Transitions and Supercoffee

I drank four cups of coffee yesterday and three of them were Supercoffee, so does that make it seven?

My back is feeling much better with all my cobra poses and stretches as prescribed by the physical therapist. (Nan and I have our sessions tomorrow. Nan expects she will be released. I suspect my routine will become more elaborate.)

This is the last week that Stitch Fix will run its second shift “Midnight Society” as has offered flexible scheduling to allow us to transition to day shift. For many of us, each night we say goodbye to friends because we are going to different departments and different shift variations. I will be doing the 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift Sunday through Wednesday but I am staying in women’s outbound. I received an email from my new supervisor, and it made me a little teary because my current supervisor is the person who hired me.

I have elected to work 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. this week and have successfully gone to bed as early as 10:30 p.m. and roused as early as 6:30. The average seems to be 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. but as my old sleep schedule was roughly 1:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., it is progress. I expect Sunday to be brutal for all of us, especially for those of us older than 30.

To be safe, I bought more Supercoffee. The teenager is already asking if I will feed the cats before I go to work. The answer for now is I may need a few days before I can adjust to having that much responsibility at 5 a.m.

“I don’t know if they are going to allow that,” she replied.

My daily step count is coming in between 4,000 and 6,000. I suppose some of that is due to partial shifts at the Bizzy Hizzy warehouse and working women’s returns. I stand still in QC, but apparently in Returns I stand even more still. In QC, at least I have to move the carts around every 25-30 minutes. The physical therapist also gave me some hints for my aching spine based on my job in QC, so being in Returns this week has not allowed me to try them.

And murmurs have started about voluntary overtime. For those of us moving to ten hour shifts, any overtime means we will have to work on our days off.

Book sales have been slow lately (so please consider my books as Christmas gifts. They can be purchased from me. For more information on how to do that, click here.) but I also have not dedicated any time to marketing and have fallen behind in my social media and outreach plan. But, as I have received one $20 check from Lafayette College for novels of mine on sale at the College Store, I have filed the paperwork with the state to incorporate Parisian Phoenix Publishing Company and to claim the fictitious name.

My weight might be down 5 lbs. That’s an unhealthy number for one week into weight loss. In my past experience, when I make healthy choices and track my macros, there is always an encouraging initial dip. I expect the next five to take much longer. And that’s fine. I’m looking for a trend toward healthier habits and increasing muscle and range of motion.

With the groceries currently in the house, it’s hard to keep my protein intake as high as I would like. My diet tends to be heavy on fat. Not necessarily sweets/fat but fats like nuts, avocado, and half and half in my coffee. Yesterday my macros hit 50% carbs, 20% protein and 30% fat. I’m aiming for 40/40/20. It looks like my weekly average is 40/25/35. I’m also aiming for 1300 calories, and doing well on that.

My protein intake is all over the place. Saturday came in at 120 grams (thank you leftover Thanksgiving turkey). Subsequent days have ranged from 65-85 grams, with 70 being more typical. It’s hard, as I’m not a big meat eater.

So I need to start doing some serious meal planning and keeping lean protein sources around.

I’m going to go get dressed for the gym now, and hopefully make some time for that marketing plan.

The Difficult Reality: Time to Calorie Count

This is a hard one for me.

I know, like all capital letters and in bold know, that my weight is a problem. I have excuses and plans and can logic everything six ways from Sunday. But it’s time to own up.

And I’ve done that and still failed several times to take control of the situation.

So, on Saturday, after a strong workout and a report from the physical therapist that really suggested I shouldn’t offer any more excuses, I re-downloaded My Fitness Pal and started tracking activity and food.

I challenged myself to make sure I hit 5,000 steps a day, with the intent of increasing that over time. And my current average is probably 4,000. Walked to the gym Saturday. Took the teenager and the dog for a walk. Hit 5,000 by 5 p.m. (And the dog wore down her claws on the sidewalk to the point where she bled. All over the house.)

I entered my gym workout, my water consumed, counted my physical therapy as yoga. Then I dealt with the fact that my eating is half trash, half perfect. Post gym meal? Coffee, Lebanon balogna and a Otis Spunkmeyer Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Yeah, that was the meal choice that made me re-download My Fitness Pal. It’s one thing to accept I made this choice. It’s another to stare at it for the rest of the day.

