It’s been five weeks since the heart attack and three weeks since the diagnosis of urachal cancer. Some of the aftercare has been tremendous. Some has been piss poor. It hit me again today that one area where the aftercare is non existent is around the mental and emotional input after the surgery/diagnosis.
Today I went for my first full session of cardio rehab circuits. Last week the rehab nurse phoned me for our weekly chat. She’s great with a sizeable supply of empathy but the conversation is entirely of a practical nature. (How am I finding the tablets? Have I sorted out my monthly blood pressure checks? Have I increased my daily walk to a brisk pace?) I asked her when I could return to the gym but she said I needed a fitness assessment first. She squeezed me in the following day and decided I was fit enough to join the circuits class.
There were 12 of us in the group: 8 men and 4 women. I was at the younger end of the cohort. The trainer led us through a warm up and then we did a circuit of 12 stations, spending 2 minutes at each. My third station was the trampette. I was semi stepping, semi jumping and I suddenly realised that my eyes were filling up with tears. Nobody noticed and I soon stopped. A couple of stations later and I was doing some bicep curls with 1kg dumbbells. The tears started again and this time they didn’t stop. I think some people noticed but nobody said anything and I think I was grateful for that. I became stuck in a time that was only 8 weeks ago. Back then I was at my gym doing bicep curls with the 17.5kg dumbbells.
I did the rest of the circuit: the stepper, the cross trainer, the bike, the imaginary punch bag. All in all, I quite enjoyed it. There was a bit of a gap afterwards as the nurse took our blood pressure one by one and then laid the chairs out in a large circle. I’m a therapist. I’ve done my share of encounter groups and process platforms. I assumed we’d be talking. Wrong. The personal trainer talked and started a brainstorm about the benefits of exercise. He was a good presenter but after a couple of minutes I zoned out. I started noticing my fellow circuiters. I thought back to the bicep curls and wondered “Who am I now?” I wondered the same about my 11 peers and who were the people we used to be. I feel different so assumed they do too. What has become of our old self image and how is our new one being constructed?
The trainer asked, “How does exercise help our mental state?” My attention returned to the room. I nearly spoke. The woman who outdid me on the treadmill replied, “It can make you feel good about yourself”. The trainer gave her a thumbs up and then the nurse took over and reminded us to take our medication. The group therapy was done and dusted.
Physically I’m feeling fine. Almost back to normal. Psychologically I’m still in no man’s land. Everything has changed and my anchors have become detached. I’m lucky in that I’ve got good friends and family who will help build my new anchors. But it strikes me as odd that you can go through a major life and death event and whilst the time and money is there to attend to the physical, the emotional is completely ignored. We were introduced to their “process timetable” which ran from P1 to P4. The circuits class is P3. I was left thinking that at least the offer of some counselling would make a useful P5.
No Ps for that. Blood pressure – good. Cholesterol – excellent. Head – fucked.