Losing it.

The other day, I was catching up with an acquaintance who mentioned to me that she thinks Joe Biden is “losing it.”  This was the day after his first evening speech to the nation. I found myself taken aback for a few reasons.  

Photo credit to Vox.com

First, it seems quite dangerous to me that people like me, people without a direct relationship to Joe Biden or any medical training of any kind, are deciding if he is senile.  It seemed to be a “there but by the grace of God go I” moment, as the person claiming to have assessed his cognitive abilities is only a few years short of his current age.  Could it be a projection of what is really going on with them?  

Second, I responded to my friend that I didn’t see him that way.  In fact, I shared that I was quite impressed with his ability to deliver a speech to the nation given what I know about his disabilities.  This is where I connected my own personal experiences with my disabilities to what I see in him.  Since 2015, when I acquired my disabilities, I’ve been working to better understand myself as a disabled person, which has required me to learn a lot about disabilities, in general. Trust me when I tell you that our society is not designed for people with disabilities.  

One of my disabilities is something called high-functioning, mild aphasia.  This means that I can reflect upon my experiences and realize that there are moments in which I can’t find the word or words I’m looking for, or I can find the words but they come out in the incorrect order.  As you can probably imagine, I am terribly frustrated in these moments.  I will boast that I have learned to be more patient with myself and have developed techniques for successfully navigating these moments, such as owning that I am frustrated and am struggling to think of words.  These actions are much better than the often tirade of cuss words and throwing of items (red grapes and papers mostly) that I would do early on when I struggled to have choice over my frustrations.  Additionally, in these moments, I can now assess myself to see if I am tired or overly stressed, as I’ve found that my disabilities become even more pronounced when I am tired or stressed.  

Optimus Prime, the best dog ever, who has always made me feel less alone when I’m tired and stressed.

Here is where I think there might be a connection between myself and Joe Biden.  Could it be that when I am 20 or 30 years older, people might decide that my cognitive ability is deteriorating because I sometimes search for words? The very action I sometimes do right now?  Currently, the usual response I get from people is that they too have moments where they can’t think of a word.  Great, I often think, except I didn’t use to have this struggle. And if Joe Biden’s sometimes searches for words and that makes him “losing it”, does that mean that people think I’m cognitively impaired when I search for words right now?  In the end, my worry is that in moments where folks are judging another’s cognitive abilities confirmation bias is at play, in other words, the very reality that we find what we look for.  

Still Thankful

As Thanksgiving comes to a close and I prepare to head back to work tomorrow, I can’t help but think of all that I’m thankful for over the past year and more.  It can be so easy to get caught up in one’s own responsibilities that one forgets to find a time to pause and recognize all that is in their life.  Thus, I am going to spend time considering five such points in this post.

  • I am thankful for the color orange and for my younger sister’s hard work at making sure that everyone knew it was my favorite color in January 2015. I say this because I have many orange items now and, each time I see one, I think of the people who provided me with motivation and support that spring (and even now).  Just today, for example, I had such a thought as I was loading an orange mug into our dishwasher.
  • I am thankful for my ability to walk on my two legs. Yes, I look a bit like Frankenstein at times when I do walk, and yes, years from now I will have damaged my body enough due to how I can walk that I will need to have surgery.  Please know, however, that I can see how I am continuing to improve, too.  It’s just…so…slow.  However, what keeps me going is my ability to see that I continue to improve.  I am thankful I can see it.
  • I am thankful for the dog that my adventure partner and I adopted this fall (Optimus Prime…or, Optimus). He reminds me to find time to relax, to be excited about seeing each person each day, to appreciate and eat all of my food, and to enjoy snuggling.
  • I am thankful for the daylight. The days are getting shorter, and yes, I now wake myself up to a sun light each day (which, has greatly helped me adjust to the time change).  Still, the sun comes out and provides me a chance to appreciate it, as well as to appreciate the dark and what it, too, reveals.
  • I am thankful for my home. Not just the physical building that I have over my head, although I am quite thankful for that too, but my home is the community in which my adventure partner, Optimus, and I live.  It is full of people who have a different take on life in so many ways, which makes each of them beautiful and amazing.  I know that they are people I can count on if I need help, and people who will get up each day and do their best to consider others.



Optimus Prime (aka Optimus) snuggles in with me for the night. 

Another School Year Started

I took a break from personally blogging this summer, and need to get back into the swing of doing it at least once a month. For these reasons, I thought I would post about my summer and the beginning of the school year.

For starters, the first week of the new school year is over.  Woo hoo, 🙂 I did it!  I will say that I notice my energy went up over the summer, which is exciting.  Still, I am quite exhausted in the evenings and have spent a good bit of time sleeping this weekend.

I am still going to physical therapy at the local hospital to work on my continued recovery.  Yes, this means that I’m continuing to also improve physically too.  I do still have foot drop, but I have become much stronger, the spasticity has decreased, and I can walk faster.  One of my goals is to be able to run, and I am happy to say that I got to a speed of 3.5 on the treadmill (which is the lowest speed for running), and I can do that for just over 3 minutes.  Yes, to do this I wear a harness that is attached to the ceiling in case I fall, but I can still do it!

This summer I worked again on the book I’m writing about my January 2015 life explosion (as I now call it). I finished another draft of it in early August, and am having someone edit it for me now. I actually think it isn’t too bad, and might possibly be something folks want to read. I’ve kept it focused on the patient perspective of everything I’ve been through. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is worthwhile.

Third, I did get to go to my favorite place, Lake Vermilion, MN, this summer for two weeks. This year I had a chance to spend time with family, and I swam in the lake. I tried out a pool later in the summer too. FYI, swimming is very hard, but also very enjoyable. A special moment was when my niece taught me to do all of the swimming moves she learned from her swim instructor when I told her that I was afraid to swim. Like a good student, I listened to her instructions.

I also taught a summer course, which was quite enjoyable, and I prepared for my fall semester courses.  Now that I have a better understanding of my disabilities, I was able to be more strategic in my planning.  All of this is to say that I feel as though I’m both improving and adjusting…hopefully the first year back was the hardest for this “new” body I inhabit.

It was great to see the students both in classes this week, as well as those in the Western 1st Generation Society (W1Gs) group.  I am very excited to say that all of the students in the group came back to WIU this fall, and are prepared for the Activities Fair next week.  I anticipate it will be a great year thanks to all of them too!

Finally, no great year would be complete without a new dog.  He is a 5 year old PomChi mix that we adopted from the McDonough County Animal Shelter.  I know that not everyone is a dog person, but it is pretty awesome to have something SO EXCITED to great me each time I come home.  Dogs are the best! 🙂

Optimus Prime our 5 year old ChiPom mix.

Optimus Prime our 5 year old ChiPom mix.