My dinner plan was more balanced. My Hungryroot box came. Since the teenager was at Petco buying first aid supplies and styptic powder for the dog, I made a lamb Mediterranean salad.

By 6 p.m., my food selections looked like this:

The program defaults to 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein (or is it 30%?) and the remainder fat for the Macro distribution. My diet is always higher in fat than it should be and I know from past experience that protein and fat keep my mood and hunger more stable than a high carb, low fat diet. So I adjusted it. Since I am regularly weight training, my diet should be high protein if I am trying to gain muscle. Which I am. Right now, I am merely aiming for a calorie deficit. If I succeed in shedding some weight, the next step would be to adjust fat and carbohydrates to encourage a leaner look.

The easiest solution to equalize the balance in these macros depicted would be for me to eat a stack of leftover turkey, plain, or perhaps with a little bit of horseradish if I get hungry again. That would shift the ratio of carbs, fat and protein.

The Kit and Kaboodle Update

So, as a former journalist, I could easily write a summary of every day like a nice newspaper column and post it. I could probably even manage to maintain my sense of humor, style, and tendency to find joy in the ridiculously ordinary.

But this week, every word I wrote felt repetitious. Or perhaps every word I wanted to write felt like it had been done before.

And maybe it has. Because so much of life goes that way. The same struggles, the same events, and often the same answers. And we repeat the cycle over and over probably for two reasons.

  1. It’s hard to break a habit.
  2. And growth, the kind of change that comes from embracing a lesson, presents its own difficulties.

In today’s blog, I’m going to do a generic update, and I’m honestly not sure if any of this is repeating myself. But do you know what? Repeating myself is okay. This is a small droplet in the vast waters of the internet and there’s always the possibility someone hasn’t heard it before and may need to hear it today.

Are you listening?

Fosters: Touch of Grey, Mars and Minerva. Information on how to adopt them at http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

All eyes on me.

Topics to come in this entry: Update on my cerebral palsy and quest to end my chronic back pain, weight training with the teenager with Dan at Apex, emotional eating, review of Purple Carrot’s vegan Thanksgiving dinner box, and the requisite animal photos.

This week’s personal training at Apex:

I know I frequently mention how amazing the trainers at Apex are. One of their strengths (weight training pun there) is to recognize the needs of each client and to match the client with the right trainer. I’m obviously not in the whiny white women who primarily want to lose weight category, and that’s how I ended up with Dan. As Dan has the unofficial knowledge of a physical therapist (because he’s had enough accidents to know the patient side of it) and he has the curiosity to read, research and think. With my cerebral palsy this is important. Dan has the observational skill to read my knees and lower body to know if it’s a bodyweight/calisthenics kind of day or a weight training day. And this is important so you can build range of motion and flexibility and not get hurt.

Anyway, Dan has been kind enough to let the teenager join my training sessions. I love throwing weights around but lack the personal discipline to do it on my own this time around. And the teenager has a natural muscle tone and build that makes her perfect for powerlifting. But she hates dumbbells and she hates routine and discipline. So as long as we tell her to go throw around that heavy object she’s fine.

And today she deadlifted 135 lbs as if it weren’t even a challenge. I honestly think she could have done 150 lbs easily.

I think I kept up with her through 115. I only did three at 115 because I was really afraid I would blow out my knees. A deadlift when executed correctly utilizes the lower body, and the weight actually (once I get warmed up) helps me lower my butt in the squatting portion, but since my knees tend to point sharply inward, I have to adjust my stance to compensate. While the main gist of the lift is to pull the weight along the shin and lift into the hips and use the legs to support the weight as the hips straighten and thrust outward with the tightening of the glutes, in my case, I have to force my knees to stay in the proper position facing my toes and not each other.

As I start to lift heavier, the dull ache in my spine is a reminder to lift the weight with my legs and not my back. I place my feet in position, point my toes slightly out and stretch my knees in line with them. And, for lack of a better description, I lock them in place and while lifting the barbell I have to concentrate on keeping my knees from turning inward. Because if they would suddenly snap where they want to be, I could not only blow out a knee but also potentially lose balance.

So I did three.

