Monday, December 21, 2015

Overcoming a lack of Motivation

When I am talking to people about the things that amputees have to do to stay as healthy and productive as they can, I make a solid point about "Motivation". I will be the first to tell you that if you want to stay active you have to motivate. The word is all about moving from one place to another. I remember a time shortly after I was married, I had become ill. Nothing serious, just a "man-cold", one of those nasty little colds that just knocks the feet out from under you till all you want to do is sit on the couch and whine. The kind of cold where you get a bowl of chicken-noodle soup and try to sleep it off with large doses of Ny-Quill. Well, my wife would have none of my whiny baby faced antics. She told me something that has stuck with me ever since:
When I get feeling like I'm sick, or don't feel very good, I get myself cleaned up and then I hang a big smile on my face! Even if I don't feel like it. Especially so! Believe me, it will make you feel better. Don't let the world see that it has you down!
I have  tried to apply this to everything that I do, and it has served me well, especially since my amputation. Keeping a positive outlook and a smile on my face actually does make me feel better about myself and my situation. Keeping motivated drives me faster and more furiously into the future. While I have not been an amputee for very long, it has only been 9 months since I was amputated, I can walk about 10 miles without any stress, I can actually jog about 2 miles on a treadmill, as I have not had the courage to try it out in the open yet. (my balance and core still need some more work before I trust myself to that)

Keeping myself moving and continually setting goals has got me this far. I know there are a lot of mid-aged amputees that have got along a lot further than I have in a shorter time, and I applaud them for their efforts, but I also talk to several amputees who barely can walk without assistance. Everyone is a little different. We all have one thing in common, we are short an appendage, whether it be an arm or a leg, above or below the middle joint. Some were traumatic, some due to infection, others due to congenital issues. Some have associated pain and phantom sensations. I wish I could give everyone the solution that is working for me and have it work for them. Here is my formula for success and overcoming pain:
  1. When phantom pain occurs, I understand what it is. I open a hole in my mind and put it there. This is hard to explain to people, I wrap it up and close the lid. I can still feel it, but it reduces the urgency of the feeling. This is a Buddhist teaching and while I may not agree with all of this report, I have put this into practice and it works for me. Read the REPORT here.
  2. When real pain occurs, whether this is tenderness from pressure points within my socket, or muscle tenderness caused by overuse, I use the least possible dosage of a common pain reliever. I will  not use any opiates again. I have found that the residual crud that they leave behind make future occurrences worse. It is my belief that if you can withstand some of the pain, it will prevent you from further injuring yourself.  Remember that pain is there for a reason, it tells you when you are threatening your survival. Use it to your advantage.
  3. Set a goal and stick to it. Motivate yourself to be active, even when you don't feel like it. I wear my leg from the time I get up until I go to bed, 16-18 hours a day. It comes off only when I take my shower or climb in bed. There are minor exceptions to this, I may take it off for 10 minutes when I feel like massaging it, but this has become an infrequent practice. 
  4. Own the fact that you are an amputee. Be proud you are the survivor, regardless of how it happened. Not everyone could face the challenges you face on a day to day basis for the rest of their lives. Talk to people about it. Make them comfortable to be around you. Remember that you are not broken, you just have after-market parts. In some cases, our new parts are far better than the original manufacturer's. 
  5. Make an effort to help others that are beginning their journey. I remember the first time I went out in public after my surgery, still in a wheel chair. There was an amputee in the store we went to and he took the time to talk to me about a wide range of things to expect. He had lost his leg in Iraq 10 years ago and I wouldn't have guessed he was an amputee if he had  not been wearing shorts. We still keep in touch. Mentorship is a great way to help yourself, it will make you do the research, read the magazines, and will motivate you to be a positive roll model.
 I believe in my heart that being active, both physically and mentally are the two most important things any amputee can do to help themselves. Do not expect anyone else to fully understand what we go through. No one else out there has to put on their liner and leg just to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. No one else has to think before they take the stairs the way we do. Keep in mind that we have a few extra things that we absolutely have to do differently. Motivate yourself to be strong, Motivate yourself to overcoming what challenges you face. Join a gym, get a bike, walk to the end of the block or across the room. Get up, grab this great big world by the horns and make it what you want. Remember what Dr. Suess taught us:
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And then things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too.  OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!     
© 1988 Dr Suess Enterprises LLC.