladies out there who love wearing dresses or skirts but can’t keep their legs together (and I’m not talking for that reason lol), an Ace Bandage is your skin-friendly modesty protector to the rescue. You can use this to wrap under and over your thighs, pulling your legs together so they don’t splay open at your niece’s graduation, or wherever you may be. Wouldn’t be prudent, no siree.

3. PVC Pipe Universal Cup Handle

Sometimes you can’t always find a cup with a handle; sometimes you need a separate solution. Case in point – a PVC pipe universal cup handle that helps people with limited hand function use any cup. You can set almost any cup in the handle’s base, allowing you to finally be able to hold any cup with complete ease.

cup2. Tin Can Cup Holder

Adequate cup holders meanwhile are one of the most difficult things to find, which is why this DIY tin can cup holder is amazeballs (and you don’t have to spend more than $5 in case it breaks. All you need is a 14.9 oz tin can, a plastic clamp, a short screw and some super glue.

Once you have your supplies, choose a location on your chair, punch the middle of that can with the screw, then screw halfways into the clamp. Next, put the clamp on your chair, then super glue the can to the clamp. Get a full how-to here

1. Stretchy Fleece Universal Cuff

Universal cuffs are traditionally made of hard plastic, sometimes cloth, but very rarely do people make these at home. Some clever OT students however have turned to stretchy fleece as the ideal fabric for DIY universal cuffs, as you can see with this one made especially for electric scissors. All it takes is some stretchy fleece, Velcro and a thread and needle to bring it all altogether.

While a DIY power wheelchair or adapted van should make you wheel like a crazy person in the opposite direction (not safe; not safe at all), smaller adapted devices can go the DIY route, and by all means should do so. Not only will you save money, you may even improve upon the device, and that would be a pretty a mighty sweet bonus.

What are your favorite adapted DIYs?

Products Mentioned

Sugru

Velcro

X-Acto Knife

Legos

Ace Bandage w/ Velcro closure

Grip Shelf Liner

No More Flying Pizzas

pizza2I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to putting off purchases. My Great Grandma Morancey’s thrifty side must have somehow ingrained itself inside of me, even though I only knew her until the age of 16 and never went shopping with her once. Maybe it’s because I’m on a limited income, but I really dislike spending cash on anything that isn’t a bill.

While this can be good in some respects – you get to save your money for the important things – you go without important things and that can leave you in a dangerous situation when you have a disability. Case in point: How I put off buying a backseat net for my van these past six years. I finally purchased one the other day – and holy cow has it made stashing away things easier.

But I think this is the nature of a lot of people with disabilities – we try to do things the hard way for as long as possible so we don’t have to use anything ” special.” But, when we finally get that item that everyone said would blow our minds, and it does, we’re always left going, “Why did I wait so long??”

And it is in that moment where most of us begin to realize these helpful gadgets aren’t so bad after all. This notion is quite fresh in my mind because I just knocked an item off my “To-Buy” list buying an backseat net from Highland. Buying this took seven years in the making. I didn’t think I needed it, despite what my occupational therapist said.

In hindsight, oh man I wish I would have listened. If I had only purchased that darned net when I got my van 7 years ago. Oh how much stress I would have saved myself. Remember – it’s always smart to listen to anyone with experience in the disability world. What this net does is keep everything on my backseat – my regular purse, my catheter bag, bags of things I have bought and yes, even pizza – in spite of jerky gas and brake motions.

There’s some things you can’t plan completely for in life, like a car in front of you slamming on its brakes, which of course will send everything flying onto the ground, including that hot pizza you just picked up. I’ve only had the net installed in my van for a few days now, but it’s already saved me from a handful of unnecessary spills.

Because of this, despite my happiness at finally getting this net, I’ve been thinking – no chiding myself – for my ridiculous procrastination when it comes to buying anything adapted. I never want to go there, but I’m changing my tune after this net fiasco.

I’ve seen the light. If something can make my life easier, I’m going try it with no delay.

Have you put off buying adapted tools?

Products mentioned

Highland Black Hammock-Style Storage Net

No One Sees My Wheelchair In the Urban Jungle

jungleI don’t care what someone with a spinal cord injury would like you to believe, you never get used to people staring at you. When you become suddenly disabled, the learning curve is pretty tough, and one of the biggest challenges is learning to be ok with being stared at when you go out in public

It can take years to get used to being seen as a person with a disability, if ever, and that’s entirely ok. Who likes to be stared at? Celebrities certainly like the idea, but most everyone else does not.