In related news, physical therapy update:

Yesterday I finally had my physical therapy appointment with the proper physical therapist now that neurology has confirmed that my balance and brain are fine. Much to my pleasant surprise, I had the same physical therapist that treated my initial bouts with back pain three years ago. He was at a different physical therapy office, then, and came recommended by my doctor as the guy who really knew back issues. What makes this a funny but pleasant coincidence is the fact that I chose this physical therapy branch because my blind friend Nancy is going there and I thought we could combine appointments and I could help her with rides.

What did my physical therapist Jeff say? Basically, that I need to do yoga. He has me doing “press-ups” 5 times a day for 10 reps. At least to start this week. Last time I had physical therapy with him, he started me super light and then made the exercises ten times harder when I returned in a week. “Press-ups” are cobra pose in yoga. I used to do yoga daily. It always seems like physical therapists are always telling me to do more of what I already or what I used to do.

Random photo of Nala the Goffin with foster cat Touch of Grey

Confession time, emotional eating:

My weight is 160lbs. This upsets me greatly. When I had gestational diabetes at six months pregnant I was 169. I was 142 on the day I brought the teenager home from the hospital and 142 for most of her toddler years. When I finally decided I needed to get my weight under control and regain strength after breaking my right hand while working at Target, I lost 30 lbs in 6 weeks. I lost too much weight too quickly and then gained weight while strength training and got ripped. Over the years, I found a set point at 135, where I could maintain muscle but be more relaxed about eating.

But then, my marriage ended. My boss at the job that allowed me to separate from my husband and support myself turned out to be a sociopath. I mean that in the kindest way possible. She was very sweet, and driven, and perfection-oriented but she had no empathy, no flexibility and no patience for any way other than hers. No views allowed other than her beliefs. This led to high blood pressure and I honestly had no energy left to take care of myself. When she fired me, it took six months for unemployment benefits to determine she was in the wrong. The pandemic was underway by then (Summer 2019). I lived on my savings, a total of $4,500, and foodstamps that kicked in three months after I lost my job.

And this was also when I ended up in the hospital for an infected cat bite and took in a second teenager who lived with us for nine months without her parents contributing to her care.

I mention this only because it is why I lost my discipline. Why I stopped caring for myself like I used to. It was easy and fun to go to McDonalds for a $1 Diet Coke and a $1 McChicken. Cheap dinner.

I thought I would turn this around when I started “picking” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I walked 17,000 steps a night in the warehouse, grabbing clothes. But then I caught Covid-19. And my stamina never bounced back. So now I fold clothes. Which killed my back.

Even though I had a delightful Thanksgiving, with vegan recipes I prepared from Purple Carrot and leftover pie and wine from my in-law’s meal, I “ruined” it by drinking a big glass of wine yesterday with about 1200 calories of Trolli gummy worms. And then I tell myself, “Well, at least they had protein, iron and calcium.”

And finally, the Purple Carrot Box:

I’ve only made about half the box. The rest is still in the fridge.

I made the Purple Carrot “sausage” stuffing, vegan thyme gravy and cranberry sauce. The thyme gravy was better than I expected as I am not a gravy person. I added local granny smith apples and herbs de provence to the stuffing. The stuffing began life as caibatta rolls, root vegetables, and Fieldstone vegetarian sausage. Let me say again, if you haven’t heard it before, that the Fieldstone vegetarian sausages are amazing. The fact that they come wrapped tight in plastic “skin” casings annoys me, but they are very tasty.

A Thanksgiving Romp through Parisian Phoenix Updates

Please share this.

Parisian Phoenix Publishing

It’s a quiet, crisp and very sunny Thursday morning, a particular Thursday morning known here in the United States as Thanksgiving, a holiday with some controversial history. Does the holiday celebrate the survival of the colonial settlers? Does it glorify the annihilation of the indigenous population? Was it merely an attempt to unite battling political attitudes after the Civil War? Or does it aptly highlight our national tendencies toward gluttony? Or perhaps an opportunity to really consider the concept of “First World Problems”?

Regardless, to lighten the mood… Let’s take a moment to load up Spotify and listen to the closest thing (at least in our book) to a Thanksgiving carol: Arlo Gunthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.

