For two years, before medically retiring, I was still holding out hope of being able to return to work eventually, despite being on Income Protection and battling one health hurdle after the other.
The realist in me knew I was facing a very different life, as I began to lose my ability to walk any distance and my list of disabling symptoms continued to grow.
I had never suffered from depression and I didn’t feel depressed as I thought about my future, but I was wondering if I was approaching my situation the right way.
As a Leader/Manager, I had attended numerous counselling and coaching courses over the years. I had also received counselling training through my church work. Counselling and coaching others was what I did and, in the professional world, change management was my speciality.
Am I Doing Ok?
Despite having the skills to deal with the massive life change I was facing, I remember sitting in my lounge room one afternoon and just allowing the tears to fall. I wondered if I would cope, if I was coping, or if I was in denial. I wondered how could I still do things I enjoyed when my body refused to move.
As I worked through the grief, I was constantly looking at my life and my “Loves and Losses” and wondering how I could replace them.
As part of the Income Protection policy, I had access to free phone counselling sessions. I had never had counselling in my life, not in a formal sense. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea but I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained. I really wanted to make sure I was dealing with everything as best I could. My mental health was as important as my physical health, so I booked an appointment online for a teleconsult the following day.
I had no idea how important the phone session would be but not for the reasons you might imagine.
A Leap Of Faith
I spent the next morning making some notes prior to the counselling call, which was booked for mid afternoon.
I wanted to make sure I succinctly told my story to the counsellor, including my work history, my health history and the way I was currently approaching my unknown future.
I wanted to make sure I included all my concerns so I was being honest about my feelings during the session.
I literally had nothing to lose. I was taking a huge leap of faith hoping I would come out of this session full of helpful tips and a huge action plan, to be super equipped to deal with my future.
The phone rang. I looked at it for a few seconds wondering how this would all play out. My stomach did a little flip as I pushed the answer button and answered with my normal “Sam Moss”.
A lovely guy introduced himself and simply said, “How can I help you today?”
Exactly how I always started a counselling session and I just knew he would give me the time I needed to share my story and my concerns.
Being prepared with my talking points allowed me to give him a good overview of my situation.
I finished with my spiel and waited with bated breath for his response.
I expected to be given a list of ideas to take on board to help me cope better. I had my pen and paper ready to write them down like an eager student wanting an A+.
What I got was not what I expected.
Can I Use Your Ideas?
My counsellor simply said , ” Sam, you’ve been through so much but you are coping so well. I’m so inspired by your story, by you and by your coping techniques. I know I wouldn’t be coping at all. Can I borrow your strategies?
We both laughed but he was deadly serious. I was so surprised. I felt like I’d been treading water for months and had been so unsure of my decisions and approach to my situation.
Apparently I was completely on the right track. I was grieving my losses. I was talking to family and friends openly about my situation. I remained in touch with my work team. I was putting plans in place for my future financially. I was using pain management distraction therapy techniques. I was ensuring I took time to do things every day that made me happy.
I did take one thing away from that session 10 years ago. One thing that would become even more important year after year.
One thing that today gives me a sense of physical freedom when I can barely move.
My New Legs
My counsellor picked up on my major concern. At the time of the session 10 years ago, I was already requiring a cane to walk. I didn’t realise at this point both my femurs would break, my spine would collapse and my feet would constantly fracture. I didn’t realise I would be paralysed and bed ridden for 12 weeks. I didn’t realise I would be confined to using a walker inside and a wheelchair outside.
My counsellor listened to my concerns of not being able to go on much loved bush walks or walks around the neighbourhood with my husband.
His advice changed my world….“Sam, let the car be your legs”
As simple as that but somehow his words gave me hope. Of course I knew I could use the car but to visualise the car as my legs gave me a sense of freedom, speed, a world of options and a way to set new goals.
It turned me from being disabled to abled.
Driving “Miss Sam”
My husband took me for a drive a few days ago. We live in a semi rural area so the scenery is beautiful and every drive fills me with joy.
I notice everything. The late autumn leaves hanging on to the branches and bringing such beautiful colours to the landscape.
The sheep, cows, horses, ducks, geese and goats scattered throughout hobby farms make me feel like I’m visiting a wildlife sanctuary. The kookaburras, parrots, magpies, swallows, honeyeaters, robins, iris, hawks all fly by the car.
Being a passenger in the car gives me extra freedom to take in my surroundings and be enveloped by their beauty.
As we were driving this week we were even greeted by a kangaroo trying to cross the road in front of us. We of course gave him right of way!
I was reminded at this moment of my counsellors advice all those years ago.
How thankful I was I made that appointment. I expected a deep counselling session and to be told I wasn’t handling anything in an enabling way. Instead I was encouraged to continue with all my coping strategies and to simply visualise the car as my legs.
My “virtual legs” are also a picnic table, as we park in beautiful places to look upon amazing views, all while enjoying lunch in the comfort of our car seats.
We enjoy looking at homes and gardens driving around local suburbs.
We even have fun going on car wash dates! It’s just something different to do.
I’m generally the navigator for our car adventures, courtesy of Google maps.
My husband is my chauffeur, my car date, my picnic butler, my tour guide and my best friend.
Our conversations in our car trips are wide and varied…..not dissimilar to the film, “Driving Miss Daisy,”
Our car trips are different though, as they are full of love, joy and a partnership determined to keep me moving.
Our immediate focus and ongoing strategy, formed 10 years ago from a phone counselling session, is simple…… let’s keep on “Driving Miss Sam”.
If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding and friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.
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I also write @ Blogs by Christian Women