I on the other hand have been at this lifestyle for 20 years now, and although their stares don’t hurt me as much as they did than when I was 14 (thank god), I always notice them, and it always always bugs me.

I grew up in a small suburb of St. Paul and it only has 28,000 people. It definitely had that small town vibe, and this town was….*drum roll*… White Bear Lake. It was the lake where I was injured too, and the people here are very one note – all white, Christian and able-bodied. After my injury, all everyone saw was my wheelchair, and I slowly began to hate this place.

Since I couldn’t move far far away as on my own, I moved to Minneapolis; a place where no one knew my injury story at least and all the ghastly details. I wanted to be anonymous again, and I also wanted to be treated as if I was able-bodied, but that will never happen.

But it (sorta) worked! After moving to Minneapolis, people rarely stared at me. There are a lot more interesting things out on the streets usually to stare at, from people asking for money and busking to new construction going up. And as their stares lessened, my disability suddenly didn’t bug me as much.

It felt SO quite weird at the beginning of my injury to have so many people to stare me. “So this is what it must be like to be a celebrity,” I though, but it quickly lost its interest. The staring of course was something I wasn’t used to. I was born and raised an able-bodied girl. If anyone was staring at me, it definitely wasn’t a positive thing.

I just wish more people used the “empowered stare,” and realized they’re lucky for everything they have and not just missing the days when they could walk by a group of people and not have one of them notice them. You can still have these days mind you, they’re just really difficult to snag in non-urban areas.

The ultimate dream – to live in a place when you’re not constantly stared at – and I’m sorry to say but moving may be part of the equation if you’re bugged out as much as I am when people stare. Or maybe you don’t mind the stares and you like everyone knowing your story.

Sure, moving may be a giant hassle, but if you can find a place to live where you’re as anonymous as the next guy, the headache of moving is inconsequential. Nothing can beat the feeling of just feeling “like everyone else.”

Would you move to feel less like a pariah?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Hate Being Called Inspirational Too?

stellaThere are a lot of smart women in the world, and then there’s Stella Young, a comedian and disability advocate from Australia who sets the smart bar even higher.

She can see the world in a way most people cannot, especially when it comes to how people with disabilities are treated, and she has an immeasurable talent at describing what she sees. Stella can make the most uninterested person perk up and take a listen. It’s very rare when a person like Stella comes along.

What she tends to focus most on in her comedy is the objectification of people disabilities, which can lead to one of the biggest pet peeves of people with disabilities – being treated as overly inspirational. She gave a TEDx Talks speech in Melbourne last year on this very topic, titled “Inspiration porn,” and it’s changing millions of people’s views around the world.

Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Stella has never known life other than being disabled so to her she is perfect the way she is and never pines for something outside of her life. She also works as an editor for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ramp Up disability news site. Yes, Stella only sees ability.

Her TEDx speech however is one of the best TED speeches I’ve ever seen. You should definitely take a listen if you’ve ever been irked at being called inspirational. In her speech she talks about how neighborhood leaders wanted to nominate her when she was a teenager with some kind of inspirational award, but she declined because she knew she wasn’t worthy (“All I do was watch Buffy as a kid,” she says).

Her memorable line, “Just because I’m sitting doesn’t make me inspirational,” is so very true, and it’s worth more than gold. I can totally relate to Stella’s experiences. After my injury I was constantly called inspirational for just getting up and leaving the house. As Stella eloquently describes in her speech, this is particularly quite offensive.

More than anything, Stella’s speech really shows that most able-bodied people must think living with a disability is incredibly difficult, which is how inspiration porn came about in the first place. The secret however is that our life is truly not bad as it seems.

Sure, there’s a lot of stuff we can’t do, but love, family and purpose, those are the things that pull us through. We’re definitely not here to be your private inspiration-makers.

– Watch: TEDx by Stella Young – Inspiration Porn and the Objectification of Disability

How do you feel about being called inspirational?

 

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Confessions of a Disabled Adult Candy Addict

candyI’m honestly not sure whether or not I would have been a candy addict had my injury not occurred. It’s really tough to say.

I was obsessed with sugar as a kid – birthday cakes, great-grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, gummi worms, Sprees, Skor bars – but we all know our childhood “likes” don’t always carry over into our adulthood (I liked what?!). I’m still shocked I liked jam on my garlic bread.