On a personal note, Parisian Phoenix has quite the gratitude list for this particular Thanksgiving. We launched this publishing company in September and while we only have two novels by Angel Ackerman available right…

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Review: Beautiful The Carole King Musical at Easton’s State Theatre for the Arts

I ordered tickets for several shows at The State Theatre this fall, because they will be hosting a touring production of Hairspray in April. I bought those tickets for the teenager for Christmas.

And yes, she found out when we went to see Postmodern Jukebox at the State. When she saw the advertisements for Hairspray she got excited and I couldn’t keep the secret.

I was introduced to Carole King via my mother’s records. I used to listen to Tapestry as much as I listened to George Carlin, the Beatles’ Abbey Road and some other classics that predate me.

I also fell in love with Crystal Gayle, but that was from my mother’s eight-track collection. Click. I realize eight-tracks were a necessary technological step to get to more portable versions of recorded music, but man were they awkward.

So as a young adult I bought the compact disc of Tapestry and if I didn’t already know every word on the album I certainly learned them. It’s an anthem for a woman’s early life. A guidebook for love, lust and heartache.

My friend Nan— if you’re familiar with my blog, yes, she is the blind friend— is a huge music fan and a musician herself having played much piano in her youth.

So obviously she wanted to see the show and I wanted to see the show. Neither of us knew anything about the show. And I didn’t do any research other than to buy tickets as I already knew I was a Carole King fan and that is all the motivation I needed.

Now, despite my career as a journalist, my first bachelors from what is now Moravian University is in English Language and Literature. Now although the paper says that, I took 3/4 of my classes in the theatre department because my favorite professor taught there. I also performed in high school and college theatre, and served as stage manager and box office manager because I enjoyed those overarching and connective aspects of performance.

And I always forget this fact until I step in a theatre.

This is why Nan and I are a good pair. I’m tone deaf to music. If I can tell music is bad, it’s really bad.

That said— everything about this show was astounding. I have learned since last night that this is a jukebox musical, one that probably can be compared to the Elton John Rocketman movie that also featured multiple musical numbers. In Rocketman, the musical numbers are fantastical journeys into Elton John’s head which really don’t make any rational sense. And because of Elton John’s multiple addictions, Rocketman was very dark.

By contrast, Beautiful is wholesome and uplifting.

The show highlights the struggle of Carole King’s early song writing life and the imperfections of her marriage, one that occurred when she was just a teenager. Even these difficulties are addressed with compassion and humanity.

And in every song, the audience sees how real life inspired the music.

The performers— an ensemble cast of about 20 with five of them as the main characters: Carole, her husband Gerry, their friends and coworkers Barry and Cynthia, and their boss, Donnie (who bought Carole’s first song when she was 16, in 1958)— sang and danced with such vibrancy, talent and skill that Nan said they were better than the real stars.

The Drifters. The Shirelles. Little Eva. Janelle Woods. The Righteous Brothers.

But in addition to spectacular music and a solid book, the staging was magnificent and the costumes incredible. The clothing and the hairstyles perfectly represented the eras and the changing fads but also showed the growth of the characters. We see Carole progress from dowdy clothes to stylish ones as her songs hit #1 and her trademark curls mutate into classic 1960s updos. But after her divorce, her curls return and her clothes become easygoing but chic. You can feel the weight lifted off her.

And the simple sets are also well executed. Each location has a key piece of furniture. The offices and homes are represented my period perfect couches and desks— so when a character comes on stage with that couch the vibe is set for that particular place. I love minimalist staging.

The whole performance was breathtaking and will leave me walking on clouds today.

Funniest part of the night: when an usher shined a flashlight on an obstruction on the floor so Nan could see it.

About the show on Wikipedia.

About the venue.

Searching for the weird and the yummy

Dunkin’s new pancake minis

The teenager loves pancakes so when Dunkin announced their new pancake minis, I had to buy her a set and get her professional opinion— as a diner waitress (at least for a few more days).

I thought they had a good flavor, though a dry texture. The teenager was not impressed. I think the awkward texture comes from the fact that the tiny pancakes are fortified with protein.

For $2.99, that works out to fifty cents a pancake. I think Dunkin has tastier and more satisfying options at that price point.

