Saturday, February 18, 2012

Driving My Car

I have been driving for a whole week now!

I lost my drivers license due to health issues three and a half years ago. It was a horrible feeling to surrender my license. I already felt like I had lost so much freedom, and there was the government taking away one more little bit of my adult independence. I knew I was not fit to drive. No question about it, but that still did not make it feel okay.

Over a year ago my physician gave the okay for me to drive again. He filled in the required paperwork and we sent it off. Then I ran into a nightmare of red tape. I was not allowed to drive at all, no temporary permit or anything. About two months ago I finally got a letter telling me to come in for a "driving assessment".

The long awaited testing date involved even more complications. The driver licensing department lost my files resulting in a 40 minute delay, there was also a winter ice storm going on, and I had to drive our SUV which was different from anything I had ever driven before.  The tester told me that we were doing a road test and that I might leave with my full license, but that if anything at all went wrong I could not  retest later, my file would be sent to a board of review and it might not turn out well for me. He suggested I might want to try later in the week under improved conditions. He was kind enough to book me in five days later and not put me way back at the bottom of the waiting list. I was very upset after we left.

My not so new car.
We bought a second car that very night. It is a cheap, 12 year old beater, but it feels familiar because it is the same kind that I drove 4 years ago and I felt a lot more relaxed and confident about my ability to drive it.

Friday morning my husband took time off work to take me and the "new to us" car to my test. The tester and I went out to the car and he was going to check that the lights and turn signals were all working before we went out on the road. I couldn't start the car and the tester obviously thought I was not "with it" enough to start the car, let alone drive it. We wound up needing to get CAA (same as AAA) to come and tow my new car away to our mechanic. The tester felt sorry for me and offered me one final chance on Monday. My daughter came with our SUV and drove us home.   I was pretty much hysterical on the way home.
Our car's starter was replaced by the end of the day.

Monday morning the tester and I went out to the car and it started!! Twenty minutes later I was getting my picture taken and my license was issued. I felt like a grown-up again.
I am restricted to driving vehicles with automatic transmissions and power steering.

 I love the freedom, but the actual driving is hard. I am having trouble keeping my left arm up to hold the wheel for very long and I am finding shoulder checking to the left really uncomfortable. I have gotten a headache every time I drive and I am sure it is from the combination of weak neck/ shoulder muscles and eye strain.  I plan to restrict myself to daytime driving and I will avoid the busy streets.

Road trip anyone?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

One More Week of Computer Class

I have done a full month of computer classes at the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities and I only have one more week to go.  We started with Word and then moved on to Excel and Access. It has been a basic overview of those programs with enough information to know how to start a project and what potential there is in the programs. I am a MAC user so it was all pretty new to me but I have caught on very quickly. Next week's plan is to work on cover letters and resume writing and about using the Internet for job searches.

I have had spare time during class so I started trying to learn a program called OneNote. I think that program might turn out to be very helpful for me. It is a way to organize a variety of types of information in a binder style complete with tabs and extra pages. It can include pictures, video, audio clips, and you can insert documents like excel and word and it can all be dragged around to format it anyway you like.  I am starting out by using it to organize my blogging plans and resources. Tools that can help with memory and organization like this program and my iPhone are real blessings. I spend a lot of time feeling very anxious and stressed while trying to remember what I am supposed to do. I just don’t have the energy for trial and error.

I am doing very well in class. I am finding that I am comfortable with the 3 hours now and I am productive for the whole time. I am also finding the work itself much easier than I thought I would. I don't think I am having any real functional issues related to my memory and cognitive problems. Drop down menus are great visual memory triggers. It was suggested that using keyboard shortcuts is faster but I just can’t seem to remember what the function is even called, never mind the short cut for it.  I run the mouse over the tool bars and think “A ha! Yes! Click that one!” 

I have found that a few of the physical issues are bigger problems than I expected. I have had real issues keeping my left arm elevated so that I can keep typing. I have put a huge amount of work into getting my fingers moving, but clearly I do not have great control over my left shoulder, neck and I even have some issues with my elbow.  My arm just gets "tired" after a while and it keeps slipping down from the desktop keyboard and I loose control over the whole arm eventually. I am having extra arm pain, but the more distressing problem is my lack of control with extended use. I know I need a break when my hand starts to spasm. I have upped the height of the chair, lowered the screen and adjusted the armrest and I even put a little cushion on it to help keep my arm supported and elevated above the keyboard. It is a good temporary solution but I know will need to work on arm exercises once the computer class is over.

My other big problem is related to my vision.  I find it difficult to copy from an assignment page to the computer. It is hard to move my eyes back and forth very much. I got a stand for the paper, and lined up the screen beside it and I also bumped up the size of the text on the screen. I learned that I have to actually look into the distance every 5 or ten minutes and I need to get up every hour or so and walk around and give my eyes a real break. I am getting pretty bad headaches and I am sure they are because of my vision.

One of the main objectives of this program was to see if we could increase my stamina. I now last for the period of the class but I don't really seem to have increased my stamina for the day as a whole. Coping well at the course has been at the expense of my other activities. I have not had the energy to exercise or to socialize in the evening. I am very cranky a lot of the time and all I want to do is lie down by six in the evening. Even tiny household tasks have become overwhelming.  On the other hand, I feel very good having a routine and getting out of the house. I like going to the course and it has really helped my battered self-esteem.
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