Note: the type of therapists I’m referring to are physical and occupational, the main type that I worked with when I was in rehab. I’ll just say therapist for the rest of this article.
Disclaimer: I’m not a physical or occupational therapist, these are my views through my experience and preference. This will say more about me and what I value, and may not be universal, but I do believe that I’ve learned enough in a multidisciplinary way that these traits will be common among great therapists that create a great experience (which I’ve had)
Trait 1: The Unaffected State
“State,” meaning the emotional state. The state you’re in. Basically, this comes down to being in a good mood and having come from within and not letting it be affected from without. When in rehab I had already had good state control, and because of this people enjoyed being around me because I was an anchor for good emotions. For a therapist to be in a good mood is very important. There will undoubtedly be people in rehab who take the pessimistic view of their circumstance and drag down anyone around them. A therapist who doesn’t get dragged down will eventually bring up the person who is unhappy. A therapist will be more helpful to whoever they work with because if that person has a bad day or moment, they will need that anchor or a hand to pull them back to. You can imagine going into a room full of therapists and all of them being cheerful, even if a few of the patients aren’t. This is obviously the type of environment you would want.
Trait 2: Lighthearted
Lighthearted, also known as being playful and not taking things so seriously. Being able to make a few jokes and have some fun is essential. When I was in rehab, there was a point I got to where I would go out into the city with a therapist and we would just do whatever. We went around to random stores, got some Starbucks, got a doughnut, and had a fun little excursion. There are times to be serious in rehab, but I can’t think of any. Why not have some fun in everything you’re doing. Banter and joke.
Trait 3: Tough Love
This one I think is most important, especially for making progress. I had and always have expectations of myself higher than anyone else will, so I pushed myself beyond what the therapists were pushing me, but they soon picked up on it. When I did boxing, I would intentionally push my trainer’s buttons so that he would make me do extra pushups. When putting tough love into action, it looks like setting big goals, trying things almost certain to fail, and really pushing. I seldom wanted help, I wanted to either succeed or fall on the ground and then learn how to get back up (maybe with some help). I remember once in rehab I had gotten too much help and went away feeling like I could’ve done more if I didn’t get so much help. So, I think it’s crucial to always push, especially in rehab. People don’t want pity, they want someone who pushes them higher. Not everyone will progress as rapidly as I had in 4 weeks of rehab, but I’m willing to bet everyone can do more than they initially think.
At Shirley Ryan, where I went for rehab in Chicago, the main goal is called Mod-I, for modified independence. Mod-I means that by the end of rehab, the person will, at least, be able to live alone. In the first session I had with a therapist, I told them I wanted to be at Mod-I in 3 days. That is the philosophy I think is important to adopt in rehab or anything. I wanted to set big goals, and if I failed, then I would still be further along than if I set a smaller goal and achieved it. In rehab, it was set up such that there would be 1-hour blocks of therapy where I work on a new skill. There were only two things that took me more than 1 session to get to a 90% mastery (being able to do it on my own). Being pushed and given the proper tough love from all the nurses and therapists who always expected more of me is what helped me to achieve so much.
Trait 4: Adventure
Along with having some fun, how about trying something a little crazy? I tried out a mountain bike while at rehab and took it up a set of stairs. When I was practicing walking and connected to a harness that was then attached to a rail system on the ceiling, I had them elevate me off the ground and I did some gliding around. For therapists, encouraging people to do something outside of their comfort zone or trying something a little whacky will always make for a good story and experience. Safety first because of legal restrictions, but the truth is I wish I fell over once or twice because in the real world people fall over and get hurt. I’d rather take a risk when I’m with a therapist and already in rehab rather than leave and have to come back just as I was adjusting.
The final line of this article is to remind you that my Instagram documents my entire rehab progress, you can see and read everything I did to get an idea of what a great rehab experience is. My therapists, doctors, and nurses were the best. I’ve tried to categorize what I think made them amazing and in turn, made me amazing.
Immediate actionable items: Send someone a thank you letter today or tomorrow for helping you in some way
Summary: When it comes to being a great therapist (as all mine were/are) the essential traits are to have good emotions, a mindset geared towards tough love and having fun(banter and adventure), and not taking any of it too seriously.
Overdeliver: To all those who have worked with me, I still remember everything, and you’re appreciated.