Kitu Supercoffee Dark Roast K-cups

I think I have a new favorite coffee. I only paid $1 for my recent prescription at CVS, so I treated myself to a pack of Kitu Supercoffee in dark roast. It was on sale for $6.99 for 10 cups. I love that the flavor and the extra caffeine and vitamins don’t hurt.

Finally, I had to review Hungryroot’s Thanksgiving Bowl featuring their seasoned turkey meatballs that the teenager and I already know we love.

The Sauces N Love cranberry sauce was the right blend of smooth and tangy. The Right Rice medley was quick to prepare and had all the familiar flavor of traditional stuffing. The grains were softer, fluffier and almost had a cakey mouth feel.

I liked both so much I ordered more.

Diving into the Holiday Season

Welcome, friends. As publisher of Parisian Phoenix, I am proud to share with you the projects and special deals coming to fruition in December 2021.

Parisian Phoenix Publishing

If you haven’t already noticed, Parisian Phoenix is a fledgling operation still struggling to find its way and do all the work necessary to expediently get our books into readers’ hands. And we’re at the point where our staff has day jobs and a multitude of creative commitments.

That said, we should have not one, not two, but THREE books coming this holiday season.

Cover of Courting Apparitions, cover and book design by Gayle F. Hendricks

1. Courting Apparitions by Angel Ackerman, sequel to Manipulations and the second volume of the Fashion and Fiends series. Buy book one on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target.com or ask your favorite independent bookseller to order it for you from Ingram.

If you’d like something a little more special, Parisian Phoenix is testing a promotion. You can contact us via ParisianPhoenix@gmail.com and with a $30 payment via Venmo or Zelle…

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Sometimes you need to unleash the beast

I hope this weekend to partake in some fun activities and lighthearted blog posts, but I also need to do some administrative work for my publishing company, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

My second novel in the Fashion and Fiends series, Courting Apparitions, releases officially November 29 (my co-founder’s birthday) and could possibly be available Black Friday. Like, damn, when did that happen?

The first book, Manipulations, is available at all the usual places online— for instance here is the link to buy it at Barnes and Noble.

My friend and fellow writer William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series and horror website Crash Palace Productions left me a truly wonderful review on Amazon and Google.

See more here.

This was my original post on his first novel, Bloodletting. Hard to believe it’s been three years.

Buy his books on Amazon.

On everyday life and health front, I went to the chiropractor yesterday and like my doctor she approved of my new technique of changing work tables to try and even out my sides. I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up my prescription for muscle relaxer. I also made my last Purple Carrot meal in the fridge: mango glazed roasted vegetables with tahini butter.

Worked went mediocre/well. The night seemed long and boring and I felt like I was getting used to my body again after the chiropractor. I QCed at about 83%.

I came home and several cats were waiting for me— including Minerva, a sweet foster who started in our second foster litter of kittens, The Roman Pride.

I took a muscle relaxer to see how it impacted my pain and my morning stiffness. It didn’t make me loopy and I think it helped with my tossing and turning.

I only got six and a half hours of sleep last night, but still managed to meet up with the teenager my trainer Dan at Apex Training to lift some weights. I felt so much more limber after. The teenager easily did 105 on the barbell deadlift and 95 on the squat. I could lift the 105 but not execute the lift. My squat form is still adjusted for my limited range of motion in my lower body so I maxed out at 85 while the teen hardly had to put any effort into it.

We came home and shared some Little Caesars pizza as I was craving their “pizza and sticks” pie. We even shared with the dog.

Not a job for neurology

So I woke this morning at a ridiculous 8 a.m. to a world smothered in fog and two foster cats (Khloe and tripod Louise) upset that I did not have time to cuddle.

I had a physical therapy appointment for an initial assessment at 10 a.m. and they needed me in the office by 9:45 a.m. to fill out paperwork— primarily questions about my confidence in my own balance.

Now this isn’t my first rodeo. This isn’t even my first physical therapy stint for back pain.

I was referred to the neurology physical therapy department because of my cerebral palsy.

The physical therapist asks me the typical questions — “have you fallen in the last year?” “I fall approximately every six weeks.”

We discussed my work arrangements and she liked my idea of alternating tables.

She determines that my right side is definitely weaker than my left side. But I can be treated for this at a facility closer to home.

