How Daily Nature Therapy Helps Relieve My Stress
I set my husband, Todd, up on his computer with his HeadMouse and sip-and-puff clicker. ALS has compromised his breathing, so I put on his noninvasive ventilator. I call my mom, who lives next door. She will keep her mobile phone in her pocket. If Todd needs anything, he can call her and she can be at his side in minutes. With that knowledge, I breathe easier heading out for my daily nature therapy.
I drive to the ski trail and step into my skis. It’s 10 degrees outside, and the wind stings my face, but I push through until my core body temperature rises and the cold doesn’t hurt. I stop and listen to a symphony of brown, rustling leaves that have hung on through months of winter.
Old trees creak under the burden of snow and the light wind, and bits of snow fall from their limbs and land softly on the ground in the woods. The sun, low in a bright, blue February sky, shines through branches, and light dances with shadows on the trail in front of me. My senses are heightened as I take note of the natural beauty all around me.
At home, it’s painful to notice the details. How Todd’s head slumps to one side when I put him in his wheelchair. How his voice has weakened so I can no longer hear him when I have the water running at the kitchen sink. How his leg muscles twitch incessantly.
As I go through our caregiving routine, I think about other things — politics, plotlines of TV shows, our kids, scenes from my time in the woods. Being in the moment is overrated when I am reaming out Todd’s nose with a Q-tip.
I want to be fully present for our expressions of affection, shared laughter, and the co-parenting we do. But for the mundane and horrific, I need to detach and be more clinical, or else my emotions overwhelm me. The losses of ALS are so intense that I can’t process what Todd is going through, or even what I am going through. He has lost so many abilities, and I have tried to fill the void. I help him with his daily needs and clear secretions so he can keep breathing. It’s a lot of pressure, and we’ve both been through trauma.
But now I’m on the ski trail, and crisp air fills by lungs. Beauty surrounds me, soothing my soul.
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Kristin, my empathy for you is so overwhelming. I feel like I know exactly what you are feeling; you have such a gift in explaining your thoughts in words, that it makes a person see into your feelings, especially for those of us who have gone through this, and who are currently going through it. My eyes welled up with tears for you because I no longer am going through what you are, as my husband passed in November. He is free, and I am free, from the horrible grips of ALS.