I’m on my fifth physical therapist in this MS journey. The first was a stern older woman who tried in vain to strengthen my pelvic floor. (Yes, I realize that sounds like the plot of a niche porn.) The second was a dumb but pretty and oh-so-strong young man whom I dazzled with my knowledge of 80s music as he threw me to the mat again and again to teach me to fall properly. (He’s the basis of my as-yet-unwritten smutty romance novel.) Next came another sweet and moderately helpful one at the Capitol Hill location of Physiotherapy Associates followed by Danielle at the same site. I highly recommend Danielle; she’s encouraging without being cheerleader-y, good at banter (a must if you’re spending 30+ minutes with someone twice a week), and a solid physical therapist.

Given my recent struggles, though, when it came time for 2017’s PT adventure, I decided to go for a pro. Pro, meaning someone with experience with neurological issues. Enter Molly. Well, first, enter Valerie, a fellow Georgian about to take her PT boards — or whatever PT tests are called. Initially I was a little peeved to have this near-child taking care of me when I’d asked specifically for an expert, but Val had studied up on MS and gave me some new insights and potential tools (a foot drop brace probably is not for me, but it’s good to have tried). Molly, though. Molly is where it’s at. She is a master of the tiniest verbal cue that changes everything. When I told her I felt like I was walking on the edges of my feet, she said not only to strike with my heel — a key thing for folks with foot drop and something you normal-walkers do automatically — but to think about making sure my big toe hits the ground after. I’m not saying I walk well presently, but, if I think about it, I can almost mimic a normal stride. And maybe if I think about it enough, I can someday do it without thinking.

Molly has also concerned herself with my back pain, which has eased considerably while in her care. When I told her it twinges when I put things in the oven, she said, “Okay, let’s practice that!” and handed me a slab approximating the size and weight of a cookie sheet to hold while I did modified squats. I realize this leans more toward OT than PT, but I was thrilled to have someone concern herself with something that matters so much to me.

A week ago I was supposed to have my final session in this PT series, the one where I blow Molly away with my ability to step over 6″ hurdles and walk for minutes at a time. I roused myself at 7, pulled on clothes, ran a comb through my hair and a brush over my teeth, and hailed an Uber for an 8 o’clock appointment. I signed in, paid my $30, and awaited Molly. Instead, Rachel arrived and led me through a series of exercises after explaining that I’d have to reschedule the final evaluation with Molly. Annoying? Yes. But I made the appointment.

A body at rest stays at rest.

When calling to re-reschedule (realizing I could not face another 8AM day), the woman I spoke to said, “Okay, you can do 3pm with Rachel on Thursday.” Rachel? Rachel?! I explained that I needed an appointment with Molly and was informed “Molly doesn’t work here anymore.”

W. T. F.

My trainer moves away. My physical therapist disappears without a trace. I think the universe is telling me not to exercise. I’ve certainly behaved as if that’s true of late, but I’m trying to change my ways. Plenty of people exercise without outside encouragement, and I shall endeavor to be one of them.

But, man, it’s hard.

2 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety II: In Which I Sing the Praises of a Really Good Physical Therapist

  1. Thank you for this–odd to be saying that about a piece that's brim-full with frustration and unhappiness–but it makes one feel less alone. \”One?\” you ask, eyebrow quirked. \”Indeed,\” I reply, noting the eyebrow but not going to make a thing about it. \”For you see–\”This tale could very much be about the experience of those of us who need and seek mental health care. For those of us with recurring mental issues (like, oh, I don't know, let me just reach around and see what I can fi–OH HI RAGING DEPRESSION THAT RUINS MY LIFE EVERY SIX MONTHS OR SO), finding a good therapist is a particularly cruel struggle–a desperate need that hits us JUST at the time we're least capable of the search.And therapists move on. The best therapist I ever had–the one who got me out of the worst of my many depressions–retired abruptly. (Not his fault–he had Parkinson's and it just got beyond his ability to treat patients. Life is just so fun and fair and easy.)I was tenuous at best when he did. And then I got a lot worse, very quickly. Because when a therapist is GOOD, and KNOWS YOU, s/he can help you in ways that literally NO ONE ELSE CAN. Your life–YOU–whether it's your mind or your body or both–are in their hands, and when they let go, for whatever reasons, it's a brutal fall.And then there's the 'finding of a new one,' and again, your story rings very, VERY true. Because the wrong therapist–too cold, too sentimental, too rigid, too loose–you can play freaking Goldilocks for a long time–not only doesn't help, but can make things worse.And all the while, YOU NEED HELP. And the longer it takes…ugh.I don't have anything pithy or sententious to add by way of summing up or passing on a helpful aphorism. Just…yeah. What you said. (Also, I need a new therapist.)

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  2. Wow. I feel like I could have written so many of your posts! I am currently in the midst of my third round of PT, and my fifth physical therapist (not counting the five physical therapy assistants I've seen). I feel like I make a little progress, and then have to start all over again.

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