A pain in the butt!
What my body is teaching me
What started as a serious pain in the butt in early July — waking me at 4:30 a.m. out of a dead sleep — soon developed into full-blown sciatica.
I’ve now been struggling with lower back and leg pain for nine weeks, and at least four of those included chronic nerve pain, with little or no relief.
In mid August, the nerve pain shifted/traveled. Finally, it got so bad that I was grounded from my daily walking routine. This made matters worse because I lost my one healthy outlet for relieving the stress and keeping it together.
That was about the time I lost it.
I spent more nights than I can count either on the floor on my stomach trying to get relief, and/or on the couch resting, icing and monitoring pain levels. Working was tough because it required sitting at my computer and I couldn’t do that for very long. Not to mention the fact that my brain didn’t seem to be firing at its peak.
By the time the craziness reached six weeks and the chosen course of treatment wasn’t providing serious relief, my attitude was crap. I was also under a lot of emotional stress at the time and got so frustrated that I threw in the towel on Lori-in-the-equation.
Yep, I threw one heck of a pity party from the couch & invited my old friend “sugar.” Allowing myself to wallow in self-pity and food binges, I spent many nights in tears because I could no longer move/do/be — a strong, fit, active and healthy girl. My body simply wasn’t allowing me to go there. My mental game was in the tank. And worse, I wasn’t cutting myself any slack. I was beating myself up and piling it on. Admittedly, I was at my wit’s end. And while that phase only lasted about four days, it felt like weeks.
Then — just as I have so many times in the last five years — I pulled it together. I stopped playing the victim. I remembered how grateful I am for my strong and fit body and my new in-the-equation life, even when it is really hard. I stopped isolating myself and let people in to help me. And I was reminded that I’ve done far harder things and survived much tougher stuff. Finally, I told myself: “Lori, you’ve got this! Get off your butt and RESTART. You know the way!”
That’s when I officially decided to “rise strong,” a process that author and researcher, Brene Brown, describes in her new book: “Rising Strong.” (And thank God, I’ve had this book during the toughest days. It’s timing is serendipitous. The book’s tagline: Manifesto of the brave and brokenhearted.)
It has NOT been easy. I definitely haven’t handled this medical/physical setback with as much grace as I had hoped. And, I’m guessing some of you can relate.
Stopped in my tracks
I’m not certain exactly when or how I injured myself, but I can tell you the day, time and place I started experiencing severe lower back pain. I can tell you the exact day that I was told to stop walking. And, I can tell you that I have a whole new respect for my body because of this process. Plus, a new empathy for anyone suffering from chronic pain, especially back/spine pain.
Many people in my life experience chronic pain on a regular basis and have lived with it for years. Until now, I had no idea how debilitating it can be. It not only affects your physical game and what you can do on a given day, but also how you sleep, and your mental game.
To overcome this kind of chronic pain and keep a positive attitude, while going about some adjusted version of your daily routine, well WOW, it’s really, really hard! So to anyone reading this who lives with this kind of pain, I commend you for staying positive and in the game. My heart goes out to you. YOU are the strong ones.
And so am I.
While, admittedly, I have not been as positive or resilient as I had hoped through this process, I’ve learned a lot about myself. And I’ve come a long way from the days where I was not even in touch with my body. So with this blog I’m acknowledging progress not perfection, and moving forward.
Grateful for awareness & self care
If we flashed back to most of my adult life, you’d see that I was a morbidly obese adult, completely unaware of what my body might have been trying to tell me. I lived as if a “hamster on the wheel,” running in circles, doing everything for everyone else. I didn’t stop long enough to be aware of what was going on with me. In those days, Lori was definitely NOT in the equation.
Most days I worked 12-18 hours a day. I didn’t get enough sleep. My diet consisted of fast and processed food, and I binged to stuff my emotions. I didn’t nurture my inner self. I never went to the doctor for preventative care — although stroke, diabetes and heart disease all run in my family. I didn’t even go to the doctor if I was sick, unless I was literally forced.
Nope. I was not even close to being “in my equation” in those days. And if my body had been screaming at me — and in many ways it was — I wouldn’t have noticed or listened. I’m not sure I would have cared either. I accepted pain, sickness, heartache and hardship as a part of life and worked just to get through. (If any of you reading this are in this camp, please know that I’ve been there and I can help. If I can change, so can you.)
