I Live Creatively to Power Past Obstacles

I Live Creatively to Power Past Obstacles

First, a thank-you

As I begin my second month as a columnist at Muscular Dystrophy News Today, I’m excited to be hearing from you about the columns. I’m on Twitter (@ralphyaniz) and always want to delve deeper. I also love some of the ideas I’m getting. As I mentioned in my first column, we are all so unique that even individuals dealing with the same diagnosis have different experiences. I look forward to hearing from you and building an important conversation.

What is living with creativity?

One of the best subjects to share information about is how we each live creatively. I’ve learned so much from others. Living with any disability makes us experts at survival. We are expert planners, visualizers, and executors. Whether we use a wheelchair, walker, cane, something else, or nothing at all, we learn how to get around.

Living with creativity means that we figure out how to achieve things that are easy for most people. It means learning to get from point A to point B, along with ways to grab success that only you can come up with by trial and error.

 We are the best because we have to be

We thrive because we have to. The choice was never a real choice for me. In listening to my body, I knew right away that the decision of sitting at home and not staying mobile would lead to stagnation. And I truly believed it would be physical and mental. My column a few weeks ago about goal-setting discusses this ability to push limitations in an appropriate way.

As a counselor and life coach for many years, I worked with individuals to make real changes in their lives. We can change how we think, which leads to real changes in feelings. And we have greater power over our positive behaviors than we realize.

What always helps the learning process is giving some real-life examples.

 What creative living looks like

When I started having some muscle loss in my legs, I preferred a chair that had armrests. This made it easier to use the leg power I had and to push myself up with my arms and shoulders. Sitting on high chairs, such as bar stools, was uncomfortable. When I entered a public place, I’d look for a solid chair with solid armrests. It was simple at that time, and I was strong enough so that even without armrests, I could push myself up from seat level with my hands.

The creativity came later. After some years of continued muscle loss, I found that using armrests and pushing myself out of a chair wasn’t going to work. I didn’t have enough strength anymore, and it caused real shoulder pain. As my legs weakened, more power had to come from my upper body, which also had lost some strength.

This is the point at which my body couldn’t automatically compensate. I began to think, to experiment, and to be creative. I may need to adapt more in the future, but here are some of the things I came up with that work for me:

  • For public places, I look online to find a view of the room layout. This gives me a chance to see whether there are different types of seating options.
  • I always choose higher seating if available. I am definitely less comfortable and would like to sit in lower seats, but I avoid that pain of getting up.
  • If there are only lower seats, I’ve learned that the best for me now is a seat without armrests that is wide and solid. Some seats are so small I can’t find space for my hands to allow me to push up.
  • Couches or benches are also fine, the higher the better, and as long as there is room for me to turn to my left and push myself out.
  • Booths work as long as I can sit with my left (stronger) arm inside so that I can exit the booth by planting my right (stronger) leg and pushing up with my left arm.

The key is to experiment and try new things at home in your own space. I know my space well, and I can live and get around without my cane. But we must be creative.

 Let’s share ideas

I am the biggest advocate for working together and helping each other. I’d love to see the ongoing sharing of ideas and situations. We can help others. I do a lot of traveling, and in future columns, I’ll share some of what I have learned along with my techniques. Please share your thoughts, and as always, you’ll find me on Twitter.

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Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.

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8 comments

  1. Debra S Love says:

    I am also being creative because my arms and shoulders do not currently have enough strength to push me up out of chairs, and especially have trouble getting out of the pews at church. Recently started attending a church without steps and asked the Pastor if it was possible to put a chair in the back of the auditorium where I could sit on a higher chair like a bar stool or something. He was very gracious and had me a new bar stool to sit on the following week. It really meant a lot to me that he would be so considerate of my needs.

    • Ralph Yaniz says:

      Debra, thank you for your comment. This is great! Definitely being creative and also asking for what you need. Looking forward to hearing more from you as you continue to thrive.

  2. Mary Graham says:

    I appreciate your perspective of being “creative”. Each of us have various challenges. Sometimes there is a good resource to find help in solving our issues. But sometimes we have to take our individual challenges and use our creative side to come up with a unique solution. I love the idea of sharing these solutions with others that may be experiencing the same challenge or maybe offer a different option.
    Thank you for your posts.

    • Ralph Yaniz says:

      Mary, thank you so much for your responses and I love when people think creatively. If you have any ideas that have worked for you in terms of getting around, please share and as I mentioned in another column I am on Twitter @ralphyaniz
      I would love to see lots of ideas mentioned and even if they only work for a few people that may give them a breakthrough

  3. Bryan says:

    Ralph, I enjoy scuba diving but previously had great difficulty getting out of the water and into the boat. Now, I wear a climbing harness under my (BCD) scuba gear in order to have the boat crew pull me out of the water. We take the BCD off while I hold on to the ladder then they turn me around and hoist me aboard. While diving I use an underwater scooter to zip me around. As a precaution we always bring a dive master to shadow me just in case I get in a pinch. Finding Nemo – “When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming.” (52yr. old w/LGMD2D diagnosed at 12)

    • Ralph Yaniz says:

      Bryan, this is truly amazing. You are a role model and proving that life is really what we make it. You also have shared ideas and technique that might help others, and this is what I am hoping we can all do more of. Thank you for your great story!

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