It’s different when you have a condition that plays havoc with your energy.
Posted October 6, 2013on:
Since I live on the outer edge of Brooklyn, often seeing friends involves me traveling either to downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan.
Thursday was one of those days. I was meeting a group of friends for dinner. The last express bus into Manhattan leaves my bust stop (three blocks from my house) at about 3:05, though. Currently, this means I need to have a plan of where I will be for the time period from my arrival in Manhattan – approximately 4:30 to 5:00 – until it’s time to meet my friends – approximately 6:30 to 7:00 – because I can no longer just walk around window shopping.
This week, I agreed to meet one of my friends at Bryant Park, which runs from 40th Street to 42nd Street along Sixth Avenue, back to the library (yeah, the big one, with the lions in front) that fronts on Fifth Avenue. Theoretically, this is an easy walk – get off the bus at 41st and Madison, and walk a block to 40th, and walk along 40th for about a block and a half to the nearest park entrance. When I was healthy, this was the easiest thing in the world, even if the bus driver let me off somewhere other than the stop due to traffic or other stuff.
However, I am not healthy at the moment.
The driver let me off at 38th Street, which wasn’t a bad thing, but meant I had an extra block to walk. Now, because of the heart issue I am walking slower than a crawl these days, and every extra step costs me in energy. For those of you who understand Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory, you know where this is going, kinda.
By the time I got to the park, I was exhausted. We sat and enjoyed some people watching until a bit after 6, then got up to go to the restaurant, which was on the south side of 38th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. We made it, going far more slowly than I would have liked, but that’s not what I wanted to write about mostly.
You see, I was trying to explain to my friend how walking in my current condition was very different from walking when healthy. And it occurred to me that I should write about that here.
When you are healthy and you are walking somewhere, you aren’t really thinking about it. You may be conversing with a friend, talking or texting, watching the cute guy or gal ahead of you, but whatever you are doing, you are just walking.
When I go walking now, I have to consciously be aware of everything around me. It’s kind of like when you first start driving, in some senses. I need to be hyper aware. I need to be watching every step I take, while being aware of who around me isn’t watching where they are going and might accidentally kick my cane throwing me out of balance and into a fall (yes, that has happened), where and how far I put my cane, so I don’t accidentally hit someone, the evenness of the ground (or lack thereof), how my feet hit the ground when I walk (because if I don’t hit the ground and my ankle turns, I end up falling), how crowded the sidewalk is, if there are little kids in the vicinity I have to watch out for, is there somewhere I can stop without causing problems when I run out of breath (and, yes, that is an issue when walking in Manhattan during evening rush hour), and I have to assess with every step whether I need to stop, or if I can keep going. Add in things like crossing streets, which involve being aware of vehicles, pedestrians, traffic, stop lights, and policemen, and it becomes a very energy-intensive process, requiring my full brain. I also need to be aware of where restrooms are, since industrial strength furosemide means that when I have to go, I have to go NOW.
I am not complaining, mind. It is what it is, and I am grateful that I have any mobility at this point. Further, it will eventually get better when the heart issue has been dealt with.
The thing is, it affects my planning. When I go out, I have to know that I need to deal with all of this, instead of just walking the way I used to be able to do. This means I have to plan my transit route very carefully, and find a place close to where we are going to be meeting to wait. Now, when I was healthy, close could be anywhere within a mile of the ultimate destination. These days, close means within a block or two, or I will be totally out of energy getting from where I am waiting to the destination.
Worst, it means that walking, which I have always loved because I could just take off and go walking, now requires planning, coordination, and being super aware of every choice I make in an afternoon.
I know that those of my friends who are mobility impaired know all about this, but I also have friends who are not mobility impaired, and I often find that, while they are sympathetic, they really don’t know how it’s different to walk when you are having health issues. They see me struggling to walk half a block, where I used to be able to walk three to five miles. They think that if I walked more, the problem would go away. They are sympathetic, and well-meaning but they do not understand how walking when you have a heart/breathing issue is different from walking when your body works the way it does when you don’t have those issues. And I pray daily, that those friends never have to find out firsthand how different it is.
Anyway, I just wanted to get down how it’s different to do even something as automatic as walking when you have a health issue. Thanks, as always, for reading.