I created this website and my YouTube (which has admittedly been neglected) to help others. After creating my Instagram and documenting my journey, inspiring people, and any other impact I had, I decided that I could do more.
This website is made with people in rehab in my mind. Specifically, my past self since I know myself the most. When I think of topics to write about, I look to my life, my past and present and imagine what I wish I knew sooner or did differently. Though I love how I turned out and if given the chance, I wouldn’t change anything. But if someone sends you this or you find me somehow, and you’re in rehab, then hopefully you have the chance to speed up the process.
This is something I wish someone told me, and maybe someone did, I wish I heeded that advice. Read. Learn. Grow. I had been for a long time, but I really stepped it up once I started my first internship. So far, in 2020 at the time of writing, I have read more books this year than I have collectively beforehand. Probably about once a week or close to it.
When I was in rehab, it was four weeks, my mom stayed with me the entire time. I had my speaker with me playing music the entire time. It was quite hard for me to go without music. In retrospect, it probably kept me sane because I didn’t have much quiet time or downtime to get existential or depressed about my situation. And now, I just don’t because I’m past the time for that to happen. I like the non-stop, stuck-on-go lifestyle. No breaks, or very few, just constant growth, powered by curiosity and hunger.
And now that you have some insight, and if you’re in rehab (which means you definitely have downtime), I advise you to read. Audible – audio books – is my favorite, especially useful if you can’t move your arms. I listen at 1.6x speed, sometimes I read along if I have the book, and because it’s audio, I can do it while doing other things.
If you’re not a book person, why not podcasts? Documentaries? Join clubs and online meetings?
If you’re in rehab, you can use this time to get ahead, get interested in something new. Anything from mindfulness to HVAC systems to culinary arts to law.
If you have no control neck down and no major brain hindrances, then your mind and voice are very important and, especially today, you can really do anything. If you wanted to go into politics, you just need to hear, think, and talk. You could become a programmer and use your voice to type code. Stephen Hawking was a great physicist and I believe he used only his cheek or something like that to control a computer to convey his thoughts and move. Imagine that, having a phenomenal and brilliant mind such as Stephen Hawking and having a communication obstacle. He still did it though, and the world is better for it.
Even in my childhood, I wish I had read more instead of play Minecraft. Though I actually didn’t play video games much at all and I still did other great things, A book every 2 months would’ve been good.
Get a kindle, you can read and listen together. Get Audible, which is what I use. They just released a feature where, if you’re an audible gold member, you have a huge selection of books that are included for free. My library went from 38 to 112.
Rehab, for me at least, was a break from life. It was a free month as I see it. I didn’t have school, I didn’t have work, I didn’t have any of the stress of daily life.
I woke up, I recovered, I worked hard, I was challenged (something I love), all my food was made and delivered, I was surrounded by lovely people who cared about me, I wrote, I met new people to come back home to, and I learned a lot about myself and the world.
It’s been non-stop ever since – going back to school, having an internship, a week later going to Australia, and now back to school where I am now.
Summary: In rehab, my greatest regret was not doing more learning while I had the opportunity. I did do a lot and I wouldn’t change it, but I wish I fit it in somehow. Podcasts, books, online courses, etc.
Overdeliver: If you get an Amazon prime account, and go on the kindle app or on the page, you’ll see some books that are included for prime members and some of them come with an audio that will go to your audible account. In fact, with Amazon Prime, there are so many benefits and free features, such as music and streaming, that it’s very worth it. I love companies like Tesla or Amazon that overdeliver.
When it comes to choosing a catheter, it ranks among the top five biggest decisions concerning your new life.
Unlike a wheelchair, you can make a decision and change it as many times as you want, whenever you want, so long as you’re willing to go through the niceties. There are about 5 categories to consider when you’re making this decision. Similar to my other posts, we’ll go for a ride with the Cosmo of Rehab Past and look at my experiences, mistakes, and logic. Towards the end, there will be a questionnaire to help you decide what style catheter might suit you, or rather, what types to avoid.
Before we begin, there is a paradox that merits some consideration. Experience is a teacher that cannot be replaced, but the time spent on the experiences that can be taught is time wasted.
