VRT is a form of therapy that uses exercise to improve gaze (eye movement) and gait (walking/movement). My vestibular disorders, which are a result of cerebellar atrophy, vertigo (dizziness) and nystagmus ( involuntary rapid eye movement) are permanent conditions.
VRT and medication is the only way to hope to improve such conditions.
Since the initial diagnosis, over 5 years ago, my relationship with my body has been well—strange. Sometimes my fingers feel like they belong to someone else. Sometimes my joints and muscles ache for seemingly no reason. Sometimes my legs seem disconnected from my body and I have to think about them, make peace with them, before they work. Sometimes I’m scared to move. Sometimes I feel like I’m moving even when I still. Sometimes my eyes see black dots and floaters and finite things often lose their edges.
But sometimes, my joints and limbs and muscles and eyes act like they should, the important circuits inside are connected, and nothing hurts and I’m reminded of the person I use to be.
And sometimes those are the hardest moments.
A Therapy Story
My therapist, a young guy, shows me how it’s done.
“You sit upright on a Swiss ball, knees bent, with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Lift one foot 6 inches off the ground, hold 1,2,3 then slowly lower your foot to the floor. Alternate between each foot. 30 reps each foot.”
He’s wearing blue khakis and shiny brown loafers and does one rep with seamless ease.
We trade places. I sit on the blue Swiss ball. Feet firmly planted on the floor. Upright, knees bent.
He stands behind me and says he’ll catch me if I fall.
I start with the right foot. The right foot abides. I lift and hold. 1,2,3. Then bring it down to the floor.
“Good.” he says.
I stare at the left foot and the left foot stares back at me like we knew each other from a past life. My mind commands, “Move.” “Now.”
The left foot remains still, defiant, and planted as if it had suddenly grown roots.
Nothing happens until I pull the left foot up. But it’s slow and forced and unnaturally hard.
The left foot throws shadow to the floor but before I can begin to count, my left foot chases the shadow and slams the ground.
29 more reps.
“Try again,” my therapist encourages.
Across the room there’s a woman with a black brace hugging her left knee. She’s walking on a treadmill. She’s staring at me. Her eyes are heavy. Her gaze is real.
Since my diagnosis, 5 years ago, I’ve developed a skill. I can read her mind. “No cast. No brace. No crutches. A secret wound,” she thinks.
Yes ma’am, it’s a secret wound that brings me to this blue Swiss ball.
A secret wound I’m obsessed with.
A secret wound that I keep writing about, hoping that maybe all these stories can somehow fill the holes in my brain and correct my eyes and soothe my pain.
A secret wound that you can’t see but I absolutely, positively feel. And I guess, in some selfish way, I want you to feel it too.
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