She even calls the facility of my choice so she can make sure they don’t refuse to treat me. All while making it perfectly clear that she would happily do it.

But I am the only patient under 70.

And probably the only one without a walker or a cane.

My new physical therapy appointment is next Friday at 9 a.m.

I came home, ate lunch, and headed to my primary care physician’s office.

There, I spoke with a sweet, quiet resident with an Indian accent I couldn’t hear from under her mask. But she seemed very intent on discussing colon cancer screening.

She brought up a back brace.

I brought up muscle relaxers so my body would not stiffen up overnight.

And when she told my doctor, he said that she had a great idea. I didn’t tell him that was my idea, after I conferred with Dr. Google.

He thinks I should feel some relief with a month. Christmas maybe? Starting off the New Year right?

Tomorrow it’s back to the chiropractor.

Pondering the depth of disability

When I was little, my mother used to receive a lot of bad news from doctors. She was told her baby wouldn’t survive. Wouldn’t walk. Wouldn’t talk. Would have cognitive impairments. Would never go to school.

It’s how I got my name— Angel— the baby that wasn’t going to survive. Who stayed in the hospital for months.

So my mom stopped taking me to doctors. The only time I visited a doctor was for school mandated physicals and vaccines.

It has taken me decades to find doctors who listen and care, and now I have a certain respect and not pity… not empathy… but maybe compassion for doctors because we expect them to know so much.

We hope they have answers and cures. And they want to provide answers and cures.

But people are complex machines.

And I’m realizing — my doctors don’t necessarily know much about cerebral palsy. It’s such a generic blanket term. In addition, I have mild cerebral palsy, which means you can tell there is something wrong with my legs but it’s hard to say what.

One friend said when he met me he thought I had a hip issue. A work colleague once asked if my knees were broken as a child.

So last week I received a mysterious phone call from my doctor’s office that was actually from my doctor. I called back, but no one knew why he called. I said I planned on emailing my questions to the office Monday. Which I did. And set up physical therapy. For today. And scheduled a follow up visit. Also today.

But Tuesday night, at 5:20 pm, he called again. And he said (amid other explanations that I already received from my chiropractor) that if I were 70 or 80 the condition of my lower back would be considered normal, but at my age it was definitely cause for concern.

Great.

And he said we may need to look into accommodations or restrictions at work.

Great.

My job isn’t perfect but I like it and I don’t want to lose it. It gives me time to think and focus on my own ideas and I like that.

This caused a lot of fear in my heart, even in the morning while sharing croissants from Lidl with the teenager.

I worked a full eight hours Monday and Tuesday, something we haven’t been doing often with supply chain issues.

Monday I QCed 105 fixes. Tuesday 115. Down from my average 126. And I hurt. Which sucks. So I pledged I would talk to my supervisor last night, to learn what I need to do when I go to the doctor.

Frustratingly, we use an app to organize these things and it’s not been very user-friendly for me. But let’s not dwell on what hasn’t happened yet.

I made the choice to work at a new table last night. On the left instead of the right, wondering if the shift in my pain stems from “leaning” to the right to send boxes down the line. My colleague who has had back surgery recently wonders if it’s something to do with dominant side.

My peers see me struggle (while the person at the station behind me QCed 170 fixes last night.) Even though I have no formal accommodations or restrictions, they bring me work that requires less twisting and bending.

First they parked a whole rack of completed refixes next to me, and when I finished those (with the help of my colleague who had back surgery), one of my peers boxed the bottom two fixes in each cart when he could.

Things little changes help. And they make me feel like part of the team and less broken. With the upcoming change to day shift, I’m worried this camaraderie will be lost.

Pain is exhausting.

Fear is debilitating.

The efforts I (and others) made last night did reduce my pain and it stayed in the middle of my back and didn’t spread or intensify. So maybe fear can become hope.

Reactions are the hardest. I still struggle to navigate people’s reactions to me. Even when they are friends or family or someone I work with everyday. Some people worry. Some people ignore the disabled part of you. Some people crack painful jokes.

I get that people don’t always know what to do. I get that it’s hard. But I also know how it feels to be trapped in your own head with an injury or a disability.

I’m not looking for a caregiver.

But emotional support would be nice.