For some of what I preach, the written word has a limited impact, spoken word alike. Personally, I don’t like to take advice in the realm of wheelchairs. Many times I’ve been misguided by a pungent mixture of naivete and trust that the guide knew more about me than me. Like Charlie Munger, I have many mental models that I use to judge whether or not to accept and act on advice. All I can say is that a lot of what I talk about, categorically, regards important endeavors. Be skeptical, but don’t neglect the weight of how helpful my experiences can be in guiding yours to a better place. Instead of paving your path, I try to draw the borders in which you can pave your own path and give you some best practices for paving an effective path along with some steps to consider taking.
It’s good to remember this is my experience as a man, the general guidelines for choosing a catheter can apply to women, but my experience might be far from the female equivalent.
Fade in: rehab. I just arrived from the hospital and learned how to cath firsthand. It’s a tedious process. It never occurred to me that it would be different, I guess I didn’t think about the future of catheters too much, no one gave me any inclination that I’d be using different catheters until the last few days of rehab. It’s a flat package, sterile, about the size of a tablet. One side is clear plastic and the other is like wax paper. The contents of the package are medical gloves, a piece of soft paper – the type they lay on your chest at the dentist, a sauce packet of medical lubricant, another sauce packet with sterilizing swabs, and a catheter. The catheter has a bag attached to it with measuring lines if you keep track and the tube leading into the bag has a plastic cover over it. At the end of the tube, or the front, there is a little blue nozzle. The process is methodical, almost ritualistic. The point of the extra precautions – the gloves and sterile pad – is to avoid a UTI. Especially in rehab, they take every measure to make sure you’re safe and healthy so you can focus on recovery.
First, you wash your hands, properly expose yourself, open the package, then you put on the gloves making sure not to touch anything because the gloves are sterile and if you touch anything other than the sterile contents, you’re getting ten minutes in the corner and give me your phone too. After the gloves are on, you grab the paper cloth and lay it out on your exposed lap, grab the sterilizing swabs and use them to clean yourself off, proceed to grab the catheter, take the cap off the nozzle, take the lubricant packet, put some lubricant on the nozzle and the rest is medical.
After you’re done, you empty the warm contents into the toilet and then throw out everything else. It takes a while and there’s no chance being in a hurry will help. In rehab, we were on a schedule to cath every couple hours and were expected to deliver 200 – 400 mL.
Flash forward, soon before I leave rehab. My occupational therapist and I are going through a document and looking at different types of catheters and what options I have. She brings me a few samples to try and see which ones I like. This was the first time I had to choose a catheter and I really didn’t know what mental models to be using and how to judge what type of catheter will be good for me. Before I made my decision, I had talked with someone who came into the rehab facility to answer some questions of mine. He told me what catheter he used and that’s the one I chose. I made a big mistake. It didn’t work out for me at all. It was my fault to take advice so readily. Luckily, I knew what other types of catheters there were because my OT and I had talked about them and I tried them.
Myself, I use intermittent catheters, though there are a few different types of catheters you may use depending on the situation and need.
Intermittent catheters are one-time, short term catheters.
External catheters are ones that don’t go in but go over. Used in a rain collector fashion.
Long term catheters are, well, long term. It could be all day or for a week, whichever your doctor advises and what works for you.
I will be referencing a specific brand – Hollister – so that we can stay in one place while we talk about the different types and what you should consider.
The first catheter that I used and subsequently stopped was one without a bag attached. It was just the tube and the tube didn’t have any covering over it (there is a version with a covering over it). It had a little slide bar on the tube that I used to grab the tube without touching it.
The issues I had with it was that it took both of my hands to use the catheter, but once I got it to where it needed to be, I would also need to hold something at the end, like a bottle or container, to collect and I didn’t have much tube left to properly aim, or ease of holding a container.
Along with that, the package was the shape of a ruler but a fair bit longer, this made packing it into a backpack difficult, I didn’t want to bend it (I don’t think I was supposed to). Other than the length, it was pretty flat and packable so, if you travel with a duffel bag or a larger bag, then this would work well for you.