I just wish I knew if my injury had something to do with my continued sugar addiction.

I do know one thing – no matter the cause, I am too old to be this way. Usually by my age the obsession with candy is long gone, but for me…not even close. Part of me is concerned why I am like this, trying to analyze how this developed, but then I always get sidelined by something more important (candy usually).

While most 34 year olds are elated over a great cup of coffee or a perfectly done steak, I will squee to kingdom come if a candy buffet appears at a party; that’s how serious my addiction is. It’s like it activates a happy serum in my brain, pouring in the second my eyes lay upon the sweets. It’s really quite ridiculous. I get like Pavlov’s dog over a Snicker’s.

It’s gotten so bad that I always have to have candy in the house, and any new man I’m dating always knows I like candy right away and will woo me with it (always a safe bet). And even worse, my candy bowl always has a spoon in to to make it easy to shove candy right into my mouth (this technique is quite effective if you’re a low quad, and it’s great for candies like M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces).

I do have one theory I’d like to share about my candy addiction in relation to my injury – whatever age your injury occurs, you’re always that age partly for the rest of your life, no matter how old you get. It’s a strange notion I’ve realized, but I believe it’s a coping mechanism for the brain. Maybe this is why I love candy so much.

I was injured at 14 and I still like so many of the things I liked at that age, food/candy x infinity and music/SWV, EnVouge. It feels strange sometimes, but it’s also very comforting. If my guy I’m testing for example can’t find me a package of Bubblicious bubble gum in grape flavor, I may just have serious doubts about our future. And if he’s not a “big candy fan,” I’m absolutely sure; we aren’t a match.

The palette is the last reason I know I’m obsessed with candy. The palette is one of the few parts of my body that was never affected by my spinal cord injury, so this is a fun thing to relish in. I absolutely love that everything still tastes the same as before my injury, and in the world of spinal cord injuries, anything “staying the same” is a very rare thing.

The candy aisle at Target checking with the seasonal candy and the latest items offered by the candy companies; those my two ultimate happy places. And even moreso, I’m not changing who I am no matter how old I get, especially since it’s so effective on the days I’d like to tell my disability to shove it (hey at least I know what works).

Which candy could you not live without? And where have all the bulk candy stores gone?

Secret Rehab Buddy Marriage Pact: We Will Not Die Alone

3609054839_d44354ff41_mThe idea of spending the later part of your life alone, a time when you’re the most vulnerable and need someone in your life, is most people’s worst nightmare. Sadly when you have a disability, this can be pretty common.

It’s easy finding sex. The hard part, and the point of this post, is finding someone that will be there when all of this unpleasantness starts happening; someone who’s genuinely in it for the long haul. For many of us with disabilities, the unpleasantness is happening right now.

It can be tough finding people to overlook this, and we can’t very well force people to marry us. So here’s what I’ve decided to make sure I’m not alone when I eventually grow old – I will marry my friend Abe, a fellow quadriplegic whom I met in rehab 16 years ago. He’s also about 10 years older than me. And although there has always been mild flirting, it never went past that.

Abe too has been a wheelchair-user for a long time. While hanging out by a river back on the 4th of July, he fell off a cliff and broke his neck. That was in 1996, and being that he’s a born and raised North Dakotan from Bismarck, North Dakota, that’s exactly where he went after his rehab was over.

Although I wasn’t romantically in love with him, this was a huge bummer. His moving away meant I would rarely, if ever seen him again. At the time I couldn’t drive and he wasn’t able to drive either. Bismark was at least a 6 hour drive from Minneapolis (where I was) and neither of us had lots of money for chauffeurs.

He was like one of the girls when we hung out in rehab. That is why he was so endearing. We initially met in a larger group of disabled friends, and he was always the guy who had something funny to say. He would listen to my problems, offer advice, tease (one of his favorite things). He was and still is one of the nicest guys I’ve meet.

And I was totally right about rarely seeing him after he was discharged from rehab and moved back home. It’s been 16 years now, and I’ve only been able to see him a couple of times. But despite that length of time, we have pledged one of the most intimate things to one another – the pledge of marriage by the age of 50, as corny as that sounds.

We have promised to marry one another if by the time we’re up on our years we’re still single. This is a practical idea, as well as one that only friends could dream of and I absolutely love it. While I made this pledge when I was 19, I never thought I would still be single at my age. But hey that’s life.

