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Sensory Overload

I’m at the ocean right now and yesterday my friend and I took a walk on the beach. I didn’t wear shoes. I realized halfway through the walk that this was the first time since the stroke that I’ve walked outside barefoot. I walk in the house barefoot all the time but never outside. It didn’t even dawn on me to put shoes on to walk on the sand. I guess that’s a good thing. I felt EVERYTHING on this walk. I have heightened reflexes anyway so every seashell, every time the water came up my feet really, really felt it. This one point of the walk there was a strip of broken seashells that we had to walk across and I said to my friend “whoa sensory overload!” Getting sensation back to normal is just like getting movements back and getting stronger, you just have to do it a lot. So the more I walk outside in bare feet and walk on weird things the better it will feel.


That Day

Christmas can be extremely depressing for some people.  Most people are conditioned to think that you HAVE to spend the holidays with others.  You don’t.  I’m taking a vacation to avoid Christmas.  I used to think frequently “why didn’t I just die that day?”  I know for a fact that I am not alone in this thinking.  I once posted this question on some message board and got like 50 responses.  To survive something extremely traumatic and to be left disabled – that sucks.  It sucks a lot.  If you have ever thought that, either secretly or openly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  It’s probably not something you want to say to friends and family, but it’s OK if you have.  I have said it to my mom – sorry Mom, but I used to think that a lot.  I’ve realized – wouldn’t the world be really freaking boring if everyone was great and no one ever suffered any hardship?  I have a great story to tell now, I’m much more interesting than someone who’s never been through shit.  I rarely, rarely think this anymore.  Sometimes I do when I feel like crap, but it’s rare.


End of the World

The world is supposed to end on Friday so I probably won’t be blogging for a while.  Watch it happen here.



HIIT stands for high intensity interval training.  This is what I do.  If you google HIIT you’ll find some really complex, confusing protocols.  A neurologist, I see a lot of those, asked me about HIIT because I’m a physical therapist and said it seemed confusing.  HIIT is easy, not confusing and you can do it with any workout.  You know how on The Biggest Loser the trainers always make the contestants go at full speed for a little bit on the treadmill?  That’s HIIT.  HIIT just means getting your heart rate up for a short period of time then lowering your heart rate for a short period of time and alternating between the two.  It’s supposed to be the best way to burn fat.  I have personally found this to be true.  I do HIIT on a treadmill.  Going full speed for me means walking 4.1 mph.  I can’t run yet.  So after I warm up, I go for a minute at 4.1 mph then a minute at 2.2 mph.  I alternate those for 30 minutes.  Then I just walk normally for a while.  I usually do this with an episode of Dr. Phil on the TV, but not when the topic is really depressing.  You don’t have to watch Dr. Phil when you workout, you can probably put anything on TV.


Eccentric Contractions


I just took my dog for a long walk.  If you have a dog – take your dog for long walks.  If both you and your dog had a stroke – take your dog for long walks.  I live in Pittsburgh so everywhere you go there’s gonna be a hill.  You can’t avoid walking on a hill here.  It’s harder for me to go downhill.  It’s harder for everyone – even people without massive brain injuries or ruptured ACLs.  Going downhill is usually harder.

Here’s why.

Think of your right leg lifting your whole body up a step.  To do this the quadricep muscle, the big muscle on the front of the thigh, is getting SHORTER because the part of the muscle attached to the thigh bone is getting closer to the part of the muscle attached to the lower leg bone.  This is a CONCENTRIC contraction.  An ECCENTRIC contraction is just the opposite.  Now think of your right leg going down a step.  That same muscle group, the quads, controls this movement by getting LONGER.  When the body is lowered down a step, the part of the quadricep attached to the thigh bone is getting further away from the part of the muscle attached to the lower leg bone.  So walking down a hill involves a lot of eccentric contractions and eccentric contractions are usually going to be harder.  So how do you get better at performing eccentric contractions?  Do them.  This is meant for physical therapists but has a ton of ideas




Cassie is my dog.  Cassie’s my soul mate.  We both had strokes at a young age.  Anyone wanna tell me the odds of that cause I think it’s pretty f’in weird.



About a week into my hospital stay, I had a 2nd stroke.  Or really 3rd stroke I guess, I don’t know, I’m still not absolutely clear about all of the details of what happened to me.  This stroke was hemorrhagic, it was caused by a bleed in the brain whereas my initial strokes were ischemic, caused by a blood clot.  So I got the best of both worlds.  When I had this follow-up stroke, I was transferred back to the ICU.  I have 2 aunts who I love very much and they came to the hospital that day.  They came a lot but on that day I remember saying to my mom “I don’t want to see them.”  To this she asked me, “Why don’t you want to see them?”  Because I was in shock, because my whole entire life was just devastated, because I was bald and embarrassed, because I didn’t understand what was going on, because I don’t know, my brain wasn’t working correctly.  I don’t blame my mother, no one knew what to do or how to treat me.  It was obviously a terrible, awful, horrible situation.  When a loved one has had something traumatic happen to them, don’t question them, just be there.



Thanks for this idea Mom.  A friend and I are taking a trip to get the hell out-of-town for Christmas and obviously we booked a hotel.  The hotel we booked upgraded us for free without telling me.  That’s really nice.  HOWEVER, this presented a problem for me.  You see, we’re going to a beach and all of the oceanfront rooms, which is what we were upgraded to, have no elevators and they put us on the 3rd floor.  Problem.  Thank God they told me when they called to confirm.  Or else we would’ve been S-O-L.  Email me if you don’t know what S-O-L stands for.  So now we’re on the 1st floor.



I’ve been feeling pretty down lately and the best thing anyone has ever told me is it’s OK.  Whatever you’re feeling, it’s OK and completely understandable.  Saying to yourself “this will pass” or “you’ll get through this” is true but doesn’t help right now when you feel like crap.  It’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling.  I used to try to say those things to myself and have written things like that on this blog, but that didn’t help.  That’s a lot of pressure to be told by yourself or someone else “you’ll get through this.”  No, that’s not helpful in the moment.  What is helpful is saying “it’s OK.”  Feel whatever you want to feel, it’s OK.  You are NOT alone.