When I was done cathing, I had to throw it away, and it didn’t fit nicely into any of my trash cans. I tried to find new ways to use the catheter that would work better. Instead of using a container, I tried using an extra tube and even a mini aqueduct. I had a plastic tube that I put the end of the tube into so that I would extend the catheter length and then the attached tube would be long enough to go into the toilet. The aqueduct was similar, except it wasn’t pliable and just acted as a ramp leading into the toilet. The problem with these solutions is that I need a toilet, if I’m on an airplane or not able to get close to a toilet, then I’m back to the container.
I realized that I needed a bag attached to the catheter. I knew exactly what I wanted, in fact I already had a few. The process for catheters at home had a great time reduction. It went from taking every precaution to kissing the edge of the danger zone. All I did was open the catheter, make sure not to touch the tube, which was actually hard because this was an open tube, and after the pool was drained, I threw out the catheter.
The new catheter I got was supremely compact and much more fitting for my lifestyle. Not the size of a tablet, not the size of a 2 foot ruler, it’s the size of a table coaster. If I fold it in half, it’s the size of my palm, but considerably thick.
This means I can fit it into my pocket and if I’m wearing a jacket, I could have one or two in each pocket and no one would be wiser. It still has the same length tube but is curled up (and meant to be) along with a bag attached as well as a cover on the tube. The cover on the tube means that I can grab the tube and use it to help me use the catheter.
The catheter style I have now, with the bag attached, has been very useful for when I’m on an airplane. In the air, as I’ve been plenty of times, you have to cover up when you cath, which means you’re literally in the dark.
Trying to cath in the darkness of cover from a jacket, without touching the tube and catching it all in a container while on an airborne, turbulent prone chair house is a mission of impossible heights. A mission I never had to attempt because of my quick transition to my pocket friendly catheter.
When you’re choosing a catheter, consider what matters more to you:
Environmental sustainability or Convenience
Extra safety precautions or Minimalism
Travel friendly or Cost friendly
You can compare any of these to any other.
Here are some examples of features/questions you may want to consider and what they mean:
Does it come lubricated? – if you don’t want to carry a packet of lubricant with you, then get pre-lubricated. It depends on if you care more about the convenience or if it’s cheaper to get a catheter that isn’t lubricated.
Is the tube covered? – this is about safety of having an exposed tube that could lead to a higher chance of a UTI, it’s more environmentally sustainable if there isn’t a cover (less plastic use) and it might be cheaper as well. Having the cover allows you to touch the tube to use the catheter.
What else comes with it? – you can get packs of catheters that come with gloves and sterilizing swabs, but do you care more about being very cautious or about environmentally sustainable as well as cost and compatibility? If it just comes with the tube or a tube with an attached bag, that’s about as little as you can get.
How compact is it? – look into the shape/size of the packet the catheter comes in. Can you imagine using a small backpack when you go out in town and brining this catheter with you? Think about how often you’ll be travelling or venturing out and if compatibility will matter, if you’re more of a stay at home or work person, then consider how easily the package and catheter can be thrown out. (the long tube didn’t fit well in my trash can).
How long does it last? – Some catheters have expiration dates on them, the lubricant might dry out and so on. The expiration date might matter because if you buy in bulk for travelling, then you’ll most likely buy 3 or 4 months supply at once and you need to know that the catheters won’t expire towards the end.
Now you should be ready to throw wind to the caution and rationally select a catheter. One thing to note is the question that precedes all of the guidance above is, what do you need? Your doctor, nurse or therapist should be able to tell you what planet your voyaging – if you’ll be using intermittent catheters or otherwise, that will define which categories you search through and subsequently use the above guidance to help.
Immediate action items: If you have yet to leave rehab, start asking about catheters and consider these parameters when you choose one. If you’re out of rehab, can your catheter better align with who you are?
Summary: When we choose a catheter, there are many aspects that we aren’t even aware of, which can lead to mistakes. Herein lies some helpful guidelines for what to consider when choosing a catheter. There isn’t a best catheter for everyone, there is only the best catheter for you, individually.
Overdeliver: More likely than not, you can easily get a sample of the catheters you’re considering. Sometimes you can request a sample directly from the manufacturers website or send an email to a representative. This way, you can try out many types and make a better decision along with expanding your knowledge of what options you have.
If you’re in rehab, or out, or a living person, you have thoughts.
Focusing on people in rehab recovering from a spinal cord injury, this is the story of how I never had a bad day in rehab and how I never got depressed. Every day in rehab, I was happy, I had fun and I grew as a person and in my abilities.