If we do end up getting married it’s not like we’re going to fall in love and start being physically intimate. That may never come. What’s important is that we won’t be alone when one of us gets cancer, pneumonia, whenever, and that’s irreplaceable.

My question to all of you is – why not consider a friend-based marriage pact as the years inch up on you? It may sound a bit ridiculous, bum when 50 is looming and you’re still single, you may be glad the pact is waiting in the wings.

Have you committed to a marriage pact? Would you?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Buy a Fondue Pot and Win at Life

fondueMuch like stirring in a figure eight is the secret to keeping cheese melted in a fondue pot, the fondue pot itself is the secret to making life awesome.

There’s something that brings out the child in you when you fondue, and that feeling is something too many of us let slip away. This is why I am here to tell each and every one of you to go and buy a fondue pot right now.

The fondue pot has many purposes, keeping you slim, happy and entertained, but first, the fondue pot I use – the Trudaeu 3-in-1 Cheese Fondue pot – a slick medium-sized red ceramic pot on a wire stand, and it’s heated up by gel lighter fluid.

There are a few different fondue pots out there fyi – cheese, hot oil or hot wine and chocolate – but my favorite by far is doing cheese fondue. There are just so many more healthy options when you use a cheese fondue pot. You can dip any kind of vegetable, fruits, breads, meat, oh my.

You can make it incredibly low-cal too, and as a wheelchair-user this is always a good thing. What’s great about fondue to help you lose weight as well – it’s paces you, making it impossible to overeat since you have to rely on tiny forks for all of your eating.

This can be annoying, but the struggle can pay off. A lot of clever dieters will actually use smaller plates to not eat as much, and small fondue forks work just the same. After you secure a cheese fondue pot in your life, your next goal is to practice using it.

My fondue pot requires a gel-filled lighter fluid package to pop into the flame area so it can be lit. They also sell fondue pots that actually plug-in, but I love the live-flame so I have never gone the electric route. I do not trust myself to light my fondue pot however, so I always make sure I fondue when I have people over.

This brings me to my next point of why the fondue pot is so awesome – it just makes you happy, kind of like that Pharrell song. Stupidly happy even, which by default makes it a great entertaining food, especially if you have the right dippers. Summer sausage, French baguette, green apple, steamed red potatoes, brussel sprouts and carrots, and that is just my first round.

It’s also a super romantic way to eat. I made this for a new guy I’m dating and it was super fun. We cooked and ate together; mega-bonding ensued. Yup, the fondue pot can even help in the love department.

Fondue also forces you to eat non-processed foods, and that is where it may win the biggest. It’s easy setting up all the foods you need for a fondue feast, and they are all whole foods – no cooking required. Just buy them and set them on the table. It’s easy as that, and so good for you.

And if you’ve never done a cheese fondue before, here are my pointers: Always use two different cheeses (a Gruyere and a cheddar or swiss is best), start it on the stove first and then put the cheese in your fondue pot, always use flour or cornstarch to help melt the cheese and last, make sure to add an acid (some white wine or lemon juice) to help your cheese blend smoothly.

It may seem like a lot of work, but believe me cheese fondue is more than worth it. I think more than anything fondue puts a smile on my face. In a life where a disability can really bring on some difficult days, a silly little thing like this can have a surprisingly powerful effect on me, and I’m so glad – flameage and all – I discovered how influential it can be.

Do you fondue?

Products Mentioned

– Trudeau Cheese Fondue Pot

How I Stave-Off Wheelchair Back Pain

Gravity may keep our world together, but it’s no friend to wheelchair-users. Year after year, gravity slowly takes its toll on our backs, grinding away at our vertebrae and pulling them together, causing major pain.

Preventing back pain is almost a no-win when you can’t stand or walk. You may not be able to do it completely, but you can still help the situation. When I broke my neck, my back was perfectly straight, but I also had three more inches to grow. As I sat between the ages of 14 to 17, it sadly became pretty darn crooked.

When my growth-spurt finally ended, I realized how crooked my back had become. It transformed from a straight line into an elongated letter “S” and the only way to fix it, we were told, was with braces or surgery, but neither ended up a good solution.

In the end because of my scoliosis, back pain is now something I must live with on a daily basis. My grandpa was always lying on his back on his living room floor watching TV whenever I came to visit because of his back pain (slowly caused by degenerating discs), and now I know what that feels like.

I’m not in hellish pain everyday mind you, but it’s far from pleasant. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few ways to help out the frustrating situation of back pain. Here’s a peek at some of my favorites below.

