Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Back is my Boss. At least for right now: "Unfriending Fitness"

A week and two days have passed since my surgery. I had a Lumbar Microdiscectomy. I’ve reached the point now where I still have to stay at home and finish healing, but I feel well enough to get up and do some things while I’m healing… like sit at the computer and write.

I haven't written much in a couple years, really. People have asked me about any new writings and I’ve just answered “I haven’t really been inspired to write anything.”  That actually is a false statement. I had been “inspired” to write about a great many things. I always have an on-going list of things that I’ve encountered or experiences that I felt inspired to write about. But, the writing ideas simply hung out on the note pad in my iPhone and never made it past there. Sadly, after they are on there for months after months, I will eventually delete the list. And the cycle will then repeat itself.

The thing was, once I got home after being gone all day at work, I simply did not have the mental effort that it took to think about something enough to write about it. Or, often, the physical effort it took to simply sit some more after doing so for eight hours at my desk at work. My body just hurt all the time, and it’s just so very tiring.

It really wasn't until this past week that I’ve truly thought about and realized just how much my screwed up spine had affected pretty much every aspect of my life these last few years.  Sadly, my younger years were screwed up a lot because of the flaws in my mind. Now I’m 40, and darned if my body isn't trying to screw up the rest of my time here. Like the “mind flaws” were, my “body flaws” are a constant and every-day struggle.

I sat here quietly for a while, not typing, just staring at the computer screen, wondering if I should even continue writing. “People that have never had chronic pain never really understand,” is what was running through my mind. “They’ll just see this as an attempt to validate all of my “excuses” I have for not being more fit.”

Back to writing… I have to say, I don’t think I've ever written anything for anyone else. It’s always been for me. Releasing things from my own thoughts to the written word and allowing it to float anywhere to land wherever it shall land (someone else’s eyes) is what helped to recognize, evaluate, and heal my own “mind flaws.”  So, why exactly am I even considering what people will think about what I have to say? That has never stopped me before with the book or anything else. So, moving on…

That last sentence above of what I was thinking when I stopped typing, “They’ll just see this as an attempt to validate all of my "excuses"… brings me to where that actually comes from…
In November, my pain had started slowly getting a little worse and a little worse. That past year, I had been going to a chiropractor, instead of an MD, for my back and other pains that my scoliosis caused. It had been keeping the severity at bay, meaning I still had pain all the time, but I had not had the “severe episodes” that forced me to miss numerous days of work, etc. But, now the chiro visits had stopped helping at all.

By, the first week of December, John drove me to the first of five visits to the Emergency Room due to the severe and  extreme pain that would surface by simply moving a certain way. The fifth visit to the ER was by ambulance, though I have very little recollection of that trip.

Sometime between November and that first visit to the ER, I had unfriended anyone on my Facebook page that was in the fitness industry, or that posted physical fitness motivational stuff, etc. (Of course, this did not include my body builder husband, John, who is a personal trainer and a weight loss inspiration to many.)

I just couldn't subject myself to the posts anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that bitter person that hates anything they can’t do, etc. It’s not like that. I realized that it simply became unhealthy for me to follow them. Let me try to put it in a different way by telling an unrelated story where I made a change for kind of the same basis as my Facebook changes.

I used to be a pretty avid watcher of the TV show Long Island Medium. I’ve always been drawn to any shows  (whether fiction, non-fiction, or what have you) about our world somehow connecting or communicating with the dead, including detective shows that find the “voice” of and “communicate” with victims by solving their murders, etc. Now, knowing my back-story, you know why that makes complete sense. (My back-story is the header of this blog, so I won’t go into detail.)

Several months back, there was a special live presentation of Long Island Medium, and there was a chance to win a free reading from  Theresa Caputo, the star of the reality show. All you had to do was watch the special show, and post tweets on Twitter and tag her and the show/ network in the tweets.

(I know, I know, it’s a great marketing trick, right? Yes, I fell right into it and ate it up like a starving orphan at their first Thanksgiving meal. And I know alot of you are saying to yourself that the whole medium act is a crock. That is neither here nor there.)

I was posting Tweets like a freaking idiot. After the show was over, I realized what I was doing to myself was unhealthy. And I knew this because I’d had the same feelings in the past, and I knew it was something that could literally take over my life… again. I knew I was not going back to that. I deleted all of my tweets, deleted the related Facebook pages that I followed, and I haven’t watched the show since.

The past feelings that I’m speaking of is when I was obsessed with finding out what happened to my Mother. The feeling starts out with a simple hope, but grows into a severe longing. The longing for all of the answers... Longing for something even though it has been proven to be all but completely unattainable. This is what I am speaking of.  And also envy. I’m sure envy can be thrown into the pot, as well. Envy of those who heard words from their dearly departed, via the medium. And also, I wanted to protect myself from disappointment. What if I actually did get a reading, but I didn’t hear anything that I was longing to hear?
The longing was something that lived in my heart and grows well past hope, and goes into an obsession. So in the end, you have all three of these things and they all feed off of each other. Once you reach that point, there’s not room in your life for “yourself.” Instead, you live and breathe and work only to enable and feed the hope, the longing, and the obsession.