There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you’re successful in rehab, we’ll eventually talk about all of them, but today, we’ll be covering some ways of thinking that can help us not only succeed but prosper.
When it comes to mentalities, sometimes it can help to have some guidance on how to think. You feel alone, I did at least. You don’t know what to think and you can only hope that you’re right, but what models do you have? In the business world, we can always use Richard Branson as a model but there isn’t any amazing mythical man to look to, not for stuff like this. This is personal and it’s different for everyone.
That being said, I’ll talk about 3 mentalities that I found to help me and others when going through rehab or a tough time.
You can take the bits that resonate and forget the rest. Because I always say that I’m honest, here’s a little personal story. When I watched the notebook for the first time, I cried. I also cried the second time I watched it. I also cry when I see an act of valor, I cry at almost every superhero movie. I cry when I read books, I mostly read biographies and most of them are about people in the past. I’m a cryer, but I never cried over my injury. Not once. Regardless of that, I’m usually quick to tears. I typically own up to any of my traits – the good and bad – but when it comes to crying, I always tried to hide it or suppress it. This was because I had no model. When it comes to human psychology, we always need some form of validation for our actions. Meaning that sometimes all it takes is to see that someone else is going through something similar and then we’ll feel good about following the path paved by our hearts. The crying validation came when I was reading the biography of Winston Churchill, he was notorious for crying, and now I don’t feel so repressive about crying.
I hope that these 3 mentalities will give you some guidance for overcoming any obstacle that comes your way.
1. The Push-Door Mentality
It begins with what I call the “push-door mentality”. It’s about acceptance. Subconsciously, I immediately accepted what happened when I got injured and moved past it, that’s how I was able to do everything I did. Some people don’t accept their injury for years, and those years get drowned in self-pity. I don’t know about you, but I never had time to feel sorry for myself, I only had time to achieve. I do actually feel sorry for myself sometimes, but not for more than 5 minutes before I catch myself.
You may think “why did this happen to me?!” I don’t have an answer, you might be religious, but whatever your beliefs are, there is a reason. It may not be the one that you’re looking for, but there is a definitive reason. You had your injury due to something happening (that’s how things happen). Nothing is completely predictable, but if your hindsight is decent, then you’ll be able to analyze the situation objectively.
For me, I know exactly why this happened, I was a risk-taker, I loved adrenaline and I wanted to always try something slightly or extremely dangerous. Usually, I take calculated risks, this one wasn’t as calculated. When I was skiing, I jumped off a ramp, going very fast, and lost control. Then, as I hit the ground, a few things happened to my vertebrae that shouldn’t, they hit my spinal cord and it got bruised. We could even go as far as talking about the physics of the force impacting my body and get really detailed about why it happened.
Whether or not a strictly analytical approach helps, what I’m saying is that unless you’re a historian, you don’t need to waste any of your precious time pondering in despair about why this happened to you. Trust that it’ll all work out, and it will.
I’ve always imagined it like this: you want to go through a door, this door is the entrance to heaven, to Atlantis, or anything majestic enough to give you a rush of endorphins. The door had a handle on it because it’s a door and that’s how most of them are. Nothing else is on the door, however. You pull on the door as hard as you can. You’re very strong and yet, the door is not giving way. You pull some more, you think about why you can’t open this door. You rationalize like anybody else that maybe it just isn’t for you, maybe the door is locked, you’re sure that the door should pull open. No doubt that the door is a pull. You curse every deity and then pout in frustration. The PULL door is not pulling open. Well, it’s actually a push door. Until you accept that the door is a push door, you won’t be able to get through. All you have to do is accept the fact that the door is a push. Once you get in, who cares about how the door opened?
That’s the best Cosmo fable I have about acceptance (for now). The point is that there is a life full of opportunity, happiness, success and love waiting for you.
You’ll be blind to this potential life if all you think about is the past and never accept what happened. Because all humans have to rationalize everything, you can tell yourself whatever you please, you can say that it had to be you. In the movie of our lives, we’re the main character and this might be poetic justice or just something to make the story interesting, but the last thing that makes a life interesting is not accepting and subsequently doing nothing and living in despair.
