One of my friends posted the other day an informative article about OCD. It’s interesting, because there is something similar with stroke. As far as I am concerned, there is not a hint of disorder about it, but it is definitely a little obsessive.
Let me tell you about the kettle. I drink lots of tea, for which I boil a kettle. My rule? after the kettle boils, I pour my tea. If, after that, there is not enough water for another cup, I have a task to fill the kettle once again. Once full, I turn the kettle on, but don’t bother waiting for it to boil, as I’ve already poured my cuppa. I head to the lounge to drink it in my armchair.
Meantime, the kettle boils.
The reason I boil the water is because in the kettle will stay quite hot. When I want the next cup, it won’t take as long to boil, which means that I’ll spend less time standing, waiting for it. That’s the key here, the second-highest consideration behind just making the tea itself.
In fact I apply this rule all day, unless this is my last cup of the evening. If it is the last cup of the evening, I’ll fill the kettle but won’t boil it. There’s no point because it’ll be well and truly cooled by morning. Lastly, I have a nifty little gadget which will allow me to trigger the kettle from the comfort of my bed next morning.
Okay, right now, you should be thinking this is all perfectly logical, but why on earth has he gone into so much detail?
What I just did was to give you an example of how stroke affects me. I’m limited physically (in this instance, how long I can stand at a worktop before having to rest), so I think things through to work out the most efficient pathway to getting the job done.
I bet you never thought that there was an efficient way to making a cup of tea, did you? But there is. And with the fatigue I have experienced since the stroke, my choice of pathway can make the difference between enjoying my cuppa or having to postpone the exercise until later, until after I’ve rested.
Even my able-bodied wife, who is a nurse, does not realise that any level of planning is involved. I never did myself, before…. She makes a drink, and leaves the kettle empty. I grrrr, but what can I say? For anybody else, this stuff is trivial.
Of course, I have become stronger over the last few years, but in many ways this is very much like being a toddler all over again, except that I am now able to process the thoughts which go with the experience.
For exactly the same reason, my getting up routine. I can at least trigger the kettle from bed, but as the water nears its boiling point I need to be busy.
First stop is the toilet, because which of us can begin the day without having a pee? Next stop is the lounge, where I turn on the computer and retrieve last night’s teacup. I’ll take that and leave it by the kettle, which is by now well on its way. Plus, there are two hollow-legged cats who need their breakfast! No gadgets to placate them, unfortunately. I get that done as quickly as possible, before I head to the bathroom to prick my finger. A glucometer test, provided there aren’t any mishaps, is a two-minute affair, and a measurement before I’ve drunk or eaten anything provides a baseline which guides my insulin dose. By the time I am finished, the kettle will have boiled. My duties over, I can make my cuppa and return to the lounge, where the computer should have started by now and should be ready to do something useful.
This is a set pathway, the shortest path between the rooms, which I follow every morning. It gets my fasting blood sugar, my first cuppa, and my computer up-and-running, without my usually having to wait for anything.
But in both of these cases, please look past the detail. What I actually do, the order in which I do it, is irrelevant. That I have contrived a set order of ceremonies at all, is what is relevant.
You wouldn’t think somebody might need a rest while just preparing a drink, would you? But that is one of the ways in which fatigue hits, and 70% of stroke survivors experience some degree of fatigue. I don’t really expect people to be able to empathise with me – until I had the stroke myself, it isn’t something I could have grasped, but if it is something which interests you, I hope my examples give you some insight. What might be trivial for some will be a marathon for others.