Sad, right? That description of my life showed little self-respect or self-love. I didn’t feel worthy and treated my body accordingly. Certainly, I had no honor or respect for how important our physical bodies are to our quality of life.
Now, fast forward to late 2010, when I finally pushed past fear and self-doubt long enough to decide that I wanted a different life. And that only I could change the trajectory of my life.
For nearly five years now, I’ve completely changed the ballgame by putting myself squarely in the center of my own life and taking care of my health, my body and my emotional needs. First and foremost. And even while I was losing the weight and had a long way to go — I felt strong, fit, healthy, brave and resilient. And worthy!
I’ve prided myself on the fact that almost immediately after I started my weight-loss journey, I went off all medications and my health improved. I walk nearly every day, hike vigorously, mountain climb every chance I get, and continue weekly strength training. I also nurture my inner strength and push myself to live a wholehearted, courageous life.
And for five years, I haven’t had a major ailment that stopped me in my tracks. Until now!
So what the heck is going on with my body? Why this and why now?
What this pain the butt is teaching me…
It turns out, while I am resilient, I am not invincible. Sh _ _ happens. And it seems, as we get older, more sh _ _ happens! So as I stop to listen to my body and respect it, I must ask what it is telling/teaching me. I think the lessons are plenty and I’m still uncovering them, but here are just a few of the gifts of my pain in the butt:
- Our bodies are magnificent machines. They are the vessel in which we live. They don’t just shut down with no warning, but rather give us signs and signals (symptoms) to tell us something is not quite right. I’ve learned not only to take care of my body on a daily basis, but to listen to it, honor it, respect it. And that means watching for those signs and signals that something might not be quite right, and heed them. Or at least ask, “What is going on? What is my body telling me?” Just the awareness, and the respect is a huge shift for me.
- Sometimes I need to ask for help. Especially when it comes to taking care of our physical bodies. I can’t do everything on my own. Sometimes being strong is asking for help. When it comes to medical care, that can also mean embracing an unwanted financial burden. I’ve learned to do it anyway. Our health is too important to risk. And, had I asked for help packing and moving my business, well, I might not have re-injured or aggravated my injury, prolonging this whole thing. Okay. Yes, two lessons learned.
- I believe that almost everything happens for a reason, or at least for a purpose. Yet often, we are too impatient to listen or to allow ourselves to live into the understanding. This was a forced time out for me during a very emotional and stressful time. A time when I am definitely in transition — living between the “no longer” and the “not yet.” Processing change on so many levels and doing so in new healthy ways is hard. And, let’s face it, I’m more comfortable with action and “doing” than learning to stop, listen, rest, and be with the pain, processing it fully before moving on to “what next.” This was a FORCED time out. My job is to live into the understanding. Okay, I get it!
- I’m in a “facedown moment” — as Brene Brown writes in Rising Strong. Yep, in her language, “I’ve fallen and gotten my ass kicked.” And it is in this “facedown moment,” that I have the opportunity to learn, grow, evolve and then RISE STRONG. I will be wiser, better and more ready for — What Next. This is my chance to understand my own rising process, and appreciate it. Huh. Cool. I kinda like that!
- There is no going back. I know that I am strong and courageous, and the new Lori lives and loves with her WHOLE heart. I know that I can’t/won’t go back to the “old Lori” who didn’t believe she was worthy of a healthy and happy life. And, I know that with the “new Lori-in-her-equation” life, I’ll always be in the arena, or picking myself up from “daring greatly.” There is no life on the sidelines for me anymore. And consequently, I will get my ass kicked. But I’m okay with that. In fact I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- This is one of those defining moments for me. And I’m betting on me! Just like I’m betting on you!
I have no idea how long it will take my body to heal and get strong again. I’m notably anxious to get back to climbing mountains and exploring new trails. But since I just got back on my feet this past week, I need to practice patience and keep following my treatment regime. I need to trust the process.
Today, my mantra is to listen to my body and “lean in” to the discomfort. Take one day, one walk, one stretch at a time. In the meantime, I’m certain I’ll keep discovering the lessons of being in this time and place. In the end, I absolutely know that I/we’ve got this!
I can do anything I set my mind to. I will rise strong. And right now, today, my job is to honor this body and this time out. To heal inside and out. This body is the only place I have to live. And it’s pretty awesome.
Thanks for reading this very personal, raw — and very necessary — blog.