Extra Lumbar Support

I know a quadriplegic last month who finally have some awaited lumbar support added to his wheelchair backrest, and it has totally transformed his world. Having support in this area of your back can relieve pain and help you feel more stable. Everyone who uses a wheelchair should take this seriously and strive for it whenever possible.

Forward Bend

When back pain is too much to bear, one of the few things that really helps is yoga; specifically the lean forward stretch. This stretch can be done in your wheelchair or in bed; wherever you can get the most balance. I’ve learned how to do this in rehab too, but my yoga classes perfected it, teaching all the small things you only get from yoga, like better breathing and a more clear of mind feeling.

Spinal Twist

For another back stretch that can really alleviate back pain, look no further than the classic Spinal Twist pose. This yoga pose has you twist to the left and again to the right, using your upper body as the central turning point. Think of your organs as being “wrung-out” as you do it too. It helps your mind feel unbelievably clear.

Sit as Straight as You Can

I’ve also found that slouching in my wheelchair is one of the worst things I can do to my back (oh man does it hurt). I fortunately have a custom-made backrest that literally forces me to sit straight. Although it would be nice at the end of the day, I do not have tilt on my power chair, which means I have no choice but to sit straight all day long.

While my methods above may not be perfect when it comes to “true” back care, it works for me, and that’s all that really matters. You should all do the same for yourself as well. Living each day to of the fullest will make you the happiest, and if you can manage that you’re set.

How do you take care of back pain?

Products Mentioned

– Lumbar support for a wheelchair

Custom wheelchair backrest

Photo courtesy of Blah Blah Blah

Keeping Sane in Waiting Rooms for 20 Years

busyBack in the early nineties, the options available for keeping yourself occupied while at the doctor’s office were pretty slim. Let’s just say that these simpler times weren’t necessarily better.

You had your expired magazine, books, pen and paper, crossword book, even a deck of cards, but the notion of watching TV or a movie in the palm of your hand was completely unheard of. You had the communal television in the waiting room, most likely on the worst channel possible, and that was it.

I don’t have to tell you that technology has skyrocketed since then. Our stay-busy options while waiting it out in waiting rooms are light years ahead of where they were back in 1993. We now have a little thing called a cell phone and wi-fi that’s completely changed how we wait.

We also have tablets and lightweight laptops, as well as handheld gaming devices and e-readers. So many things to stay-busy for a lifetime. And as expected, this portable technology just keeps getting better (the same goes for the prices). Back in the day, I would just tote an Anne Rice book with me wherever I went, but now I can work and communicate with the world while I wait.

The cell phone too is the singular device most of us have. If you have either an Android or iPhone, the games at your disposal are endless. Angry Birds is one of the best ways to speed up any appointment wait time too. I swear there’s something magical about this game. It may just take you to Fairy Land where everything slows down and everyone including yourself is blissfully happy.

What’s great about smartphones is that you no longer have to resign yourself to playing simple games like Tetris and Snake. Anything you can do on your computer is now possible on most cell phones. Heck, you may not even notice your doctor come in the room.

I’m also a big fan of simple emailing, catching up on old emails and such, whenever I’m trapped in a room/waiting at my doctor’s office heh. I try to make use of this forced down time as much as possible. That’s always my ultimate goal.

Sometimes it’s not completely possible to do this kind of thing though because getting a wi-fi a signal may be impossible at the doctor’s office. This can sometimes happen at healthcare facilities; either on purpose or because of machines that are in the way, and there’s not much you can do.

If you can’t get a signal, make sure you download games onto the hard drive of your devices so that in the future you can still access them without an internet connection. You’ll be quite glad you did this when you’re at your next appointment you get the message no internet connection is available, and then the nurse comes in telling you the doctor is going to be 25 minutes late.

Serenity now, now let’s fire up the old Elder Scrolls IV.

How do you stay occupied (and sane) when waiting at the doctor’s office?

Products Mentioned

Angry Birds (the original)

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

Elder Scrolls IV

“TLCing” the Body for the Future

6583616433_50981b88c3When they said aging with a disability was a serious business, they weren’t joking. I’m only 34 and I’m already feeling some massive aging issues. If this is what I have to look forward to for the next 30 or so years, I’ve decided to take some serious action.

It all started a couple of years ago when I drove for 6 hours straight. After the drive, my wrist felt like it had fallen asleep. No big deal, right? But it was much more serious than that. Little did I know I had strained my wrist muscles to the point of overuse, and getting them back to normal would be an almost impossible task.