Now, I am no psychologist or therapist and I have not and will never claim to be anything of the sort. Whether this trail I speak of is in an actual documented progression of emotions, well I’ve already established I’m no professional, so how should I know?  This is simply how I feel. It is how I see things, as it pertains to my own past experiences as it is compared to my own present experiences, and is not in any way related to anyone else’s.

I’m not sure if that entirely explains why I deleted the fitness people, or if it explains it even a little. I will come back to it later. Simply put, I just needed to do what was best for ‘me’ and this was something that was part of the process.  I try to nip things in the bud as best I can.

Speaking of nipping things in the bud, I’ve been wondering to myself how long I actually had this severely herniated disc and how much damage I may have caused myself by not seeking medical attention sooner. I mean, I had seen doctors, but just the symptoms were treated.

In the last few years, I have to admit I had kind of lost faith in doctors when it came to my chronic pain. It was never really looked at as a “whole”. When I first saw an x-ray of my spine, all of my pain and fatigue made perfect sense. It wasn’t just lower back pain, it was a multitude of things that were a result of my scoliosis. Some doctors have said, “Well, comparatively speaking, yours isn’t as bad as it could be.”   (umm ok? And? Yes, there is always someone worse off than you no matter what you are talking about, but that does not devalue the severity of “your” situation.”

Some people have told me, “Well, I have scoliosis, too, and I’ve never had that problem.”


I understand doctors are human, too, and sometimes make mistakes.  Sometimes they say the wrong thing or just don’t fully understand. Or, they are just get aggravated with a patient that is always in pain and crying that they can’t seem to help. And sometimes I didn’t speak up and say what I should have said. Or maybe I said something in a way that didn’t truly convey what I meant. I don’t know.

I am grateful to the second ER doctor that I saw who fought to get an MRI done and found what was causing the horrible pain. It had become so excruciating it left me a crumbled version of myself that could at times literally do nothing but writhe and scream out in pain. I am sorry that my husband had to endure these episodes with me. But, I don’t know what I would have done without him being there by my side.

All of the nerve pain was completely gone after the surgery on my spine last week. It was truly amazing to me to have that lifted away immediately. It was such a relief to no longer be afraid to simply move. The relief may be temporary, or permanent. Just like the numbness in my leg and foot from the nerve damage – only time will tell.

But, one thing that I am sure of is I have to do what is best for me, in ways that are best for me that is best for my body and the way that I was made. I know now that I can’t follow the lead of someone who is not like me. I have to find my own way and make my own path and create my own goals.

Someone once told me I had been trying to live and go about life as if I was normal and just like everyone else even though I wasn’t normal and like everyone else.  This was one of the first people I had encountered that I felt understood my chronic pain, because they also had to deal with it. When you just want to be “normal” it’s hard to not want to follow the fitness leaders that tell you that you should do this, and you should do that, exclaiming that you “have” to “push yourself” physically and if you don’t you’re not doing it right.

You see, I believe them. And I want to follow those leaders. And I want to be like them! And I DO want to do what they do! Because I love it! At least, I did love it. Before. For a brief time. 

But, that is not what is best for me.

So, I removed that out of my newsfeed on Facebook.

About four years ago, I started going to a gym regularly and I started pushing myself. And I liked the way that it made me feel. The muscle soreness afterwards was confirmation that I had worked hard and that I had, indeed, accomplished something. I lost thirty pounds and I liked the way that I looked in the mirror when I was exercising. I took cardio kick boxing classes and step aerobic classes and lifted weights and did the cardio machines.  All of it just made me feel good all around, mentally and physically, and I felt better about myself. But, slowly the chronic pain began to show itself.

After just a few months, I didn’t go anymore.Even the simple repetitive motion of doing just ten minutes on a recumbent bike would have my back in severe pain for a week. Other people just didn’t understand how that could actually happen.
Once when I was standing in the bathroom blow-drying my hair, I just moved and took a step and felt something weird in my back. A few minutes later I found I could not put any weight on my legs without having such extreme pain that I had to throw myself into a completely horizontal position. I literally threw myself from a standing position to being flat on the floor. I was home alone and I could not get up and had to stay there until someone got home to help me. That first episode was a few years ago and it lasted a week. And all I was doing that caused it was simply blow drying my hair, and I just “moved.”

By then, “pushing myself” had changed from just one more set on the exercise machine, to going to both Wal-Mart and the grocery store in one day. I mean, seriously. Think about that.  Just that much walking… that’s all that it sometimes took to cause extreme episodes of pain. So, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I stopped trying to do any kind of exercising. (But, I still longed to be ABLE to.)

I’m not really sure yet what exactly “is” best for my body the way that it is in order to be “better.” After I’m healed enough, I’ll start with physical therapy and will just have to go from there.

Well, I’ve been sitting here for a long while and my back is saying it’s ready for a break.  And the back is my boss. At least for right now.