This is something that happened, that reality can’t be refuted, you can always think about what you wish you did different, but regret doesn’t mend a broken jar. You have control over how you react. Every hero has obstacles, in the first Iron Man, Tony Stark didn’t just accept that he was captured in a cave. He did accept that he has a cool energy circle in his chest and he used that injury to his advantage to become Iron Man. This is your life, you can sulk about what happened and question it, or you can accept it, and once you do, you become bigger than it and you can move on to greater things.
A quote by Churchill that I live by is “A man is about as big as the things that make him angry”
If you let little things bother you, you shrink down to that size. Sometimes I let little things bother me, but then I see this quote and remember that I’m only worthy of big problems. Once you accept your injury, you become bigger than it and once you do that, you can focus on your motion picture life, make it a story about success and overcoming obstacles, win a Grammy.
2. The Generous-Luck Mentality
Following the push-door mentality, we get to the greedy-guilt dilemma. Has anyone ever told you that you’re lucky it wasn’t worse? And they kind of make you feel bad for thinking you’d be lucky if it were just a little bit better. Do you want more and feel bad about it because some people are worse and wish they were like you? or that you should be happy with what you have and it’s bad to want more?
All this is utter bullshit. Sorry, that’s actually unfair to bull’s shit. Just writing that upset me. Never think like that.
People who tell you that you’re lucky to not be worse, and we’ve all been that person in some way, don’t know what else to say. They’re just trying to be helpful, but don’t believe it. No shit, it totally could’ve been worse, but if we’re playing the “you’re lucky, it could’ve been worse” game, then we may as well talk about how much luckier we could’ve been and look to people who ended up better than us. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t ever feel bad for wanting more. If no one ever wanted more, we’d all be satisfied with fire being the newest invention and stop there, long before the wheel and the written word. You need to want more. And don’t feel bad about it. Tell the world, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. The only problem with wanting more is that you can get lost in those thoughts. Thinking too much about the “more” that you want, and don’t have, can put you in a slump.
Here’s the story. When I was in rehab I was always doing something crazy. One day, they brought in a mountain bike for me to try out and see if it peaked my interest. Naturally, I took it up some stairs. It is a mountain bike after all. There was a guy in rehab, really cool guy, he was also quadriplegic. While I was going up the stairs and had pretty much everyone stopping to watch, I was the first one to do this and my therapist was probably having heart palpitations, possibly because my hair looked great. My friend wasn’t able to turn around to watch me, but he really wanted to. We talked for a little bit on my last day as I was saying goodbye to everyone and he was telling me how much I inspired him to push harder each day and that he would never give up. I was happy to hear that, he also told me that he really can’t wait to gain more control so that he can be more independent. Of course, I encourage this, I want to inspire people so that they are motivated to strive for more, however, I wanted to make sure that while he was going down the road to recovery, he stopped for gas and took the time to observe the beautiful scenery called life. I told him that even if he doesn’t get much control back, he could still go into politics, all they do is talk, really.
The point being that although we do need to focus on the future and always strive for more, if you only plan for what your life will be like in 10 years, you’ll miss each day. That man had control over his most important asset, his mind. He could still hear, see, talk and think (and smell). He could become a writer, or even a programmer with today’s technology. Don’t overlook today’s possibilities in lieu of the future.
It is okay to want more, but don’t become so focused on it that you forget about today and never feel bad for wanting more. Always want more and never feel bad about it, but you won’t get anywhere unless you work with today, master the day and then let it build the foundations for the future you want. It’s becoming trite at this point, but I want to emphasize that you should NOT feel guilty for wanting more. You don’t have to believe you were lucky it wasn’t worse, because it also could’ve been better. Be greedy with your ambitions, just don’t get so caught up in them that you miss the moment
3. The Steamroller Mentality
Once you accept and stop feeling bad about wanting more, there is another mentality that we can address. It’s called the “steamroller mentality” it’s about accepting a challenge and taking the next step or sometimes skipping steps.
When you’re in rehab, every day is a chance to improve and get closer to independence. The mentality I had was to make extreme progress like never before. In the rehab world, I was told about a term that I would have my sights locked in on for the next 4 weeks. Mod-i. Modified independence, which is fancy talk for being able to live on your own. On my second day in rehab, I had my first physical therapy session. One of the first things I said was that I was going to reach mod-i in three days. “I’m a steamroller baby” – Elvis.