When you get a strained joint or muscle as someone with a mobility disability and you have limited movement in other areas, preserving what you have is critical. In fact, this is key throughout our entire lives. We need to be obsessed with joint and muscle preservation and begin thinking of our bodies as precious works of art.

I’ve decided to employ a few different strategies to make sure I do whatever I can to treat my body with TLC and get as much use out of it as I can. The first thing is monitoring my movement for the day and making sure I don’t over-exert myself. This means not typing 8 hours straight and then cooking a huge meal. Partitioning of your chores will protect your body.

I also make sure I get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and drink plenty of water; all the important things we should all be doing anyways, disabled or not. It’s easy however to neglect your body when you have a disability and are alone often, which is the case for me, as no one is here to stop me from doing something stupid.

I’ve also had another age-related injury in the last year – burstitis of the shoulder. Joy of joys. This strange sounding condition is one athletes usually get, fluid on the shoulder limiting mobility, but since people disabilities strain their joints in some cases almost as much as athletes, we too are susceptible to this condition. Stretching and cortisone shots can help.

Isometric weight training however is another thing I’m doing and is one of the biggest things people disabilities should learn how to do. This specialized weight training makes sure to never over-exert your muscles, and instead has you apply pressure to small areas of the muscle, slowly building up strength without tuckering your poor muscles out.

And the last thing I’ve decided to do for the time being – see a massage therapist on a regular basis. Giant knots in the muscles we use are inevitable, but if we don’t get them rubbed out, they will just get worse until the muscles shorten, making it hard to move.

It is pretty scary thinking about what may happen in the future when it comes to our bodies. Aging is the one thing we all fear. However by planning and preserving, we can give ourselves of a bit peace of mind, and that can help tremendously.

How do you give your body TLC for the long run?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

When I’m In Bed at Night, That’s When the Dark Thoughts Come

We all are susceptible to being visited by our personal demons in bed at night. Lying there, wide awake before sleep comes, thinking about everything in our lives; it’s easy. Since I broke my neck when I was 14, going to sleep at night has never been the same.

When I’m lying there, there is one thought that overtakes my mind more than any other – Eric Hesk – the boy who was at the lake when I was injured; the one who told me the water was deep enough as a joke to see what would happen. This was what he did my entire life since we grew up together – let’s trick Tiffiny into doing something stupid and laugh.

See my brother and Eric and his brothers were like the big group of crazy guys as kids. They were always up to doing something insane, whether it was building a tree house on private property or playing in flooded out ditches after a rainstorm. I would tag along, hoping they’d eventually would see my worth as a part of the group, but that never happened.

What did end up happening a lot was that my naiveté got in the way. “Hey Tiffiny, drive your bike over here into the flooded ditch and see what happens,” and they would all laugh as my bike flipped forward when I hit a submerged drain pipe. It was all fun and games, and I was even sure that Eric liked me secretly, but he had no idea the seriousness of the prank he was about to pull.

As I lay awake in bed at night nowdays, I see Eric in the water below looking up at me telling me, “Go Tiffiny, jump,” as the line behind me got impatient (there were eight of us all hanging out). And then I see myself right afterwards, lying in the water face down, floating helplessly and unable to move anything. For some reason despite it being 20 years after my injury, I now think of this more than ever.

Perhaps I’m finally realizing that my injury is very likely never going to get better. I’ve always held out hope, and still someone do, that a cure for spinal cord injury will happen in my lifetime, but now that it’s been two full decades, I’m not so sure a cure is as close as they would like us to think. They can still barely get rats to walk, let alone humans.

While on a road trip, I met a man who was newly injured and he asked me if the longer you’re injured, the easier it becomes. If he would’ve asked me this 10 years ago, I would’ve said absolutely it gets easier, but he asked me this three years ago, so I hold him the truth – no it doesn’t. Do you ever get used to something so sad? It’s impossible.

I’m so happy when sleep finally comes; sometimes I’ll take melatonin to help too. Ad when I wake up – all of those dark thoughts are nowhere to be found. It’s so strange, but they only seem to come out at night. In the morning, I’m all “forget the past and move forward” and I’m grateful for it. I couldn’t live in a dark place morning and night. That is one thing I refuse to do.

How do you stop dark thoughts from invading your mind?

Product mentioned

– Nature Made Melatonin

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

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