I was absolutely determined, I knew what I was after and I didn’t waste any time. I requested for more hours of therapy each day and I woke up ready to have a great day. Not only was I getting stronger, I was gaining my independence, overcoming new challenges and I was surrounded by amazing people who all supported me and helped me achieve more. I would banter with everyone, post about my day on instagram and get even more support from there. Also, everyone was attractive and who doesn’t enjoy being around beautiful minds and faces all day?
I digress, sometimes often, back to the story. When I had my first therapy session, the first thing that I had to learn was transferring. The therapist had this really long cutting board, which they call a transfer board but I’m not convinced, this cutting board was supposed to be used as a little mediary for getting me from the bed to my chair. I asked “what would come after this?” “is this the end of the line or is there something else that I would do after I get good at using this cutting board?” The answer was that I would eventually move to transferring without a cutting board. I told the therapist that I didn’t want to use the cutting board. And that was the last time I saw it.
Here’s the logic (or whatever you deem it): I don’t want to waste time getting good at something redundant. I’d rather spend that time learning the crescendo, the advanced material.
This logic doesn’t apply to everything, but for everything I did, I questioned it, not in a condescending manner, but because I wanted to understand if it laid a necessary foundation for something else or if I could skip it. Even if I couldn’t skip it, I wanted to know what was next. I would always ask something like “assuming I master this today, what would we do tomorrow?”
This is one of those mentalities that keeps you from just taking things as they come. Taking control over what you’re doing, learning what it leads to and challenging yourself. There were times that I asked to try the coda, tried, failed, and had to revert to a lesser practice, but at least I tried and knew that I needed to build up to it. I’d rather be sure that I can’t do something the hard way.
And that’s it. Those three mentalities. The push-door, the greedy-guilt, and the steamroller mentality. They’ve helped me and they pave the road for an even more fortitudinous mind.
Here’s a cool picture:
Immediate action items: Write down how you could implement these mentalities into your life and begin to act with these mentalities as soon as you identified where they fit into your beautiful life.
Summary: The three mentalities that helped me overcome and prosper: acceptance, not feeling guilty for wanting more and always asking for more challenges.
Overdeliver: Another thing that helped me a lot was support from friends and family. My mom was with me the whole time and I had a visitor (friend/family) every weekend. I also listened to music all the time. If you find that you have too much time to think and you begin to get existential, try listening to podcasts, calling friends or taking up some art (poetry, drawing, painting, writing, reading).
At the beginning of my journey, I was in the hospital (of course), and I was extremely uncomfortable with everything. The thought of a catheter makes anyone squirm, even at this point, over a year after using catheters every day, I try not to think about it.
I’m not as manly as you might think. For the 6 days, I was in the hospital after my surgery, I hated when I had to “cath.” I would take a pillow and put it over my face and tell the nurse to just tell me when it was over. Even though I couldn’t really feel it, I was afraid that I might.
Just a few days before, I was walking and NOT using a catheter, I didn’t even know what a catheter was.
I took it to an extreme. By the third or fourth day, I was down from four IV’s to just one. I didn’t need much of any medication. However, I was so terrified of being able to feel the catheter that I still took pain killers. I demanded it. I didn’t need them at all, though.
That’s how scared I was about feeling the catheter.
Right now, I’d go back in time and slap myself.
Don’t make the same mistake. For using a catheter or anything, really.
When I went to rehab a few days later, I knew something had to change. I realized that I can’t be scared about cathing if I expect to recover and gain my independence back.
The very first day, the nurse who came in, his name was Caesar (his name is Caesar), I told him that I need to cath (it was a long ride from the hospital to rehab) and that he needs to teach me how to do it.
Two mistakes I made in the hospital:
I didn’t take responsibility for myself and I avoided doing what was necessary
I didn’t learn how to be responsible for myself
Some of you might not physically be able to cath, that’s totally fine.
The point here is that you have to do everything you’re capable of doing.
In the hospital, I could have asked the nurses and doctors about how catheters work, best practices, and how to do it.
Visualize what life will be like once you’ve recovered. For me, it involves living a life of freedom – traveling and exploring. I might buy an RV and live a life of touring the country. If that happens, and I hope it does, I will probably have to poop in the woods at some point.
When I was scared of cathing, did I expect someone else to do it for me my whole life, when I absolutely can do it for myself? Honestly, I can’t understand why I was even okay with someone else doing that for me.
It gets a little worse.
A catheter is only for #1. What about #2?
This next part is 18+
Don’t continue reading unless you’re prepared to feel uncomfortable.
If you’re not 18, but in a wheelchair, then you’ll probably be familiar with this, so for anyone in a wheelchair, this is another day in the park. (Not that it’s nearly as pleasant).
For me, and it may differ drastically for everyone, this is called the bowel program. I came up with many names, such as “poopy program” or anything that didn’t sound so medically uptight. After all, I already had a finger up my ass.
It took me much, much longer to accept that I had to “manipulate my bowels.” I don’t remember when I first did it myself, but if you’re patient and a fast reader, I probably mentioned it in one of my Instagram posts.
This is one of those things that I look back and shake my head a little. I don’t remember if I ever pooped in the hospital, but before I tell you about my first time doing this myself, here’s how it worked in rehab when I didn’t do it for myself.
At a set time every night (rehab was very regimented), I would grab my fancy hospital bed remote and press the button I was all too familiar with. The SOS. The help button.
The nurse assigned my room would come in. We always bantered and had good conversations. They would grab the incontinence pad unless I already had one under me. It’s pretty much a square diaper. I would take off my diaper. By now, the door was shut and my Mom had left the room, thank God.
The first step for the nurse was to put on some medical gloves, then some medical lubricate on their finger and while I lay on my left side, go in and clear out the colon. Then, with the “ready to go” stuff out, we wrapped it up in the incontinence pad and like planned magic, there was another pad underneath. Part two is that a laxative was put in and the nurse left, waiting for me to call 15 minutes later to take the second incontinence pad, wrap it up and we’re done.
Nurses were both men and women. One time, I played this song as one nurse came in. Luckily, she thought it was funny. Even when a nurse is coming in to put their finger in your butt and pull out poop, you can still be lighthearted.
This went on for a lot longer than it should’ve. If you’re reading this while you’re in rehab or even still in the hospital, then I’m happy.
I want this message to get to as many people as it can early on.
This was something that I just couldn’t accept doing for a long time. It was outside of my comfort zone. This was astronomically out of my comfort zone. I didn’t expect it to be done for me forever and again, I was completely able to do it for myself. Because of that, I can’t imagine why I was so much more comfortable with someone else doing this.
The first time I did my own bowel program
I had prepared. The past three or four nights, I wasn’t just lying on my side in silence. I was asking for gruesome details. I knew that I needed to do this on my own. In rehab, they also have standards they hold you to. They expect you to progress and have thresholds for how long you can be in one spot. I had reached the limit for how long I could avoid doing this.
It was the nurse that I carelessly whispered who came into my room and told me to get up and do it myself. Instead of doing my bowel program on the bed, which would’ve been a lot harder, she had me get into my wheelchair, go into the bathroom and transfer onto the toilet commode (a cushioned chair with a hole in the middle). At this point, she was giving me the tough love that I am more than thankful for. I live for tough love. She wouldn’t believe me that this was actually my first time and that I still didn’t know what I was doing.
I double gloved. I wanted to put as much distance between me and this process. Two gloves was the best I could do. After that, I put on the lubricant and manipulated my bowels.
A quick note: while I was doing this, the nurse told me that sometimes this will cause people to pee and that sometimes people peed on her! It takes a brave person. She was still helping me and making sure to coach me through this unthinkable process, so, she was sitting right in front of me. You can use your arm to point “it” down while you do this (doesn’t apply to women).
Ever since that day, I’ve been doing the bowel program myself. I only wish that I had done it myself a lot earlier than I did.
Immediately actionable item: Ask yourself, am I avoiding doing something that I shouldn’t be? Set a plan to do it today, or begin the process today.
Summary: Don’t hesitate cathing or your bowel program. Do as much as you can early on. You’ll have to do it on your own at some point. I waited way too long to do some things on my own. It takes a lot of courage, but it’s something you need to do.
Over-deliver: A lot of people won’t give you the tough love you need. They’ll give you the easy way out and help you if you ask. If things seem too easy, ask for tough love.